ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program – Sponsored in 2019 by Fifth Third Bank
Above: This year's intro course included from left Chris Hosey, Ashleigh Weiszbrod, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, Noor Pawar, Rylie McClean, Xochitl Kwasnik, Director Cody Harrell, and Sophia Strasburg.
The third year of East Lansing Info’s Summer Youth Journalism Program came with something new: an advanced program running alongside the introductory course. The newly added advanced course allowed students to gain knowledge and skills in investigative journalism.
Also new this year was a first-time sponsorship from Fifth Third Bank. Funding for this year’s program also came via generous donations from Niki and Jason Schreiber, Colleen M. Kiernan, and ELi’s Publisher Alice Dreger and her spouse Aron Sousa.
The programs ran in August 2019 with the introductory program meeting for two weeks and the advanced program meeting on six days.
Chris Hosey, Xochitl Kwasnik, Rylie McClean, Noor Pawar, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, Sophia Strasburg, and Ashleigh Weiszbrod completed the introductory class, while Kepler Domurat-Sousa, Adham Fattah, Noa Kuszai, Mara Logan, and Somer Sodeman completed the advanced class.
Students in the twin programs ranged from ages 15 to 19 and are enrolled in a variety of educational institutions this fall, including East Lansing High School, Okemos High School, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago.
Along with the opportunity of having their reports published, the twelves students each received a $250 educational stipend. (This stipend supports the participation of students who might otherwise have to work during that time.) Students are paid additionally for published work.
Program Director Cody Harrell (below), who is also an East Lansing High School English and Journalism teacher, says he’s seeing important results.
“Already I am seeing one of our journalists work actively with ELi to help create transparency within the school system,” Harrell said.
ELi has published the work of several students from the intro program since the conclusion of the course. Xochitl Kwasnik, a junior at ELHS, reported on ELPS hosting a meeting with parents of their after school program. Another ELHS junior, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, has reported on the Harrison Road closure and the “One Book, One Community” 2019 author talk.
More articles are expected to be published in the coming weeks by program participants.
“This year's program having two tiers of journalism was incredibly enriching to teach,” Harrell said. “From watching the beginners gain more experience with journalistic form and media literacy to scouring databases with the second-tier students, it was the most in-depth program yet.”
Harrell brought in guest speakers, another new addition this year. The speakers engaged students in questions of how to make a positive impact through journalism.
Above: Sam Hosey, Scott House, and Steve Gonzalez
Sam Hosey, who is on ELi’s Board of Directors, talked about his own career in journalism and beyond, to explain the impact of journalism on non-journalistic careers.
East Lansing Director of Public Works Scott House explained how the City works with journalists to get information out to a wider reader base.
East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez discussed the ways in which the police department works with journalists to create transparency and develop good community relationships.
Raymond Holt, who provides extensive photographic services to ELi, presented from his professional experience as a photographer and videographer for the Michigan State Police. Holt helped students consider photojournalistic skills and the power of photojournalism.
Above: Alice Dreger and Raymond Holt
Alice Dreger drew from her own experiences reporting nationally and locally to help students think about how to work with challenging sources.
“The Summer Youth Journalism Program is one of the most exciting things we do at ELi for this community,” Dreger said. “Not only does it give us a chance to engage young people in the value and methods of high-quality journalism, it also means we get their perspective as reporters on our team. This is truly one of the most important aspects of ELi’s work as a local nonprofit organization.”
Harrel also recognized students’ yearning for a beneficial impact on their community.
“It was incredible to see the connections the journalists made, and the impact they want to have in the community,” Harrell said.
What did the students draw from the program?
Sophia Strasburg said, "I loved learning about photojournalism and am currently considering it as a career path because of what I learned in the ELi program."
Ashleigh Weiszbrod echoed what many students have expressed: "After taking the course, I feel more confident when taking interviews."
And Somer Sodeman (above), who has been a reporter for ELi since she took the intro course last year, said, "One thing I took from the tier two summer journalism workshop was that the public has the right to know what is going on around them. I learned that when investigating you might be put in uncomfortable situations, but you have to make sure to be persistent to get your information."
Adham Fattah, who also completed the advanced course, said something similar: "I loved talking to various figures from the City of East Lansing and learning a lot about the city I'd lived in for so long. It also helped me develop confidence in asking important questions of said figures."
ELi hopes and expects to continue both programs next summer.
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