Introducing SRL’s 2021 20 under 20 list of up-and-coming storytellers

December 17, 2021

As we grapple with the end of yet another year of the coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to reflect on 2021 as a year of many challenges—but also several moments of brightness.

A majority of students returned to in-person learning, vaccines were widespread, and, more than ever, young people continued to change and redefine spaces they are traditionally left out of. Just as we did in 2020, we’d like to use the end of this year as a chance to celebrate the storytellers and change-makers of the SRL community. 

We are proud to share this year’s list of 20 up-and-coming storytellers under 20 years old. Read on to meet this group of incredible students and learn about the inspiring stories they’ve worked on.

Alice Scott, 15

Alice is a sophomore at McCallum High School in Austin, Texas. She was a part of the 2021 SRL Academy where she produced a story on how families can support transgender and nonbinary teens on their path to adulthood. Alice also interviewed Art Shanks, the grant coordinator for the Movember-funded program, Making Connections for WETA’s Well Beings initiative. Their conversation centered around the importance of youth and adults connecting when it comes to mental health.

Arabia Parkey, 18

Arabia is an SRL alum who went to Herbert Hoover High School in Des Moines, Iowa. She is currently a freshman at the University of Iowa. While in high school, Arabia was the leader anchor at her school’s daily news report. She also ran the Instagram accounts for her school’s student-run publications. In 2020, Arabia interviewed the founder and CEO of Raygun, who creates bold political statements through clothing ahead of the 2020 elections.

Brianna Valcarcel, 17

Brianna is a senior at Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Bountiful, Utah. She was a 2021 SRL Academy Fellow where she produced a story on cultural expectations of leaving home as a young Hispanic woman. Brianna was also able to work with PBS Utah at a press conference where she asked Utah Governor Spencer Cox a question about higher education spending.

Damein Williams, 19

Damein is a senior at Franklin Learning Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He participated in SRL’s 2021 Academy where he produced a story about the impacts of gun violence on Philadelphia’s teens. He was also part of a group of students who were nominated for a national student Emmy award for their story on hazardous school conditions in some Philadelphia schools.

Delta Flores, 19

Delta is an SRL alum who went to Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami, Florida. She is currently studying broadcast journalism at Florida International University (FIU). She began working with Student Reporting Labs her sophomore year of high school where her interest in journalism grew. Since then, she went on to become a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow, working directly  with journalists at South Florida PBS to cover stories, including a piece about Cuban protests in Miami, Florida, which aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend.

Gracie Napuapomaikaikuikalealoha Farias, 17

Gracie is a junior at Kapolei High School on Oahu in Hawaii. She first joined Student Reporting Labs when she helped produce a video explainer on the American Rescue Plan with Associate Youth Media Producer Becky Wandel as a part of ‘Disrupted: How Covid-19 Changed Education,’ our digital special on education. That same explainer got the attention of Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, who chairs the Congressional Committee on Education and Labor and who Gracie later got to interview about funding quality education across the country.

Insherah Qazi, 17

Insherah is a junior at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2020, she helped produce a story on the newly reconstituted Little Rock school board. This year, she helped produce an explainer on the role of school boards for our education special, ‘Disrupted: How Covid-19 Changed Education.’

Isaac Harte, 14

Isaac is a freshman at the Shipley School in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He was one of our 2021 SRL Academy fellows where he produced a piece about the power of the youth vote in Pennsylvania. Isaac is a part of MediaWise’s Teen Fact-Checking Network where he dispels misinformation in the news. He was also part of MediaWise’s YouTube series on misinformation called “Is This Legit?” 

Itzel Luna, 18

Itzel is an SRL alum who went to Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Lake Balboa, California. She is currently a freshman at Stanford University. In 2019, Itzel helped cover the NewsHour/POLITICO Democratic debate in Los Angeles during the last presidential election.

Janice Aragon, 17

Janice is a senior at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, New York. She was nominated to be on this list by her teacher, Dr. Sequoyah Wharton. who described her as being “dedicated, driven and a natural leader.” Janice has participated in several SRL projects, including asking a question of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during our special, “Disrupted: How Covid-19 Changed Education.” More than once, Janice’s responses to SRL call-outs about current events were featured on the PBS NewsHour broadcast.

Julia Escobar, 18

Julia is an SRL alum who went to Venice High School in Los Angeles, California. She currently attends the University of Rochester in New York. One of the last stories she worked on before graduating high school was about the role LAUSD student activists played in defunding the nation’s second largest school district police department, which aired on the PBS NewsHour. 

Kate Nakamura, 16

Kate is a junior at Kauai High School in Lihue, Hawaii. She is co-hosting our upcoming digital special in 2022, along with student Terry Jones Jr. and the NewsHour’s chief national correspondent Amna Nawaz. She also participated in the 2020 SRL Academy where she produced a story on teens being laid off due to the lack of tourism in Hawaii. In 2019, she produced a piece about stereotyping as a part of SRL’s “No Labels Attached” series. 

Madeline Mayes, 16

Madeline is a junior at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, New York. Madeline was a part of the 2021 SRL Academy where she produced a piece about how honor students in NYC struggle with online learning. She produced a video as part of the Well Beings virtual event in New York that spotlighted mental health in the youth LGTBQ+ community. Madeline also took over SRL’s Instagram for a day to show what going back to school was like this year amid mask mandates and vaccine concerns.

Micah Martin, 17

Micah is a senior at the Frederick V. Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan. Last summer, she was a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow with Detroit Public TV’s One Detroit team, where she helped produce a multi-part conversation on racial inequality. Micah was also  in an SRL piece where students relayed messages to President Joe Biden on what they wish to see change in the United States ahead of his inauguration. This year, she interviewed Christopher Chun-Seeley, the Program Director of School and Justice Initiatives at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF) for WETA’s Well Beings initiative.

Noah Konevitch, 17

Noah is a junior from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He was the co-host of the first season of “On Our Minds,” SRL’s first mental health podcast. Noah and his co-host Zion Williams have been featured widely in the press, including in Teen Vogue, NBCLX, WITF, Michigan Radio, and Tamron Hall. Noah also appeared in Nashville Public Television’s Well Beings event on identifying and preventing teen suicide.

Onivid Garzon, 19

Onivid is an SRL alum from Youth Beat, a youth media organization, in Oakland, California. She is currently a freshman at Chabot College in Hayward, California. She helped produce stories for the first episode of “On Our Minds,” “COVID-19: Are We Really All In This Together?”

Shakyna Golphin, 17

Shakyna is a senior at Taylor Allderdice and University Prep in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Last summer, Shakyna joined WQED as a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow where she produced a piece about the KRUNK Movement, a youth production company for high school students in Pittsburgh. 

Sonal Prakash, 17

Sonal is an SRL alum who went to Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia. She is currently a freshman at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Ahead of the 2021 presidential inauguration, Sonal shared her message to the then-incoming presidential administration on educational equity. In a “Level Up” tutorial, she helped explain the best ways to record a podcast from home. She also produced an audio story on depression and mental health for our podcast, On Our Minds. Last year, Sonal produced a piece on youth foster care with a group of students from Dominion High School.

Terry Jones Jr., 18

Terry is an SRL alum who went to Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Alabama. He is currently a student at Jefferson State Community College. He is co-hosting our upcoming digital special in 2022, along with student Kate Nakamura and the NewsHour’s chief national correspondent Amna Nawaz. In 2020, he produced a video diary about his experience with remote learning. He was also a 2021 SRL Academy Fellow where he produced a piece about how one Coronavirus graduate copes with entering a world of uncertainty.

Zion Williams, 16

Zion is a junior at the Frederick V. Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan. She was the co-host of the first season of “On Our Minds,” SRL’s first mental health podcast. Zion and her co-host Noah Konevitch have been featured widely in the press, including in Teen Vogue, NBCLX, WITF, Michigan Radio, and Tamron Hall. Zion also appeared in the Oklahoma Educational Television Association’s Well Beings event, where she interviewed a mental health professional on identifiying the signs of and preventing teen suicide.