Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Summer Journalism Kids

TigerBlog spent parts of two summers in college in West Philadelphia.

The Penn campus wasn't all that much different than during the regular school year, with a fairly good number of students who took summer classes. They lived in some of the dorms, and there was a smaller - but still significant - student life to the campus.

TigerBlog did not take any summer classes. Nope. When he was there, it was because he was working as a vendor at Veterans' Stadium, which, if you don't know, used to be the home of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was one of the cookie-cutter stadiums that sprung up in the early 1970s, in places like Pittsburgh (Three Rivers Stadium), Cincinnati (Riverfront Stadium) and Philadelphia. It was almost universally loathed - though TigerBlog thinks it was a great place.

So that was his sophomore summer. Hanging out at Penn and working at games at night when the Phillies were home. He did this a bit his junior summer, though by then he'd already started working at the newspaper.

That was summer life on Penn's campus. Here at Princeton, there are no summer classes and very few students are actually around. It's a much different environment.

Instead, the landscape is dominated by younger students, who attend the many summer camps. TigerBlog saw an army of campers on their way to the pool yesterday, and he asked one if this was swimming or water polo. He got a terse "water polo" in return.

Yesterday in the later afternoon, though, TigerBlog got a reminder that not all of the campers at Princeton are there to play sports. TB spent about an hour late yesterday afternoon with four students and two counselors from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program.

TigerBlog didn't really know much about the program until he looked into it yesterday. And until he asked the participants about it.

Basically, Princeton brings in 20 or so students from around the country who have demonstrated strong academic success and an interest in journalism, from a group of more than 10 times as many applicants. All of the students are rising high school seniors.

The program is also intended for, as its website says, low-income students. It is, according to the site, "... to our knowledge, the country's only high school program that seeks to propel low-income students into professional newsrooms by combining journalism education with intensive college admissions preparation—and pays all the expenses of students who attend."

It's a great idea, and a great program. This summer is the 14th straight for the program, which was founded by four members of Princeton's Class of 2001 - Richard Just, Michael Koike, Gregory Mancini and Rich Tucker.

TigerBlog is getting all this information from the site, which also says that "Ten of our alumni have attended Princeton. Others have gone on to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, the University of Pennsylvania, Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Georgetown, Bowdoin, Johns Hopkins, the University of Virginia, New York University and many other selective schools."

So that's what he got from the website.

From the kids themselves he got a barrage of questions, about his background, about Princeton Athletics, about Ivy League athletics, about how it's different here than at other places, about a ton of other things.

It was obvious from the beginning that the students had done their homework, about him and about Princeton. It was also clear that these kids were sharp.

Whatever TigerBlog said was scrutinized, and astute follow-up questions were asked. It was fun, actually.

They were blank slates when it came to basically anything about how Princeton and its athletic program works, other than what they had learned from goprincetontigers.com. They asked about men's basketball and why its record last year was so much better at home than away. They asked about the men's hockey team's record. They compared success of men's teams against women's teams in certain sports.

They had questions about fundraising. Admissions. Money. Basically everything about the program.

And what did TigerBlog tell them?

More than anything else, he told them about the value of writing. Someone who can write well has a unique, uncommon skill, a vanishing skill, TB thinks, in this day of writing in texts or 140-character tweets.

TigerBlog hasn't seen the finished product for these students yet. They're early in their 10-day stay here, and it culminates with the making of an actual newspaper. TB is looking forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, they're off to a pretty full week of activities, including covering a Trenton Thunder game. And an exposure to basically every area of journalism, with professors and professionals of all sorts.

There's also a trip into New York City later in the week, one that will include person-on-the-street interviews.

In what will be a pretty intense week for them, TigerBlog assumes his contribution will be one of the highlights.

For him, that is.

The Summer Journalism Program is a special piece of the campus in the summer.

The kids who make up the program are rising stars. The people who bring them here are helping them reach their highest heights.

That's a pretty good combination, no?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be snarky, but won't getting low-income kids hooked on journalism pretty much guarantee that they'll remain low income? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Well, the implication is that there is, or else they wouldn't need special accommodations. Maybe this is the root of the problem.