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The school years is over and graduation parties have ended.
It’s time to reflect — OK, brag — on another successful year for The Gazette’s High School Journalism program.
If you are not aware of what this is, it’s a program started in November 2011 to promote journalism and the importance of writing well at high schools across Eastern Iowa. Over the past six years, I have been an editor, mentor and a cheerleader for hundreds of high school students who took part in this program.
Although it’s a small part of my duties at The Gazette, it has become a passion of mine to talk about and teach young journalists the importance of news and telling good stories.
If you haven’t seen or read the work of these talented students in The Gazette or on this site, you’re missing some fantastic stories.
One of this year’s talented students — Hanna Roltgen, who will be a senior at Cedar Rapids Prairie in the fall — has had stories posted and in the paper the last two weeks. Hanna is interning at The Gazette as part of Kirkwood’s Workplace Learning Connections. Later this summer, North Cedar senior Saleena Jones will join our staff as part of that same program. Saleena already has had many photos appear on this page and online.
In 2011-12, I visited 26 high schools and had contributions from 20. The next year I visited 49 schools and had contributions from 31. That’s still the high water mark.
This past year, I visited 23 different high schools and two middle schools and had contributions from 17 schools.
I’d love to see that grow in 2017-18.
We were able to share some wonderful stories this year, including City High sophomores Olivia DeNiece and Ellie Evans writing about Tommy Brands, son of Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands, and a wonderful tribute by North Linn sophomore Jake Hilmer about playing basketball for his father.
Working with these students — and their wonderful teachers — gives me great hope for the future of good journalism.
We’ve also done this long enough now that we’re seeing these students become professional journalists. Jordan Hansen, who won a prize from this program while a senior at Marion High School, just wrapped up an internship with The Gazette after graduating from the University of Iowa. Our current intern, Iowa State graduate Ryan Young, was a high school journalist at Iowa City High who contributed nine stories, three photos and a video during his senior year.
Cedar Rapids Xavier, under the direction of Kellie Wagner, has been the top contributor every year and, once again, had an outstanding year with 18 students contributing 53 stories. But Mount Vernon, with JoAnn Gage as the “head coach,” was tops this year with 22 students contributing 19 stories and several photos and videos. Fourteen of Carla Green’s North Cedar students turned in more than 25 stories and 100 photos.
As we have every year, students who contribute are eligible for prizes. We gave away Kindle Fire tablets again this year and the winners were Anna Petersen from North Cedar, Emma Klinkhammer from Mount Vernon and Xavier’s Mahlon Steepleton.
We’ll draw next week for the winners of two $500 college scholarships.
I’m already looking forward to the 2017-18 school year and working with a new batch of students. Let me know if I can visit your school.
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