24 teen journalists, 24 local stories: how these young reporters covered the issues that matter to them

By Sydney Johnson

June 30, 2021

Arlington, Va.—Two dozen middle and high school students embarked on a two-week virtual fellowship with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) from June 14th to June 25th, where they worked in teams to remotely produce their own local news stories. 

The 2021 cohort —who logged in from as far as Hawai’i and Texas to Pennsylvania and Virginia—were divided into six groups led and coached by SRL’s youth media producers. In a deadline-driven environment, students researched, wrote, produced, and edited their own stories that focused on a number of different topics ranging from how families can support transgender and nonbinary teens to discrimination against Asian American Pacific Islander communities.

Students received journalism toolkits to help them film and edit. Airpods, hard drives, ring lights, notepads, tripods and more were included in the toolkits that enabled students to capture their stories. 

In addition to working on their own stories, students attended several virtual workshops hosted by SRL staff, NewsHour producers and other special guests, who shared stories and advice ranging from their career trajectory, the video production process and their personal experiences in journalism. During the editing process, special guests from local stations across the country such as PBS Wisconsin, GBH and SRL’s home station WETA, gave feedback to students in real time.

“The most important thing a reporter has is credibility,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor for the Newshour, as she hosted a Q&A session with students on broadcast journalism. Amna Nawaz, chief correspondent for the NewsHour, hosted an “Art of Storytelling” workshop while William Brangham, correspondent for the NewsHour, gave tips on how to find the best voice for voice-overs and John Yang, a correspondent for the NewsHour, discussed his beat covering the U.S. Supreme Court. Members of the NewsHour’s digital team including James Williams, Deema Zein, and Dan Cooney imparted words of wisdom, as well as NewsHour’s executive producer Sara Just.

Thaïs Giraudet, incoming 10th grader from Westview High School in San Diego, California, shared, “Being able to meet all those professionals really inspired me and made me reflect ‘Is that what I want to do in the future?’ and yeah, the answer is yes! I love what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks.” 

The 2021 academy culminated in a virtual showcase on June 26, where students shared how the experience impacted them both academically and professionally as some of them pursue video journalism and media creation for the first time.

To read more about each group, please see below and scroll through our 2021 SRL Academy playlist here.


The Cool Crew

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

SRL youth media producer Victor Fernandez led The Cool Crew as they focused on stories about Juneteenth, self-defense, education, and Hawaiian culture. Timothy James from G.W. Carver High school of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania explored West Philadelphia’s fifth annual Juneteenth festival from this year. Bailey Liebert from Cody High School in Cody, Wyoming produced a piece on how self-defense can be learned through krav maga. Kiera Eckhart from Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California asked students how the pandemic has altered social barriers in school. Ho’ohieokala Luna-Beamer from Maui High School in Wailuku, Hawaii explained the importance of Hawaiian culture

The C.I.A. – stories about Change, Identity, and Advocacy

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

The C.I.A., led by youth media producer Marie Cusick, followed stories about trans teenagers, youth voting rights, AAPI hate, and social appearance. Alice Scott from McCallum High School in Austin, Texas interviewed a trans teenager on gender identity. Gracie Osborne from Oakland Military Institute in Oakland, California explained the recent anti-Asian hate crimes that have occurred in California. Sinaiah Pointer from Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California profiled a skateboarder and his perception of stereotypes he has faced from others in his community. Isaac Harte from Delaware Valley Friends School in Coatesville, Pennsylvania discovered the impact of the youth vote in Pennsylvania from the 2020 election.

PBS’s Kids

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

PBS’s Kids, led by youth media producer Briget Ganske, curated stories about the mental health of health care workers, trans rights, Texas’s new abortion law, and gun violence in Philadelphia. Vivien Williams from Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, Virginia talked to health professionals from George Washington University Hospital on ways their mental health had changed during the pandemic. Cheyanne Jauregui from Don Antonio Lugo High School in Pomona, California outlines the obstacles trans youth have to go through in order to receive rights. Kylie Flores from Jersey Village High School in Houston, Texas looked at how Texas’s new six-week ban on abortion changes the path for many women during their pregnancy. Damein Williams from Franklin Learning Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania talked to a member of the Philadelphia City Council on gun violence in inner-city neighborhoods. 

Potato Squad

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

SRL youth media producer Becky Wandel led Potato Squad as they examined how NYC honors students struggle with online learning, the perception of war from a Palestinian-American, debunking the gender-binary, and how 2020 graduates entered a world of uncertainty. Madeline Mayes from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, New York interviewed NYC honors students about the effects remote learning had on their daily routines. Ruby Barrus from Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho talked to a Palestinian-American as she reflected on her time in Palestine before the war had erupted. Lilly Rodriguez from The U School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania dissected the current state of the gender binary system in America. Terry Jones, Jr. from Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Alabama spoke with a teen who changed their plans for college after the pandemic started in 2020. 

Hyper Tuff Dragons

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

SRL youth media producer Mohammad Pasha coached The Hyper Tuff Dragons. These stories explored the effects predominantly white institutions have on students of color, the historic water level changes in the Hoover Dam, procrastination, and cultural identity. Jeremiah Mitchell from Greater Atlanta Christian School in Tucker, Georgia focused on the constraints of having a lack of diversity in education settings for students of color. Jazlynn Lorenzo from Carroll M. Johnston Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada discovered the recent decrease of water levels in the Hoover Dam and what that means for the surrounding areas. Marshall Burkhalter from Oak Ridge High School in Spring, Texas gave tips on how to stay motivated in school. Aneka Torgrimson from Nevada Union High School in Nevada City, California interviewed Chinese-American students on their experience growing up in predominantly white communities and families. 

The Gen Z Journos 

Montage features clips of individual student pieces. Read below for full pieces.

WHYY Producer Brianna Spause led The Gen Z Journos to create stories focusing on misinformation on social media, the challenges of leaving home for Hispanic youth, teen mental health after the pandemic, and the impact of Philly’s teen population within the environmental movement. Thaïs Giraudet from Westview High School in San Diego, California talked to a student president of an Awareness for Change chapter about the current spread of misinformation on different social platforms. Brianna Valcarcel from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Bountiful, Utah explained how leaving home for college in a Hispanic household can have its challenges. Andrea Salazar Lopez from Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering in Beaverton, Oregon discussed with different students and health professionals on how the pandemic changed mental health for teens forever. Mustafa Aboud from Penn Treaty School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania displayed the importance of publicly accessible outdoor spaces for different communities.


About the 2021 Academy Fellows

LEARN more about each of the students here. 

2021 Student Testimonials: 

“That was just great. I feel like this was very team-oriented and that’s what I really love.” – Terry Jones Jr., Pinson, Alabama 

“I loved that we were all able to sort of become like a family when we were together and make each other better” – Jeremiah Mitchell, Tucker, Georgia

“Being able to meet all those professionals really inspired me and made me reflect ‘Is that what I want to do in the future, and, yeah, the answer is yes! I love what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks” – Thaïs Giraudet, San Diego, California

“I learned the importance of loving your story while you’re doing it.” – Bailey Liebert, Cody, Wyoming 

“I’m glad I was able to be a part of this community” – Lily Rodriguez, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania