‘Voy a la casa blanca’: next generation of public media journalists visit the White House

Middle and high school students from around the country earned a trip to Washington, D.C. and the White House by distinguishing themselves in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program.

The 11 “All-Star” students, selected from dozens of submissions, traveled from as far as Hawaii to participate in four days of workshops and sightseeing in the nation’s capital.

The group visited the White House and interviewed Col. Steve Parker of the U.S. Army, who leads Joining Forces, an initiative that provides assistance to military families. Students described it as the experience of a lifetime.

“I would always tell my parents, ‘Voy a la casa blanca. I’m going to go to the White House someday,” said Gabriel Gamino Guerrero from Arizona. “For that to come true was honestly amazing.”

Col. Parker “really inspired me,” Isaiah Jones, a high school senior from Virginia, said. “He told us, ‘Follow your dream. Be passionate about what you want to do, and do it to the fullest extent.’”

Over 80 Student Reporting Labs in 40 states participate in the project-based learning program, which includes lesson plans and tutorials that teach critical thinking, digital literacy, reporting skills and civic engagement.

Journalism mentors from local PBS stations work with the students on story ideas, scripts and videos that investigate important national issues such as education, immigration, science and civics from a youth perspective. The Labs connect to each other via Google Hangouts and Skype to collaborate on stories and discuss current events. Students can also earn digital badges that represent career-ready production and digital media skills.

The Student Reporting Labs program is part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative  helping local communities keep more students on the path to graduation and successful careers.  The program is supported by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Science Foundation.