Meet the 2023 Class of SRL Summer Academy Fellows

28 talented teen storytellers from across the country will join PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) for its ninth annual summer academy this June, hosted this year in Boston at Emerson College’s Department of Visual and Media Arts, and in collaboration with GBH.

The SRL summer academy is an intensive week-long video journalism fellowship for high school students.  Working in teams with SRL youth media producers, fellows will produce original video news reports covering key local issues in the Boston area, learning from professional producers and journalists along the way. The week wraps with a screening of student work hosted at GBH. 

Along with hands-on training, fellows get to know and learn from other students from a wide range of backgrounds, and a shared interest in building their reporting and production skills. The community formed during the academy can be a foundation for friendships for years to come, and a space for students to have conversations about everything from camera tips and issues in their communities to the future of journalism and the free press.


NAME: Aidan Booker

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Twinsburg High School

LOCATION: Twinsburg, Ohio


Aidan Booker is a junior from Twinsburg, Ohio, in the Cleveland area. He is already an experienced student journalist who has made an impact in his community through his contributions to, where he has produced stories that showcase what his city has to offer. Aidan is also a member of the first-ever SRL Student Advisory team, which has given him a chance to reach a wider audience and share his perspective. He believes that strong communication is key to collaborating with other journalists and producing a good story.

NAME: Allison Pope

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Madison High School  

LOCATION: Rexburg, Idaho 

LOCAL STATION: KISU-10 Pocatello, Idaho

Allison Pope is a junior at Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho. She has been involved in news writing since junior high and has contributed to several publications, including the Madison Rundown and Bobcat Beat. Allison has also created her own blog, “Books I Like,” where she writes book reviews and shares her opinions about popular books. She is excited about the opportunity to learn more about various forms of news writing, especially broadcasting, and to be surrounded by like-minded people at the Academy. Allison’s storytelling superpower is her skill in writing. She loves the way words paint pictures and the various ways that ideas can be told.

NAME: Anastasiia Grygorieva

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Rouse High School

LOCATION: Leander, Texas  


Anastasiia Grygorieva is a junior at Rouse High School in Leander, Texas where she is a student filmmaker. Her love for film and cinematography has grown over the past three years as she has taken multiple film classes, allowing her to improve her skills in producing, team collaboration, and problem-solving. She has already submitted a documentary piece about Interstellar BBQ to the SRL food, culture, and community competition and has participated in SRL’s rapid responses. 

NAME: Angelik LaShell Twombly

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Omaha North High School

LOCATION: Omaha, Nebraska

LOCAL STATION: KYNE Nebraska Public Television

Angelik is a junior at Omaha North High School in Omaha, Nebraska, and is a student journalist who has been actively involved in her school’s journalism program since freshman year. She has contributed to the program in various ways, including writing articles, editing stories, designing newspaper pages, and producing social media content. She also attended the NHSPA summer camp, where she gained valuable experience in writing and photography. She is excited to work collaboratively with others at the SRL Academy, learn how to pitch a good story and improve her videography skills.

NAME: Ani Ceccacci

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Royal Oak High School

LOCATION: Royal Oak, Michigan


Ani Ceccacci is a sophomore at Royal Oak High School in Michigan. He recently made a 5-minute documentary and a commercial for his school, covering serious topics like school shootings and lockdowns. Ani has a unique perspective that makes him stand out, and he always strives to make an impact with his work. His storytelling superpowers include getting more intel, coming up with relevant ideas, thinking of cool shots, asking follow-up questions, and getting great footage.

NAME: Aydin Tariq

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Mattoon High School   

LOCATION: Mattoon, Illinois


Aydin Tariq is a sophomore at Mattoon High School in Illinois, who is using storytelling to advocate for social justice. Aydin has been involved with SRL as part of their first-ever Student Advisory Team,  working with youth leaders across the nation. He also pursued a video story on the effects of a school shooting that occurred in his community and is now working on a written story about LGBTQ+ teenagers in rural communities across America. Aydin’s storytelling superpowers lie in his ability to communicate and collaborate with others, and his natural leadership skills. He loves connecting with new people, hearing their stories, and asking them questions during interviews.

