Student Advisory Board: Year in review

The High School Insider Student Advisory Board is a leadership council of passionate student journalists from across America who work alongside Los Angeles Times staff to conceptualize and create youth-centric content and student outreach initiatives. Throughout the 2016-17 school year, the 15-member Student Advisory Board combined originality with functionality, fusing their diverse personalities into one…
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July 28, 2017

The High School Insider Student Advisory Board is a leadership council of passionate student journalists from across America who work alongside Los Angeles Times staff to conceptualize and create youth-centric content and student outreach initiatives. Throughout the 2016-17 school year, the 15-member Student Advisory Board combined originality with functionality, fusing their diverse personalities into one productive team of young storytellers.

“The Student Advisory Board gives students the ability to help shape the future of the program and step into leadership roles within HS Insider,” Program Leader Kyle Finck said. “Our team of student leaders is invaluable in building the HS Insider community.”

A shared passion for journalism might have been what brought these students together, but it was the supportive community they developed within High School Insider that fueled all the magic.



Message to My Next President (August 2016 – November 2016)

The presidential election was the epicenter of news during the start of the 2016-17 school year, leading Student Advisory Board members to ponder the messages they desired to convey to the future President of the United States, if presented the opportunity. This discussion between board members sprouted into a program-wide initiative that called students from across the nation to speak out about the issues that mattered most to them and their communities.

“At the time of a contentious presidential election, the ‘Message to My Next President’ content initiative served as a way to bring light to the issues that matter to us as young Americans,” said Alexandre Silberman, a recent graduate of Burlington High School, Vt. and rising freshman at St. Thomas University. “It was impactful to be a part of the planning, editing and curating of these short pieces, and to see the ultimate collection that came together through the Student Advisory Board’s commitment and teamwork.”

“Message to My Next President” generated over 145 audio, video, and written messages, enabling and empowering the young storytellers of HS Insider to vocalize their viewpoints, no matter how unfavorable.

Click here to view some standout student messages from the “Message to My Next President” series.

Los Angeles Times Debate Watch Party (Oct. 19, 2016)

In the midst of election season, High School Insiders were welcomed in the doors of the Ace Hotel United Artists theater for a front row view of the LA Times Debate Watch Spectacular. Preceding the final presidential debate, the Student Advisory Board premiered the final video compilation of their ongoing Message to My Next President project before a packed theater of LA Times reporters.

“Seeing our faces on a huge movie screen at the Ace Hotel for ‘Message to My Next President’ was pretty awesome, and I couldn’t have felt more proud of what we’d accomplished,” rising senior Blake Atwell (Trabuco Hills High) said. “The watch party was the first event where most of the Student Advisory Board was able to spend time together, and it was amazing. I knew from that night on, we had something special.”

The event provided the perfect setting for introductions and new friendships, as most Student Advisory Board members were new to the team and were excited to finally meet one another in person. This evening full of pride, laughter, and friendship laid the foundation for a successful second year of the HS Insider Student Advisory Board.

“Attending the LA Times Debate Watch Spectacular was incredible because it gave me a sense that I was really there, watching history unfold,” said Zena Meyer, a recent Orange County School of the Arts graduate and rising freshman at Pomona College. “The panel afterward featured some really intelligent and insightful commentators from the LA Times who offered new political perspectives.”

HS Insider Journalism Conference, California State University, Northridge (Oct. 22, 2016)

California State University, Northridge welcomed High School Insider students back to their campus for the third High School Journalism Day, second at CSUN. More than 180 students from 32 Southern California high schools attended the conference to participate in panels and workshops with reporters from such media outlets as the Center for Investigative Reporting, #EmergingUS, Univision, BlackGirlNerd, Buzzfeed, and the Los Angeles Times.

The Southern California members of the Student Advisory Board led their own opinion writing workshop where they taught students to express their ideas with emphasis and clarity. They then split the students into groups to write and record group video editorials, following the theme of their ongoing “Message to My Next President” project. The videos were judged, and the winning submission premiered at the closing showcase.

“CSUN Journalism Day was special for the Student Advisory Board because it was one of the main times that we all got to meet each other in person,” said Kate Sequeira, San Dieguito Academy graduate and rising freshman at the University of Southern California. “It was exciting running the opinion writing workshop because we were all really passionate about ‘Message to My Next President’ and eager to see how students would react to such an open, yet important, project.”

Click here to view more photos and videos from the 2016 conference.

I, too, am America (December 2016 – February 2017)

Inspired by the Langston Hughes poem, “I, too” and their interest in exploring art as a storytelling method, the student leaders of High School Insider organized an artistic showcase of student creations. In December 2016, 51 student artists and authors from close to 20 schools in the Los Angeles area were partnered up to create written stories with accompanying pieces of artwork that conveyed their place in the evolving American landscape. The showcase took place in February of 2017 at the WeWork Fine Arts building in downtown Los Angeles before an audience of 200 people.

“‘I, too, am America’ was an indescribable experience,” rising senior Luis Valente (South East High) said. “I loved the fact that Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian students worked together to stand up against all the hateful rhetoric going around at the time. We said no to fear and allowed compassion, love, and hope to show that, even in troubling times, we can rise up and show how strong we are together.”

All student work was published through HS Insider and PBS SoCal. Click here to view the writing and art pieces from the “I, too, am America” showcase.

Student Advisory Board Holiday Party (Dec. 17, 2016)

The Student Advisory Board works diligently on their assignments, staying in constant communication through conference calls and Slack messages, but every once in a while, they find the time to just be one carefree family. A holiday party was in store to celebrate the team’s accomplishments throughout the 2016 year and give the students time to grow closer to one another.

