20 under 20 Up-and-Coming Storytellers

2020 brought significant challenges and history-making events, from racial injustice and the coronavirus pandemic to a record-breaking hurricane season and an enormous uptick in mental health challenges afflicting communities nationwide.

These extraordinary times were met with exemplary young journalists and storytellers who covered these life-changing events through their work with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL). Since 2009, SRL has reached more than 30,000 students. Many have pursued careers in media. We thought there was no better time than now to recognize future change makers who are already making a difference in their communities. 

We are proud of the work achieved by these young people and excited to debut our inaugural list of 20 up and coming storytellers under 20 years old. Take a look and watch out for this group of students who will lead the way with unique stories in tow. 

*For its inaugural list, the SRL team came together to identify specific students who have gone through our program and produced poignant video pieces in 2020. In the years to come, SRL is excited to come up with a formal nomination process and enlist the support of its educator and alumni network, and work with partners invested in youth media to nominate and elevate even more promising storytellers. SRL invites the community to tune in next fall when the team develops its 2021 list.*

Bridgette Adu-Wadier, 17

Bridgette Adu-Wadier is a senior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Her love for books and storytelling drew her to journalism, creating an opportunity to continue exploring the power of local politics and underrepresented voices. Next fall, she will  pursue  broadcast journalism and social science research at Northwestern University. She dreams of becoming an investigative journalist reporting on education. She is an editor for her school newspaper, host and co-founder of the local news discussion show at her school and a reporter for several other publications. Bridgette has also helped produce several stories for SRL, as well as interviewed the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on preparing for presidential debates. 

Yara Ahmed, 18

Yara Ahmed is a senior at Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. She helped produce pieces on the challenges faced by refugee women in Utah, and how a counseling app has helped people in Utah. She also helped cover the 2020 vice presidential debate and was featured in a piece on the stories student reporters wanted to see in 2019. She’s managing editor of Bulldog Press, a school publication.

John Barnes, 18

John Barnes is a senior at H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, Virginia. A 2020 Homegrown Fellow and 2021 Health Video Fellow, John co-edited “Alone Together,” a piece about how teens dealt with the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. John is an active member of his school community and enjoys playing Ultimate, acting in school productions, participating in Model United Nations, and composing music. As a filmmaker, John has achieved various honors, such as a Best Documentary Nomination at the All American High School Film Festival for A Passover Story (2019), and the Best Documentary Award at the Arlington Student Film Festival for Goodbye, Vacation Lane (2018).

Nairobi Williese Barnes, 16

Nairobi Williese Barnes is a junior at Oakland Military Institute in Oakland, California. She interviewed her grandmother about her experiences as a civil rights activist, and what advice she has for young activists today. The piece was featured by the Global Youth and News Media Tolerance Profile Challenge. Nairobi was also featured in some of KQED’s Above the Noise episodes, including this one on sex ed in America.

Hannah Bradley, 18

Hannah Bradley is a senior at Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She has always liked making up her own stories but eventually began wanting to tell real stories. As a 2020 SRL Academy Fellow, she interviewed a policy analyst on the possible effects of climate change on rural economies. She was also a speaker at summer workshops with PBS. She helped produce a piece on teens struggling with mental health, and “From dark to girlish to boyish: don’t judge my fashion choices.”

Anyiah Simone Chambers, 18

Anyiah Simone Chambers is a recent graduate from Wauwatosa East High School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She was featured in a piece about the Wisconsin primaries, where she worked as a poll worker. She dealt with long lines and extra challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said it was important to her to give back to her community. Chambers is currently a freshman at Kentucky State University and a recent recruit to the U.S. Army.

Angel Delich, 18

Angel Delich is a freshman at Michigan State University. She fell in love with reporting because she enjoys using her own style to tell others’ stories. As a 2019 SRL Academy Fellow, she worked with a team of students to produce a story on a D.C. teen volunteering at the Smithsonian National Zoo.” Angel also profiled a Detroit teen’s experiences demonstrating over George Floyd’s death. She covered a program that helps low-income students learn about the environment, and helped produce stories on dealing with racial slurs and stares in suburban Detroit and career and technical education classes.

Xavier Dominguez, 19

Xavier Dominguez is a freshman studying journalism and mass communications at New Mexico State University. He is a 2020 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow, who began working with KRWG during his sophomore year of high school. His work with SRL is what inspired him to continue with journalism in college. As a Gwen Ifill Fellow, he produced a piece with KRWG on the rising unemployment rates in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic. He was also chosen as a 2019 SRL Journalist of the Year. His story about youth groups organizing to lower the voting age to 16 in D.C. was featured in Teen Vogue, and he was also featured in KQED’s Election Challenge sizzle. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in New Mexico.