NAME: Cate Roeder

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Columbus East High School

LOCATION: Columbus, Indiana


Cate Roeder is a junior at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Indiana. She is a budding video journalist with interest in storytelling through video production. She’s already made her mark in her school’s radio and television class, producing an intro video, three packages, and one commercial for their production of “Elf the Musical.” Cate excels as both a leader and a collaborator, possessing a gift for shooting, interviewing, and creating engaging soundbites from her interviewees. She’s a quick editor and can get packages done efficiently without sacrificing quality. 

NAME: Effie Gross

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: West Ranch High School

LOCATION: Stevenson Ranch, California


Effie Gross is a junior at West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch, California, and is a passionate storyteller with an unwavering determination to fight for what’s right. She believes everyone has a unique story to tell and feels responsible for helping people share their stories. Effie’s greatest strengths lie in her writing and editing skills, complemented by her ability to actively listen to others. Effie has contributed to Student Reporting Labs and other journalism outlets by writing, directing, and editing a PSA on school shootings titled “We are not safe here,” among other projects. She has learned so much from each of those experiences and hopes to create a more inclusive and fulfilling educational experience for all students. 

NAME: Gabriella Duran

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Cooper City High School  

LOCATION: Cooper City, Florida  


Gabriella Duran is a 10th-grade student from Cooper City High School in South Florida. With a strong background in video production, Gabriella excels in filming and editing. As a member of CTV (Cowboy Television), her school’s TV production class, Gabriella was accepted into the class for her editing skills and her ability to make stories shine in her videos. She is passionate about making stories interesting and finding their purpose. She is a collaborative team member, and her perfectionist mindset ensures that she always gives her best effort to every project. 

NAME: Hannah Coulthurst

GRADE: 11th

 SCHOOL: Northview High School

LOCATION: Covina, California


Hannah Coulthurst is a junior at Northview High School in Covina, California. Her passion for journalism began when she produced and edited a story for her school’s news show about teacher contract negotiations happening in her district, which received a Certificate of Merit in the 2022 John Swett Awards for Media Excellence in the area of student journalism from the California Teachers Association. Hannah has also recently co-produced a video for our “Food, Culture, and Community” prompt.

In her free time, she loves to bake, paint and has a small rock painting business. Her favorite classes are English and journalism.

NAME: Hayden Yu Anderson

GRADE: 12th grade

SCHOOL: Chief Sealth International High School

LOCATION: Seattle, Washington


Hayden Yu Anderson is a senior and an experienced student journalist at Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle. As an advanced youth producer at KUOW, Seattle’s local NPR radio station, he is skilled in scriptwriting, narration, and conducting interviews. He has also covered critical topics such as homelessness and gun control and has experience with fact-checking and interviewing people on complex topics. Hayden has written stories on the Seattle Public Schools Teacher strike and a school shooting, as well as co-produced a story about youth solutions to gun violence. He will be attending the University of Washington next fall. 

NAME: Justin Kulas

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Eagle Valley High School

LOCATION: Gypsum, Colorado


Justin Kulas is a junior at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colorado, and a skilled storyteller. With his strong interviewing skills and ability to produce high-quality sound bites, Justin excels at collaborating to create compelling video journalism pieces. He has been a part of his school news outlet for 8 months, where he has gained practical skills in video production and produced a number of packages. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he brings a unique perspective to his storytelling and strives to include marginalized communities in his work. He is passionate about shedding light on important issues that affect communities and aims to produce well-researched and informative pieces.

NAME: Keely Crawford

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Edmond North High School

LOCATION: Edmond, Oklahoma


Keely Crawford is a sophomore from Edmond North High School in the Oklahoma City area. She is a leader who learned the importance of communication and cooperation in working with her team to create a weekly show for their school. She has already developed her skills in film and storytelling, has been involved in anchoring and editing, and is eager to further enhance her skills. Keely believes in the power of journalism to connect people and communities, and she is excited about the prospect of meeting and working with new people. 

NAME: Mahi Jariwala

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Monte Vista High School

LOCATION: Danville, California


Mahi Jariwala is a  junior at Monte Vista High School in California who has a passion for storytelling and amplifying marginalized voices. Her love for storytelling started in the third grade when she heard Stephen Curry’s story of perseverance, inspiring her to create her own sports podcast called “She Can Ball,” where she shares stories from the women’s basketball community. Mahi has also been involved with her local PBS affiliate, KQED, where she produced a show about female sports journalists and became the youngest-ever co-host on Forum. She has also been mentoring other students on how to co-host their own Forum episodes and has hosted two live keynote speeches about media literacy. 

