Student fellows produce stories on Phoenix-area artists, business owners, community activists

Written by Beyza Vural 

PHOENIX – 27 high school students joined PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs’ 2022 Summer Academy from June 23 to June 28 for an intensive video journalism camp, where they worked in groups and produced local news stories. This year’s Academy took place in-person at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University in Phoenix after two years of virtual bootcamps.

The fellows were divided into seven groups, each led and mentored by an SRL youth media producer and an educator from our network. The fellows produced and edited a diverse range of stories. From an organization that provides resources and mentors for youth in foster care and a community artist who paints skulls to a refugee who was gifted a guitar which has allowed her to pursue her passion, each story was unique and local to the Phoenix area. 

The Academy had a virtual screening on June 28 where each of the seven group’s work was showcased to friends and family online. The fellows also shared their favorite part of video production as well as their takeaway from this hands-on journalism experience. 

“It was such a unique experience, and, I seriously at one point, I, like, started tearing up because I was, like ‘wow.’ This story is like, so unique, and it has so much power,” said Mariana Arboleda, a junior at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, New York.

The fellows also heard from guest speakers including PBS NewsHour West anchor Stephanie Sy, senior producer Phil Maravilla, and Allysa Adams, journalism and mass communications professor at Arizona State University. 

“When you get this great footage, and you take these great shots, and you edit them; you change the audio…you have to understand the passion behind finding that story,” said Marlo Brown, a junior at Cape May Technical High School in Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey.



Michael Kauffman, SRL teacher from Frederick V. Pankow Center in Harrison Township, Michigan, and Mohammad Pasha, SRL Youth Media Producer from Washington, D.C., led a team of four Academy fellows: Akilah Lewis, junior at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Caedmon Peterson, junior at District of Columbia International School in Washington, DC, Giovanny Soriano, junior at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois, and Mariana Arboleda, junior at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, New York. This team produced a story on OCJ Kids, an organization that provides mentors, resources and support systems to youth in foster care. Watch here.


Briget Ganske, SRL Youth Media Producer from Richmond, Virginia and Anurag Papolu, SRL graphic designer from Brooklyn, New York, mentored the following fellows: Elizabeth Pegg, sophomore at Hempfield High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Maikel De Avila, senior at Alief Kerr High School in Katy, Texas, Orion Boone, junior at Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida, and Alexis Schmidt, junior at Frederick V. Pankow Center in Harrison Township, Michigan. This team covered the story of an Afghan refugee who fled her home country after the Taliban takeover, settling in Phoenix with nothing but a backpack. The feature story shows how this refugee, who has been dreaming about playing a guitar, reached out to a youth-led non-profit organization that provides musical instruments to refugees, allowing her to pursue her passion for music. Watch here.


Emily Dobkin, SRL Community Manager from Denver, Colorado, and Mike Conrad, SRL teacher at Royal Oak High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, coached these teen journalists: Ajani Obaseki, sophomore at District of Columbia International School in Washington, Alexa D’Amato, junior at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford, Massachusetts, Lily Ramos, senior at ​​Trumbull Career & Technical Center in Cortland, Ohio, and Ingrid Ramos-Aranda, sophomore at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan. Their story focused on a Phoenix-based community artist who paints skull portraits with the hopes of eliminating social judgment and bias that comes from seeing people through the color of their skin, challenging prejudice with his art. Watch here.


Jaylah Moore Ross, SRL Youth Production Assistant from Bowie, Maryland, and Chris Schwalm, Youth Media Producer from Seattle, Washington, guided this team of four academy reporters: Marlo Brown, junior at Cape May Technical High School in Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey, Savanna Atstupenas, sophomore at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Natalie Lett, junior at Kauai High School in Lihue, Hawaii, and Roberto Suarez, junior at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland. Their story is about Frank Ornelas who founded the Rascepatatiando Dance Company where he trains the promising next generation dancers who don’t have the financial means to enroll in dance classes. Watch here.


Ashley Porter, SRL teacher at District of Columbia International School in Washington, and Christine Zirneklis, SRL Interim Senior Project Manager from New York, New York, worked with the following group of teen journalists: Faiza Ashar, junior at Eastern Tech High School in Middle River, Maryland, Brianna Schmidt, junior at Frederick V. Pankow Center in Harrison Township, Michigan, and Johann Rodriguez Viera, sophomore at Holbrook Middle High School in Holbrook, Massachusetts. This group’s story features a Syrian immigrant and a mother of five who had fled her home country and now sells her own products at a farmer’s market in downtown Phoenix and another immigrant small coffee shop owner in Tempe, Arizona. Watch here.


Michelle Coro, SRL educator from Phoenix, Arizona, and Leah Clapman, PBS NewsHour Executive Director of Education Programs from Washington, D.C., led this group of young journalists: Kennedy Owens, sophomore at Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida, Jianlan Busteed, sophomore at Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar, California, Maximillian Allen, sophomore at Caesar Rodney High School in Dover, Delaware, and Luna Adams, junior at LaGuardia High School in New York, New York. They did a story on a Phoenix-based African-American dance theater group that uses music and dance as tools to not only de-stress from the challenges of the modern world, but also to connect with their African roots. Watch here.


Anita Crouch, SRL teacher at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan, and Becky Wendel, SRL Youth Media Producer from Denver, Colorado, guided the following group: Tiffany Rodriguez, senior at Franklin Learning Center High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dakota Hendren, junior at Royal Oak High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, Liam Wady, junior at Oakland Military Institute in Oakland, California, and Emit Brown, sophomore at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colorado. They produced a story on a yoga business called the “Arizona Goat Yoga.” Run by a mother daughter duo, the owners promote a unique yoga practice that connects participants to nature by incorporating animals in the routine. Watch here.

To watch all the Academy stories, click here.