Morgan Fischer, 19

Morgan Fischer is a freshman at Arizona State University, where she reports on politics for the campus newspaper The State Press. Her first piece Tiny Coders ran on the NewsHour in 2018. As a 2019 SRL Homegrown Fellow, she helped produce “One DACA recipient’s journey to higher education.” She also helped produce stories on gender and racial stereotypes in high school and how community college can be an alternative pathway for low-income students. Morgan also helped produce a story on the 2018 Virginia Senate race between Tim Kaine and Corey Stewart. She was a 2018 Academy fellow and graduated from Dominion High School, where she was former editor in chief of the DHS Press.

Zhenwei Gao, 18

Zhenwei Gao is a senior at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. As a 2019 SRL Academy Fellow, she worked on a team of fellows to produce a piece on how a Maryland teacher brings mindfulness to the classroom through yoga. She also produced a special pandemic back-to-school feature about a high school student who is helping his brother with special needs navigate remote learning. Zhenwei also helped produce other pieces on why we turn to humor during crises and skateboarding to relieve stress. Finally, she worked with KQED’s Above the Noise on several episodes including this one on suicide prevention.

Dariana Garcia, 19

Dariana Garcia is a sophomore at the Community College of Philadelphia studying liberal arts, with plans to transfer to Swarthmore College to study film and global studies. She has always been interested in the process of creating films and TV shows, which attracted her to video production with SRL in high school. As a 2020 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow, she worked with WHYY to report on the issue of transportation to school during the coronavirus pandemic. As a 2019 SRL Academy Fellow, she contributed to “Turning Out: The Youth Vote” with a piece focused on the Franklin Learning Center in Philadelphia and helped produce a piece on an innovative art space. She graduated from Franklin Learning Center in 2019, where she was editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Flash.

Kat Gonzalez, 17

Kat Gonzalez is a junior at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita, California. She chose to get involved in journalism because of her passion for youth media. As a 2020 SRL Academy Fellow, she profiled punk guitarist William Weinberg about struggling with sobriety at home. She was also featured in “Students adapt to a new way of life as the war on coronavirus shuts down America” and “‘You’re not alone’: How teenagers are dealing with social distancing.”

Andrea Salazar Lopez, 16

Andrea Salazar Lopez is a junior at Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering in Beaverton, Oregon where she participates in HOSA, a student organization for future health professionals. She also serves as an informal student advisor to her school district on educational issues. She was chosen as a Health Video Fellow for fall 2020, and produced a piece on how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Corie McCowin, 17

Corie McCowin is a senior at Omaha North Magnet High School in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a Gwen Ifill Legacy fellow who worked with NET over the summer to report on students’ experiences with distance learning after schools shut down abruptly in the spring because of the pandemic. She said that while the process was one of the harder experiences she’s had in video production, she learned how to work through those challenges and grow her passion in journalism. She was also featured in “Young people respond to racism in America.”

Kevin Myers, 17

Kevin Myers is a senior at Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia where he is a member of DHS press, his school’s student news organization. He got his start in storytelling when he discovered one of his parents’ cameras and found a love for video production. As a 2020 SRL Academy Fellow, he profiled a nurse working in a Covid-19 ICU about the challenges of learning medicine during the pandemic. He was also featured in the piece “Students react to RBG’s death” for his response about the former Justice’s progressive stance.

Yeonseo Seok, 17

Yeonseo Seok is a senior at Westview High School, in San Diego, California. She loved telling stories to her family and friends when she was young, and decided to turn her passion into her career. As a 2020 SRL Academy Fellow, she profiled a local business owner in her hometown trying to safely reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also helped produce pieces on how a positive psychology class helps teens de-stress,  and the challenges of Zoom band class.

Edward Lee Smith, 18

Edward Smith is a senior at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a passion for making changes in the community through storytelling. As a 2018 SRL Academy Fellow, he helped produce a piece on refugee seamstresses and their work in America. He also produced the piece “Kentucky teachers rally at state capitol for public education funding” and “Keep or take down?”, a story on a controversial Confederate soldier statue in Louisville. Other stories he helped produce include “Students are using dumpsters as a canvas to make artful clothing donation bins” and “Kentucky teaches high schoolers communication and empathy in the workplace.”