NAME: Maria Witcher

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Cass Technical High School

LOCATION: Detroit, Michigan

LOCAL STATION: Detroit Public Television

Maria Witcher is a sophomore from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan. Having experienced homelessness herself, Maria has a growing interest in helping with this issue and is taking steps to become a photojournalist and storyteller. She is currently developing her first photo gallery and working on a blog that focuses on homelessness in Detroit. Maria’s ability to adapt and connect with people makes her a valuable collaborator in team projects, and she strives to ensure that every member has a voice in the project. 

NAME: Matthew Domingo Ochoa

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Alta Vista Early College High School

LOCATION: Anthony, New Mexico


Matthew Domingo Ochoa is a junior from Alta Vista Early College High School in Anthony, New Mexico, near the U.S.-Mexico border. A student video editor, he has a proven track record of success, having won 1st place in regional and state competitions for two of his video projects. He was also part of a team that won 4th place nationally in a video project for the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative 2023 challenge. He excels at scriptwriting and videography, and his past work shows that he can use these skills to help convey a message effectively.

NAME: Mielat Zeray

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Wauwatosa West High School

LOCATION: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


Mielat is a junior at Wauwatosa West High School in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Originally from Eritrea, she is passionate about broadcast journalism and loves investigating issues that affect her community. Mielat enjoys training new members of her extracurricular broadcast journalism program and helping them develop their skills with cameras, editing, and setting up equipment. She is eager to learn new storytelling techniques and apply them to issues in her community. Outside of school and journalism, Mielat is interested in exploring new ideas and is always open to learning more about the world around her.

NAME: Morgan Hawkins

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: District of Columbia International School

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.


Morgan Hawkins is a sophomore at District of Columbia International School in Washington, D.C. She has contributed to Student Reporting Labs by producing a video segment about the voting age being lowered to 16 to vote in DC local elections. She also recorded a segment about a fellow student, Ajani Obeski, for the “Who I Admire” series. She has experience in camera operation and filming and is interested in learning different software to advance her creative skills in content creation, with the goal of becoming a social media content creator. Morgan’s storytelling skills include being organized, willing to try new things, flexible, receptive to feedback, and able to set up video spaces. 

NAME: Poojasai Kona

GRADE: 9th grade

SCHOOL: Frisco High School

LOCATION: Frisco, Texas


Poojasai Kona is a freshman from Frisco High School in the Dallas area, just beginning to delve into her interest in journalism. She has already contributed to Student Reporting Labs where she produced an engaging audio story for the “On Our Minds” podcast, even though she had no prior experience in audio editing. She dedicated herself to watching hours of Youtube tutorials to learn the skills she needed to make her story a success. She is an excellent listener, communicator, and empathizer, ensuring that everyone she works with has the freedom to share their thoughts and ideas. Her ability to empathize with individuals helps her elevate their voices and perspectives in storytelling.

NAME: Precious Foreman

GRADE: 9th grade

SCHOOL: Homeschool

LOCATION: Waldorf, Maryland


Precious Foreman is a freshman homeschooler from Prince George’s County, Maryland, with a passion for storytelling and journalism. She has already made her mark in SRL as part of the Student Journalism Challenge, winning “Best Audio” for her piece, and has also produced monthly episodes for her kids’ news podcast/show, “Precious Presents Performing Arts.” When working in a team, her leadership, communication, and resourcefulness skills shine, and she excels in both reporting on camera and producing.

NAME: Pride David

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts

LOCATION: Buffalo, New York


Pride David is a student journalist from Buffalo, New York, and a junior at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. She is already very familiar with SRL’s work as a teen fact-checker for MediaWise where she developed a range of skills, from researching claims to editing videos. Her biggest contribution to the project was this video on Pink Slime Journalism, which led her to be featured on Nickelodeon’s “Nick News.”

NAME: Rawan Lilo

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Albuquerque School of Excellence

LOCATION: Albuquerque, New Mexico


Rawan Lilo is a sophomore from Albuquerque School of Excellence in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a talented writer who has already made significant contributions to student journalism at her school as the associate managing editor of The Phoenix Times, the official publication of her high school. She has published numerous articles, including opinion pieces and features, and has submitted some of her work to the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) high school communications contest. Rawan is also an accomplished public speaker, which has helped her excel at voice differentiation and dramatic effects when working with a team on video journalism projects. 

