Last week, I attended the 93rd Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Spring Convention. Determined to beat the northeast winter blizzard and not miss the convention, I drove to New York Monday afternoon.
As the storm passed through New York on Tuesday, I sat in my hotel room watching the news and reflecting on the great work of journalists. Going to the CSPA, I had a lot of questions for the students I would meet. What made them passionate about journalism? What made them decide that they wanted to be journalists at such a young age? Would they be interested in investigative journalism and why? Would they make it through the storm?
I barely slept that night, but I woke up Wednesday morning feeling ready to hear these students’ stories and have my questions answered.
I watched as hundreds of students from across the nation arrived at Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall. After checking in with their faculty advisers and chaperones, students took to their own adventure in the exhibitor’s hall exploring what every table had to offer. When they came to our table, they had questions. “What is The New England Center for Investigative Reporting?”
Before I told them about our program, I wanted to know more about them, what they liked, what made them truck through the storm to get here, and what they wanted to be. Many who visited our table were on the yearbook committee interested in design and telling stories about their classmates to remember for a lifetime. Others had interesting backgrounds in engineering and science, but wanted to learn more about journalism to improve their writing skills.
Then there were the hard-core journalists. They lived and breathed journalism. They told the stories that people should read and hear about. No matter what anyone told them, they knew the stories they wrote and covered were just as important as any class they took in school.
Of the many students I met, one student almost made me cry.
Her name is Tess. She is the editor of Fenton InPrint of Fenton High School. This is what she said to me when I asked her to tell me about herself and why she chose journalism in high school.
I love journalism. I know when I grow up that is what I want to be. People have said to me, “Why do you want to major in a something that will cause you and your parents to be in debt?” I don’t know why they would say something like that to me. Going to college is about following your dreams and doing something you love. For me, I love journalism. This is what I am passionate about. I get to tell stories that matter and make a difference. Where else can you do that? I just love my job. It might be stressful, but I know that I am doing something meaningful. For me, that’s all that matters.
I asked her if I could give her a big hug; she said yes. I thanked her. I thanked her for her passion and thanked her for sharing her story with me.
This is why NECIR is invested in teaching students about journalism, especially investigative journalism. We want them to follow their passion and build the skills they need to be the next great journalist. And where else can they do this, but in the city of Boston – one of the top cities for reporters – learning from award-winning journalists at Boston University’s College of Communication, one of the top 10 colleges for journalism in the nation.
For student like Tess, or any other student interested in journalism, we want to help them take the next step to getting closer to their dream. We want them to come investigate their world and make a difference in it.
To all the high school writers and journalists out there, I commend and thank you for your work. I hope that you will take that next step – whatever it may be.
Ermolande, Student Program Manager at NECIR at Boston University