Logan Tsukiyama, 16 

Logan Tsukiyama is a junior at Maui High School in Hawaii. She chose to get involved with journalism because it gave her the opportunity to share her perspective while also telling the stories of others. Logan was selected to be a Health Video Fellow for the winter of 2020. As a 2018 SRL Academy Fellow, she co-produced a piece on muralists in the Washington, D.C. community. She has also helped produce stories on aquaponic farming in Hawaii, a mentorship program for students interested in robotics and inclusive leadership in the Special Olympics.

Kaleb Velez, 19

Kaleb Velez is a freshman at the University of North Texas. His early fascination with stories is what led him to journalism. He was chosen as a 2019 SRL Journalist of the Year and became the lead anchor for his school district’s weekly show during the 2019-2020 school year. He  helped produce “Texans from cultural and religious backgrounds weigh in on mental health issues,” and “The hurtful things people say about race and sexuality” for SRL. He has also featured in Rapid Responses like this one about what students want to see in the media. Kaleb graduated from Jersey Village High School in Houston, Texas.

Mary Williams, 20

Mary Williams is a junior studying electronic media at the University of Cincinnati. She has had a passion for media and communicating with the people around her since she was young. She was chosen as a 2019 SRL Journalist of the Year for her work at SRL. As a 2018 Gwen Ifill Fellow, she worked with CET to produce pieces on the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, how a 3D-printed prosthetic hand gave a girl the gift of play and the history of enslaved people at Mount Vernon. Mary was also a 2017 SRL Fellow, and graduated from Hughes STEM High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Elliot Corbin, 18, is a junior at Frederick V. Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan. She chose to get involved in storytelling because she sees it as the foundation for creativity.  As a 2020 SRL Academy Fellow, she produced a piece on how air pollution is disproportionately affecting Detroiters during the pandemic. She was also featured in a partner project between SRL and Detroit Pulic Television that showed teenagers’ perspectives of school during the coronavirus pandemic.

Khulan Erdenedalai, 17, is a senior at H.B. Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, Virginia. A 2020 Homegrown Fellow, Khulan helped produce “Alone Together,” a piece about how teens dealt with the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Her interest in filmmaking began in third grade, when she was recruited to be part of her school’s news team shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Mongolia. Since then, she has directed, filmed, and earned honors for numerous films, ranging from documentaries to narratives. At school, Khulan co-runs Momentum Films, an initiative that produces and distributes documentaries for local non-profits. She also engages in Model U.N. (United Nations) and Young People of Color Club. Her other hobbies include making art and playing volleyball with her friends. Khulan dreams to one day travel the world with her camera, and document all its beauty.

Harlow Frank, 17, is a senior at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Los Angeles, California. As a SRL 2020 Academy Fellow, he profiled a teen who reconnected with his father during the coronavirus pandemic. He got involved with storytelling to bring awareness to stories that aren’t being told.

Rose Hoover is a senior at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior Highschool in Miami, Florida. Her curiosity is what led her to storytelling, and she enjoys learning about the motivations behind new subjects. As a 2020 Academy fellow, she produced a piece on the loss of summer internships for students due to Covid-19. She also helped produce the story “In Miami Dade County Schools, the health information project fills the gap on sex ed” and reported on the effect of the pandemic in her hometown.

Patrick Hunter, 18, is a senior at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita, California. He was featured in a piece on how teens are coping with social distancing, and helped produce a piece on how cancel culture is affecting the youth vote in 2020.

Chloe McCarron, 16, is a junior at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. As a 2019 SRL Academy Fellow, she helped produce the piece “Kids find new roots with Early Growers.” She also helped produce stories on how peer-led programs help teens struggling with mental health and why we turn to humor during crises.

Miah Moore, 18, is a senior at Jersey Village High School in Houston, Texas. She loves meeting new people and learning about their stories. She was selected as a SRL 2020 Special Contributor, and also helped produce the piece “Texans from different cultural and religious backgrounds weigh in on mental health issues.” Miah enjoys painting, listening to music and learning new trivia.

Ty Takashi, 15, is a sophomore at Kauai High School in Lihue, Hawai’i. He loves hearing people’s stories and being creative with his camera shots and edits. As a SRL 2020 Special Contributor, he profiled a hair salon owner on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on her small business in Hawai’i. Ty is also involved in Key Club and Science Olympiad at his school. He was recently selected to participate in SRL’s winter Health Video Fellowship.