SRL youth journalists go behind the scenes at Democratic Presidential Debate

Students from Wauwatosa West High School have struck “education gold” in the words of their teacher, Chris Lazarski.

“You can actually see them learning, their synapses are firing… there’s no other experience like putting students in an authentic environment working
with professionals,” he said, although he admitted that “it’s exhausting.”

The apprentice journalists had a day of training with SRL mentors Jordan Vesey and Anita Wright before heading over to the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to interview camera operators, directors, producers, political handlers and others. They have full access to the Spin Room after the debate and get to interview attendees about why youth should engage in the election.

Lazarski’s favorite moment was when he asked his students how they felt about the main event. “We are ready to do this tomorrow,” answered Senior Thomas Leonard.

“Prior to that day, they were really nervous and unsure if they’re going to be able to this, if they have the skills that were required to do this, the presence of mind to do this, the ability to think on their feet to do this,” according to Lazarski. “They really built up a lot of confidence. And seeing young people who gain confidence in themselves, in their abilities – as a teacher, that is one of the greatest things you can see.”

While they were prowling around backstage, the students were interviewed by WISN 12 News reporter Kent Wainscott.

News organizations need to understand how to reach young people, says Senior Zoe Stack. “I know from working on a high school publication that students are barely going on our website. They click on the link from our Facebook, our Twitter, our Instagram, they will follow those,” she said.

“Doing this stuff makes it more interesting to me than just watching someone else do it,” said Junior Richard Sears. “If we kind of slack off on the education of the youth of today then we’re just gonna end up with a bunch people who don’t really know what the news media is all about and don’t really want to do it as a result.”

As a social studies teacher, Lazarski hopes that students understand that “political debates are a necessary part of our political system and that the sharing of ideas, the debating of ideas, the processing of ideas in a public forum is an essential part of American democracy.”