SRL Students Shine at Summer Internships

Four SRL students spent the summer with their local PBS Stations where they honed their journalism and video production skills. Two of the four students were recipients of SRL’s inaugural Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship. We reached out to Sophie Jepson, Samantha Nork, Pamela Kapolka, and Celeste Martinez to hear about their experiences, reflections and summer highlights.

Sophie Sabin, Philip’s Academy Charter School, New Jersey

Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship at NJTV 

This summer was my first time ever interning for a news station. I came out of my junior year in high school with my former teacher asking me if I was thinking about possibly interning somewhere. After a few emails and some great pieces of advice, I landed the opportunity to intern at NJTV in Newark, New Jersey.

During the first week, I read countless news articles about New Jersey, and also pitched many news stories, some great, and some that needed some tweaking. Out of all of my potential news pitches, I settled on the idea of a news story about the Newark Riots, which was perfect because I had previously done a personal year-long research paper on the Newark Riots during my junior year of high school. NJTV is also located in Newark, in the heart of the city, and where the former riots were.

I also had the opportunity to work on another project with fellow interns We came up with the idea of doing trivia videos that were centered on New Jersey. I was happy that I got the chance to record the first video. When I wasn’t working on my intern project, I was culminating research for my article on the Newark Riots, which was featured on NJTV News’ website. In it, I highlighted the main causes of what led to the civil disturbance and the catastrophic damages that it left on the city. The timing of the piece coordinated with the 50th anniversary, which was commemorated in Newark this year. Additionally, I filmed a short video which coordinated with the central areas of the riots, such as the police station, where everything started.

As an intern with NJTV News, I had the opportunity to help out with all of their special projects, whether it was helping out in the newsroom, or helping with story ideas for the evening newscast. One of my most memorable moments was when I stayed throughout the evening with the crew to cover the infamous government shutdown that impacted all of New Jersey this summer. I learned a great deal of skills from my internship, from the importance of properly folding cable wires, to skills in script writing, article voice, and putting together a news package. It is definitely an experience that will serve me for the future, and one that I will never forget.

Celeste Martinez, California State University, Fullerton

Graduated from Etiwanda High School, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship at PBS SoCal 

This summer, I had the pleasure of interning at PBS SoCal and assisting on the local show, Studio SoCal. Studio SoCal is a talk show that reports local news topics through conversations with guest speakers who share their perspectives on various issues. While interning at PBS SoCal, I worked on stories that covered topics such as the increase in gas prices, the LA Unified School District, scammers defrauding senior citizens, and real estate in the Beverly Hills area. While tagging along on shoot days, I learned how to be a great reporter from my mentor David Nazar, and gained more camera knowledge from videographer Ty Woodson.

On show days I would come to the station and assist with research on certain show topics,  printing and distributing scripts to their rightful owners, or even just greeting guests, and helping the show go as smoothly as possible. It was such a great learning experience for me to get to see first-hand how the show is produced and put together. Not only that, but I met so many wonderful people in the station who have different positions. It was wonderful to see what kind of positions there are for me to pursue within the industry. PBS SoCal truly does feel like a home, and everyone has each other’s’ best interest in mind. Whenever I needed help with anything, there was always someone willing to help me and go further into detail to explain something that I did not understand. I truly am lucky to have worked with so many wonderful people.

Putting together my own video piece was also a big part of my experience interning here. As a PBS SoCal Gwen Ifill Fellow, I got to act as a real reporter and work independently on my own project. This was a much different experience for me  then when I was a high school student at Etiwanda High School. When working independently, I found that it is very important to have a good work ethic and be able to come up with a good story on my own. Understanding the background of a story is crucial when developing a story topic, and research is essential. Through the process of putting my story together, I learned so much about the subject of my story: a theater called CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights.  I grew to love this theater on a personal level, as well as the neighborhood it is located in. I feel like I truly grew more as a person and expanded my horizons. Being given the opportunity to put a story together on my own was an experience that gave me more professional skills that I can take with me as I grow in my career.

Along with this experience in the field, some of my favorite memories from interning this summer were on Studio SoCal show days, because each time there was a show there was a new topic to learn about. Show days also made an impression on me because I got to sit in and watch the show film live, which is an experience I will never forget. After my experience this summer,  I will always think of PBS SoCal as a place where I truly got to come out of my comfort zone and learn the ways of the real world.

Pamela Kapolka, Cedar Crest High School, Lebanon Pennsylvania

WITF Internship

After attending the Student Reporting Labs Academy in 2016, I had the opportunity to intern with WITF in Harrisburg, PA. My assignment was to help with an hour-long documentary on the Vietnam War. In addition to working on the documentary, I produced my own Vietnam related piece and chose to investigate the life of Ho-Thanh Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee.

Nguyen arrived in the United States in 1975. Her mother and father were unable to come with the family, so she was forced to become the parent-figure to her 5 younger siblings. Nguyen knew nothing about life in the US, and struggled with everyday activities. She attributes her current situation to the help of her sponsor, the Slike family.

“I admire my mom and my dad a lot. Mr. and Mrs. Slike,” she said, We don’t know the culture here. We don’t know what’s going on with how to find work, how to find a job, how to go to the hospital, how to find a doctor how to find the school. They teach us a lot.”

She was so inspired by the Slike’s kindness, that in 2001 she founded the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Network, also known as PAIRWN. The organization’s mission is “to help refer, advocate, network, educate, and empower these women to live to their fullest potential.” Nguyen refers to it as simply “paying it forward.” PAIRWN has created a community for many immigrant and refugee women to turn to. It has allowed them to better navigate American life, and given them the resources to move upwards in society.

Samantha Nork, Fraser High School, Fraser, Michigan

DPTV Internship

Following my graduation from high school in Michigan, I was granted the incredible opportunity to be an intern with Detroit Public Television. I worked with a branch of DPTV called One Detroit. I cannot express how much this internship has taught me. I had the chance to work with experienced journalists in a professional workplace.

During the duration of my internship, One Detroit was mainly focused on the 1967 Detroit uprisings since this year was the 50th anniversary. We decided to film a tour of the neighborhoods where the uprisings took place. My first assignment was to sit in the backseat, wear a sheet and control the GoPros strapped to the car. After that, I went and cut down an hour of footage into a three-minute piece. In July, it was featured on a DPTV talk show called American Black Journal.

Afterwards,  I focused on my own piece I had to produce before the end of the summer. I’ve always had a keen interest in art and I feel as though art didn’t get enough credit as it should. I sought out 92-year-old Detroit artist Charles McGee for my piece. He was very kind and let me conduct the interview in his home. We talked about his inspirations, ambitions and why he creates art. After going over the footage later, I discovered there was a buzz in the audio, so I ended up having to go back and conduct a redo. One of the producers from One Detroit, Bill Kubota, tagged along to give me some audio pointers. 

I was also contacted by a show called Detroit Performs, which is about the art and culture of Detroit. They were interested in having a segment about Charles McGee on television. This piece will be aired on Detroit Performs on September 12th. I cannot thank the people I worked with at One Detroit enough for all their help and guidance. They have helped me become a better person and storyteller. Thank you, Zosette, Jordan, Bill, Mary Ellen, Scott, Will and Ed. I had the time of my life getting to know all of you. Thank you to PBS for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I will cherish it for the rest of my journalism career.

Congratulations to all of our 2017 SRL summer interns! We’re so proud of all you! Special thanks to our partner stations for providing our students with these meaningful opportunities.