What’s next for these graduating student journalists?

June 10, 2021

Seniors from the Student Reporting Labs network are graduating from a school year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. Even though their senior year wasn’t quite what they expected or hoped it would be, students rose to the challenge. We reached out to a few of our past fellows and student producers to celebrate their accomplishments, hear about their memories with SRL and learn what’s next for them.

Itzel Luna, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, California

What are your plans after graduation? 

After high school, I plan to attend college but I have not picked a school to attend yet. I hope to major in communications and/or political journalism. After college, I plan to pursue a career in journalism, particularly political reporting. 

Note: Since this interview, Itzel has confirmed that she plans to attend Stanford University in the fall.

What will you remember most from SRL?

My favorite part of SRL is the celebration and the focus on youth voice. I was able to attend a watch party for the December 2019 Democratic Debate, where I met other students and was able to spark important dialogue about our potential future leaders. SRL always made sure to give a voice to the students who were often overlooked or ignored in these important conversations. I will always remember the sense of empowerment I felt when working on an SRL project.

What SRL project are you most proud of?

The SRL project that I am most proud of is when I reported on the December 2019 Democratic Political Debate. I was able to work with a few student journalists from various schools to plan and produce a short video about the importance of youth vote in politics. We got to work straight from the media center at the debate and interview many people, including DNC Chairman Tom Perez and then-Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra. I gained a lot of valuable experience in filming and political reporting. This experience really helped solidify my plan of becoming a political journalist.

Tashiya Mathuin, Cody High School, Wyoming

What are your plans after graduation? 

After graduation, I plan to take a gap year and finish Adobe certifications in Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects, a certification in User Experience, maybe do an internship in video  and build my portfolio up to apply to RISD for Fall 2022. I worry that with COVID-19 still being prominent, I could be put online if I go to college straight away and still have to pay full tuition. Given the circumstances, I think it’s a good opportunity to do all the things I never had time to in high school but have wanted to, while still being flexible yet productive.

What will you remember most from SRL?

I will remember the absolutely incredible opportunities and lessons SRL provided me through my high-school journalism career, from my first Rapid Response to the 2020 Academy, and the amazing connections I was able to make along the way.

What SRL project are you most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of my Academy story on tourism in Cody affected by COVID-19, because it taught me so much about being resourceful and showed me the real nature of journalism–getting the truth out there, come what may.

Julia Escobar, Venice High School, California

What are your plans after graduation? 

In the fall, I will be attending the University of Rochester! I am NOT excited about Rochester winters (my LA heart will miss 55-degree “cold” winters) but I am looking forward to diversifying my interests and creating even more authentic relationships.  I will never stop storytelling—no matter what my future brings me. 

What will you remember most from SRL?

I will never forget the amount of confidence Student Reporting Labs has in their youth journalists. It has been refreshing to be a part of a welcoming community where adults listen to students and empower them to share other young people’s stories. Student Reporting Labs has allowed me to find my voice and gain confidence not just as a student journalist but as a woman in the media. I am eternally grateful for all the connections and INCREDIBLE opportunities I have only been able to experience because of this community.

What SRL project are you most proud of?

The SRL project I am most proud of is the video I am currently working on that is examining the role LAUSD student activists have played in defunding the nation’s second largest school district police department. Speaking with student activists, educators, school board members and school police has allowed me to continuously learn about the movement. I am proud to mobilize these perspectives and educate others about what the reimagining of safety looks like on school campuses. 

Zhenwei Gao, Etiwanda High School, California

What are your plans after graduation? 

After graduation, I plan to attend Stanford University, possibly double majoring in International Relations and Film & Media Studies. I would love to study abroad in order to learn new languages, cultures, and traditions. Most importantly, I hope to continue using my voice to raise awareness on various subjects for people in need.

What will you remember most from SRL?

My most memorable experience from SRL has to be the SRL Academy! There, I met so many like-minded, goal-driven and collaborative fellow student journalists who continue to inspire and motivate me to achieve for the better. They are the ones that truly make me proud to be Gen Z because we are not only tech savvy, but also humorous, curious, passionate and kind. I also received the most optimal support and learning from the SRL staff, mentors, and the NewsHour’s William Brangham and Judy Woodruff. It was an eye opening experience overall.

What SRL project are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my SRL piece “School Dress Codes: When Do They Go Too Far?”, in collaboration with KQED Above The Noise. It was my first time reporting and recording in front of a green screen and in a professional production setting. My reporting led to an eventual change to my school’s dress code policy. Equally, my piece “Unmasking Discriminatory Microaggressions” is also extremely valuable to me. I was able to use my voice to educate people who are unaware of microaggressions and to advocate for those that are affected by microaggressions on a daily basis.