Staff shows students the ropes

High school is a lot more difficult now than when I walked the halls. Higher standards and intense senior projects are forcing students to focus and prepare for the future much sooner. It’s led a few local students to call The Herald and ask for advice on life in the real world.

Many high schools have added the completion of a senior project to the graduation requirements. These seniors are feverishly preparing in-depth, hands-on projects that prove they know how to gather information, communicate effectively and think critically. Oftentimes, the students have to go outside the comfort of their schools and partner with professionals to expand their knowledge.

At The Herald, I’m teaming up with reporters Andy Wineke and Kate Reardon to serve as mentors for local high school seniors who want to learn about journalism. These three students called the newsroom to see if anyone here would be able to show them around the newspaper and help guide them through the writing process.

Each school designed the senior project a bit differently, and there’s a broad range in their requirements. Andy’s student, Yaly Lim from Cascade High School, is learning the components of a feature story and what it takes to be a reporter. After teaching her the components of a lead, and the difference between a lead on a news story and a features story, Andy gave Yaly three minutes to write her best features lead. In the end, she’ll end up with a feature story and a firm handle on what it takes to be a writer.

Kate’s student from Everett High School, David King, is currently brainstorming story ideas. Kate will go with David on his interviews to offer advice, and show him how to take a photo to accompany his story. She hopes to work with David laying out his story on the computer and printing it on newsprint.

My student, Lina Tang from Mountlake Terrace High School, has launched an ambitious project of creating a magazine for teen-agers. She’s writing stories, and "hiring" her fellow students to submit articles just like freelance writers. Lina’s taking photos with a digital camera, learning pagination on the computer, and seeing how newspapers differ from magazines.

In the end, all three students will take their work and present it to a panel of educators, community members and professionals. The students will be judged on how much information they learned and how well they present their project to the panel. By the way, local high schools are always looking for people in the community serve on these panels and work as mentors.

The time devoted by Herald staff depends on the scope of the student’s project. But Kate, Andy and I are having a fun time giving young people a glimpse into our lives. Interestingly, our ages range from 27 to 30 years old. Kate observed that as young professionals, we appreciate showing these students that it’s possible to set short-term goals and be successful. Oftentimes, we work with elementary school students and give them a cursory look at life behind the newspaper. Working with high school seniors is a great way to really impart some advice and tips of the trade.

"I think the people who picked our career are going to have a good time," Kate said.

I was raised at The Herald. I started out here as a college intern, spent five years writing editorials and since January have worked as a readers’ representative in the newsroom. The people here are like family. I owe a lot to The Herald, but now it’s time to move on. I’ve accepted an exciting position at Cascadia Community College, the new school that just opened in Bothell. It’s been fun working with The Herald readers, and I’ve enjoyed exchanging ideas with you. Take care.

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