California School of the Arts

The experience at JCamp

Hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association, JCamp brings a multicultural group of high school students together for six days of intensive journalism. High schoolers are given the opportunity to listen to professional journalists and get hands-on training in reporting, photography, television broadcasting, writing and more.

I was selected from around 300 applicants across the United States to attend the camp. It took place from July 30 to Aug. 4 at Wayne State University of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts in Detroit.

“The experience truly opened up my eyes to a career path I only slightly considered before, and I was able to do this while becoming friends with so many amazing people who really inspired me,” said 16-year-old sophomore Lucy Tu from Millard North High School.

Mentor Richard Lui assists a student (Ayse Eras) with broadcasting on the street

This summer, students met with speakers such as Richard Lui, CBS President David Rhodes, and filmmaker Jeff Orlowski. They learned a diversity of skill sets in the field of journalism, from filming as a TV anchor, to leading world-known news operations, to shooting documentaries.

“[JCamp] has just inspired me to just do what I love, especially talking to Jeff Orlowski,” said 16-year-old senior Akriti Poudel from Peak to Peak Charter School. “It’s extremely cool to me that people who enjoy eating grits and ketchup on rice are also the same people who are extremely passionate about journalism and killer photographers.”

Students take a tour at the WDIV-TV (NBC) news station

Mentored by professionals in the field of journalism, the students are given hands-on experience in the program. Arelis Hernandez, a political reporter for The Washington Post and a JCamp 2004 alumna, returned as the program’s director.

“[JCamp] brings together people of extraordinary talent and work ethic. We are a family. We are extremely proud to admit our newest class and bring them into he fold of one of the leading training programs for high school journalists,” Hernandez said.

They also had the chance to tour the Detroit Free Press and WDIV-TV, an NBC affiliated news station. They ate with Pulitzer-Prize winner Peter Bhatia, one of the country’s most respected editors, learning how to battle the challenges in leading a newsroom.

Pulitzer-Prize winner Peter Bhatia looks back at a storied career that has made him one of the country’s most respected editors

“Being from a town of around 6,500, you don’t get the kinds of opportunities to tour well known press buildings,” said 16-year-old junior Rachel Kuntz from Bowling Green High School. “You see a range of journalists with different backstories and I think that was critical in opening the eyes of aspiring journalists because no matter how big or how small you start, you can build up to it and the sky’s the limit.”

There were two most challenging parts of the camp, in my opinion. The first: on the third day of camp, student journalists and photographers were sent out into the field of Detroit for three hours to find any story to report on. The second, and considerably harder challenge: waking up at 7 a.m. each day to read and be quizzed on the Detroit Free Press.

Students read the Detroit Daily Press while waiting for the QLINE train

“One of the most intensive activities about JCamp were the morning quizzes. For those who got late papers or were forgotten about, you had to cram any chance you got. That may be breakfast, QLINE rides, and seconds before the quiz. [I] can say that the competitiveness of it all was exhilarating at times, never in the mornings,” said 17-year-old senior Karina Salinas from Derby High School.

In a once-in-a-lifetime experience, high school students can feel what it is like to be a real reporter in the field, not confined to the restrictions of a school paper. Students reported on many things, from the dean of journalism at Wayne State retiring due to sexual harassment allegations, to local food shops and events, to the gentrification in Northwest Goldberg. The students’ articles and photographs can be found here.

CBS News President David Rhodes talks to students about his experience with the network.

“Coming up with news stories was hard, but having to present them in front of everyone was even harder. But once you do, and you’re super passionate and have all your details down straight its such a rush,” said 17-year-old senior DeAundre Phelps from Sidney Lanier High School. “Exploring downtown and interviewing people was emotionally taxing, but seeing everybody working so hard helped me get over any nervousness I was feeling.”

You can apply to JCamp 2019 next year once applications are open. Visit the link for more information:

Photos by photographers Narain Dubey, Skylar Henry, Bradley Hu, Russell Leung, Sarah Oide, Isaac Richert and Karina Salinas during the week-long journey.