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In their own words: What students say about their journalism experiences


Testimonials from students involved in scholastic media:

Jenna Spoont:  I am a journalist because I can reach out to those around me and inform them about problems in society. In December 2012, I wrote a story called “World Wide Watch” about the dangers of sexting. I researched statistics, interviewed students and national experts and spoke with the executive director of the Student Press Law Center to create an accurate, educational article. I wrote the article because if I could change just one teenager’s decision of sending inappropriate images, then I would feel rewarded for serving my community. It is because of journalism that I have grown to be ambitious and driven. I served as one of 10 Student Partners for 45Words, an organization that supports and promotes the First Amendment, the document that is at the core of what journalism stands for. I am a journalist, and I am passionate. Jenna Spoont, journalism major at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., class of 2013 Conestoga HS, Wayne, Pa., Quill and Scroll Gallup Scholarship recipient and JEA Student Journalist of the Year.

Shai Nielson: “In journalism, I was taught what my rights and freedoms are as a writer — things like my freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I was taught how to ask questions and how to get answers. As a journalist, I learned what my privileges and responsibilities are as a person: to use my freedoms to tell the stories that need to be told, truthfully and without bias. I learned how to use the answers I got. And so while journalism class taught me how to be a journalist, being a journalist taught me how to be a better talker, a better listener and a better person.” Shai Nielson – Whitney High School (CA) Journalism editor, Class of 2013 and now UC Davis.

Sequan Gatlin: Strengthening my communication abilities has not only shown me how to speak and be heard, but also how to listen and be taught. This has helped me to make better communities with my peers, instructors and advisers.  Being connected means having resources, information and mentors. Connections through my high school journalism adviser gave me the information and resources that I needed to get here today, an incoming freshman at Iowa State University. Sequan Gatlin, journalism and biology major, class of 2013, Davenport Central High School, Davenport, Iowa, Quill and Scroll Richard P. Johns Scholarship recipient.

Sara Lederman: “Being involved in high school journalism helped me develop an awareness of team dynamics and how to navigate collaborations with a wide range of personality types. High school journalism education sensitized me to the importance of details and gave me a safe space to practice professional encounters. My high school journalism community encouraged me to ask clear, meaningful, and smart questions.”  Sara Lederman,  The Echo, St. Louis Park, MN.

Kaitlin Lane: “Through journalism, I gained so much knowledge about the world, even apart from learning the skills necessary to function in it. When I was a news editor, I had to stay up-to-date on the news, attending board meetings every week. As a lifestyle managing editor, I learned more than most people about various health-related topics. It’s exciting being that go-to person who seems to know a little about everything. Journalism not only made my life interesting by giving me that ability, but it also made me a better citizen. Although I have completed high school journalism, the lessons I learned will continue to impact me as I move on to participate in journalism at Ball State University.” Kaitlin Lane, class of 2013 Lakota East HS, Liberty Township, Ohio, Quill and Scroll Edward Nell Scholarship recipient and Ohio JEA Journalist of the Year.

Roger Cain: “Although I’m ready to move on to college, I recognize what a gift it was to participate in high school journalism: I built valuable friendships, participated in quirky traditions, and ultimately improved not only as a writer and a thinker, but as a leader. Overseeing a large and rowdy staff as an editor forced me to improve my time management skills and meet deadlines. With more than 50 students contributing to the newspaper, we had to find new tasks to keep everyone busy. I assigned writers to work on our newly developed website and revamped our beat system to seek out news that might have been falling through the cracks. Many times throughout the year, I, along with the other editors, had to stay at school late into the evening finishing the front page and making last-minute edits. Those long nights taught me the importance of good planning and setting deadlines, as well as the need for the occasional stress-reliever.” Roger Cain, journalism major at Stanford University, class of 2013, Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, Texas, Quill and Scroll Edward Nell Scholarship recipient, National Merit finalist and AP Scholar with Distinction.

Tyler Pager: “I found that the most challenging aspects of high school journalism were always the most rewarding and I have carried that attitude with me in all facets of my life. I have developed a thick skin. Journalism can be brutal. From harsh edits on an article to the stress of tight deadlines, the life of a journalist at any level has its low points. However, with a thick skin, I no longer take these things personally, but rather an opportunity for growth and improvement. Having a thick skin has allowed me to grow more as a journalist and seek feedback more often. The opportunities provided to me as a journalist truly defined my high school experience, and I am excited to continue my journalism education in college at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.” Tyler Pager, class of 2013 at The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Quill and Scroll Edward Nell Scholarship recipient and New York JEA Journalist of the Year.

Kelsey Reid: “High school journalism taught me to question authority, evaluate issues objectively and serve my readers and community. As a teenage writer and thinker, I found so much value in talking to people on all sides of an issue, fighting for the facts and presenting ethically-obtained, unbiased information to the individuals most impacted by the story.  Now that I’m in college and have done ethnographic research in different communities, I am so grateful that journalism taught me that every individual has a story and that behind every big statistic or controversy there are people, there are communities and there are stories that need to be told. But above all else, being involved with journalism in high school empowered me in a way I will always be thankful for and allowed me to be part of a staff whose members became some of my greatest teachers and most dear friends.” Kelsey Reid, University of Chicago junior, Echo 2010-2011 EIC

Chris Mahal: “Getting involved in high school journalism set the foundation for storytelling throughout my career. I took a different angle from most by pursuing visual track, but getting the basics in high school gave me a basic understanding of the media world that is absolutely essential in today’s changing market. It helped me choose the right school and helps me everyday in editing, art direction, design and education. Early education is even more important today if a person is interested in pursuing a journalistic career. With the idea that anybody can start a blog or be in the “media,” there’s an increased responsibility that lacks in today’s media landscape.” Chris Mihal, Creative Director, Variety, Echo (St Louis Park, MN).

Megan Jones: “Walking out of Wheeling High School’s publication room for the last time as a senior, I thought to myself, “Thank gosh I joined newspaper.” As an incoming freshman, I watched my friends find their niche through volleyball or art club, and while I first fumbled, I soon found my home. Moving from staff reporter to editor-in-chief, I have benefited greatly through high school journalism. My social skills began to be pushed with my first interview, as a shy and very naïve freshman. I was also introduced to another side of myself: a leader. I not only learned how to properly manage, but I also learned how to motivate a staff and how the use of words can affect others. Some students may avoid joining a newspaper due to not wanting that career path, but the social, time management and leadership skills I learned can transfer to any field, which truly makes high school journalism so beneficial. These skills will follow me as I study news and editorial journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” Megan Jones, class of 2013 Wheeling HS, Wheeling, Ill., Quill and Scroll Gallup Scholarship recipient.


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