NAME: Riona Sheikh

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Richard Montgomery High School

LOCATION: Rockville, Maryland


Riona Sheikh is a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. With several years of experience in videography, Riona’s videos have won Best of SNO Student Journalism awards. As the opinions editor of her school paper, the Art Editor of her county’s student magazine, and the Diversity Director of the Rockville Student Magazine. Her relationship with the arts and being a person of color have driven her interest in covering the intersection of art and social justice. She enjoys collaborating with other artistically inclined people to bring out the best in all their creative worlds.

NAME: Sandeep Brijesh Pillai

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering

LOCATION: Beaverton, Oregon


Sandeep Brijesh Pillai is a 10 grader from the Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering in the Portland, Oregon area. He has already worked with Student Reporting Labs, contributing last fall to the “Moments of Truth” series as a production assistant on one of the episodes. Their first news report on how sleep affects student success was also selected as a Student Journalism Challenge finalist. He is currently working on a collaborative news report with peers, where he has contributed greatly to the storyline and on-site planning of b-roll footage. 

NAME: Sarah Youseff

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Westview High School

LOCATION: San Diego, California


Sarah Yousseff is a sophomore at Westview High School in San Diego, California, and is an aspiring student journalist with an interest in video storytelling. Sarah has contributed to SRL by creating engaging stories on topics such as mental health, culture and food, and gender inequality in sports, which have resonated with her peers and the wider community. She values organization and thrives on routines and schedules to keep herself focused on the tasks at hand. Sarah also draws on her life experiences as a student, athlete, and community leader to investigate and explore ideas for projects, which has helped her create stories that resonate with a wide audience.

NAME: Shawn McCarthy

GRADE: 11th grade

SCHOOL: Kensington High School

LOCATION: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  


Shawn McCarthy is a junior at Kensington High School in Philadelphia, where he discovered his love for digital media through the WHYY media lab. He has already gained valuable experience in video production by interning for a local media organization through WHYY’s Pathways to Media Careers program. His interest in visual storytelling led him to create a news segment where he filmed interviews and b-roll footage and edited the piece with minimal supervision, and even pitched the idea to WHYY, where it will soon be aired on the “You Oughta Know” TV program.

NAME: Sophia Ortiz

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: Young Women’s Leadership Academy

LOCATION: San Antonio, Texas


Sophia Ortiz is a sophomore at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in San Antonio, Texas where she loves producing compelling stories and working collaboratively with her peers to create impactful journalism. As a Teen Fact Checker for MediaWise and the Poynter Institute, she has gained valuable journalism skills and contributed to the fight against misinformation. Her hard work and creativity are evident in her work as a video producer on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, where she has produced scripts, social copies, and articles to go along with her work.

NAME: Sriya Tallapragada

GRADE: 10th grade

SCHOOL: The Pingry School

LOCATION: Bernards Township, New Jersey

LOCAL STATION: WNJB New Jersey PBS New Brunswick 

Sriya Tallapragada is a 10th-grade student from The Pingry School in Bernards Township, New Jersey. She is a skilled writer dedicated to advancing racial equity through journalism and has been writing and publishing opinion pieces on various national issues for different publications and is currently an opinion columnist for the New Jersey Star Ledger. She is also a freelance writer for Teen Vogue and other platforms, covering social justice and equity. Her writing was recently recognized by PBS NewsHour and XQ as a winner of the Student Journalism Challenge print category. Sriya’s experiences have given her a unique perspective and a strong voice, and she hopes to use her skills to inspire other young people to share their stories and fight for a more equitable future.


Meet this year’s behind-the-scenes correspondents below:

NAME: Alexis Schmidt

GRADE: 12th grade

SCHOOL:  Frederick V Pankow Center 

LOCATION: Harrison Township, Michigan

LOCAL STATION: Detroit Public TV

Alexis is a senior at the Frederick V Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan. Her favorite class is broadcast journalism. When not in school she likes videography/photography, listening to music, watching tv and movies, and going on adventures with friends. 

NAME: Brianna Schmidt

GRADE: 12th grade

SCHOOL:  Frederick V Pankow Center 

LOCATION: Harrison Township, Michigan

LOCAL STATION: Detroit Public TV

Brianna is a senior at the Frederick V. Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan. Her favorite class in school is broadcast journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys going to concerts, videography, photography, going to Starbucks with friends, and watching movies. She is very excited to be invited back to the academy as a BTS correspondent, and can’t wait to see everyone in Boston!