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Making a Difference:
Freshman capstone project
localizes national issue of gay rights


by Jane Blystone
Ally O’ Reilly wanted her capstone journalism project for the year to make a difference. She knew that the national issue of gay rights needed localization in her school publication, Pine Whispers. Her adviser, Stephen Hanf, at R. J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was impressed that a freshman would take on such a challenge.

I love this story because one of my freshmen in Intro to Journalism came up with it and developed it on her own for an end-of-year project. She could have tackled a fluffy feel-good story, but instead tied in this story to the recent Supreme Court cases. It was so well written, timely and full of impact for this under-covered demographic that I had no choice but to publish it in our print paper — something normally reserved for upperclassmen taking newspaper class. It got people talking about an issue that impacts a lot of high school students.”

O’Reilly covered the struggle for students in her school to get an LGBTQ group going. She also interviewed a bisexual student and another student who has shared his life with his brother and two fathers as well as a senior writer might do.

Here is her story. National gay rights issues hit home for students



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