“The vibe at the holiday party was one of constant dancing,” Atwell said. “Most of us, mainly just me actually, thought we were great break dancers and spent most of the night dancing in Hannah’s living room. Again, it was really just me embarrassing myself to Christmas music, but it was fantastic sharing moments with what we like to call the ‘S.A.B. pham.'”

Student leaders participated in a gift exchange and gathered around the Warm and Fuzzies table to fill each other’s gift bags with compliments and uplifting messages for the new year. Funky sweaters, “Hamilton” rap battles, amateur script run-throughs, and quality readings from the book of memes created a memorable Student Advisory Board experience that left its members embracing in a group hug before heading out the door.

“Everyone at the holiday party was really friendly, passionate, and caring,” Meyer said. “We were all from different areas of California, but united by our love of storytelling.”

Unsung Heroes (February 2017 – May 2017)

For the Unsung Heroes spring initiative, the Student Advisory Board wrote and collected profiles students wrote about noteworthy members of their communities whose services often went unrecognized. From police officers to janitors and technicians, students shared a wide range of stories about the unsung heroes in their lives.

“The people that make things happen for us in our everyday lives are often the ones most overlooked,” rising senior Nina Elkadi (Iowa City High) said. “Sharing these stories is of the utmost importance in allowing people to connect and helps us realize we are all humans with intricate stories.”

Essential Education (March 2017 – present)

The LA Times Education department chose to revamp their digital media presence with a complete web remodel and a call for more relatable, relevant stories. In education reporting, no stories are more essential than those of the students themselves, so the HS Insider community was invited to submit their best school-related stories for consideration on the new LA Times Essential Education page.

“The experience of being published on Essential Education is one I cannot put into words,” rising senior Mallika Seshadri (San Dieguito Academy) said. “The process propelled me to grow as a writer and reporter, and seeing my work on the site was surreal and motivating.”

Through Essential Education, student reporters were given the creative freedom to dive deeper into issues and trends they discovered in their high school communities, like the use of unprescribed Adderall to enhance focus and student dependance digital mental health resources.

“Essential Education gave me a platform to tackle more technical, long-form news stories about trends I noticed within my generation,” said Hannah Schoenbaum, a recent graduate of Corona del Mar High and rising freshman at Boston University. “I loved how it allowed me to reach a larger network of readers so I could use my inside perspective as a student to teach older readers about how many young people utilize digital platforms to gather resources and support when coping with various mental health issues.”

JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle (April 6-9, 2017)

The spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention brought together Student Advisory Board members from across the country to learn new skills and celebrate their successes together. Insiders from California, Iowa, Vermont, and Kansas gathered to represent High School Insider and their school publications at the largest student journalism convention in the United States.

Student Advisory Board representatives Schoenbaum and Caleb Ragan (John W. North High) had the honor of leading an interactive workshop about the use of Twitter as a timely field reporting tool. Their workshop, titled “Beat the Tweet,” drew a crowd of over 50 student journalists and school newspaper advisors. Their success as presenters and young journalism educators led Schoenbaum and Ragan to be invited back to speak at future conferences.

“Getting to lead a workshop at the National High School Journalism Convention was a dream come true, especially for two kids who were still in high school at the time,” Schoenbaum said. “When we found out we’d been invited to speak, that’s when it hit us that our hard work and knowledge really meant something to people. It felt incredible to have the respect of our peers who showed up at our session, excited and willing to learn from us, and to be able to further the skills of our generation of young journalists.”

Silberman was also recognized at the convention as one of six runner-ups in the Journalism Education Association’s High School Journalist of the Year competition for his work with High School Insider and his high school newspaper, The BHS Register.

“It was such an honor,” Silberman said. “I’ve poured so many hours and late nights into my work. This was the moment where all that hard work paid off and was recognized. It was a pretty special moment for me, and definitely the pinnacle of my high school journalism career.”

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (April 22-23, 2017)

This year, over 60 High School Insider reporters and Student Advisory Board members decided to give back to their LA Times community as volunteers and on-site reporters at the annual LA Times Festival of Books.

Over the course of two days, student volunteers scoured the University of Southern California campus for exciting reporting opportunities. Insiders took to Twitter and Snapchat to document the stories of Los Angeles muralists at the live art exhibit, performed video interviews with Olympic athletes at the LA84 booth, and presented on panels about their work for the LA Times Essential Education page and the Discover Asia Correspondent Contest.

“At the Festival of Books, I spent the majority of Saturday interviewing people with Blake at the LA84 booth and shooting b-roll,” Sequeira said. “I’m generally used to telling stories though written articles, so it was interesting reporting on the event though another medium. Another significant part of the experience was working with others from HS Insider. It isn’t often that we can all meet one another face to face, so it was really inspiring when we were all on assignments throughout the campus, connecting through a common passion.”

“The first day of the festival, Kate and I interviewed a dozen Olympians, which was intimidating, but also life changing,” Atwell said. “I drew so much inspiration from listening to their stories. Also, I got very sunburnt. But that’s okay, because at the end of the day, as an HS Insider reporter, you must do whatever is necessary to get a fantastic story.”

HS Insider IRL (July 23, 2017)

Community was always one of the most important aspects of High School Insider for many of the students involved. However, Valente expressed his desire to form more personal relationships with other Insiders, outside of those on the Student Advisory Board. He decided to create an event called HS Insider IRL (In Real Life) in which any student could come meet other Insiders in person and engage in discussions about relevant topics in their lives.

“High School Insider became my family–a very small one at that,” Valente said. “A select few of us from the Student Advisory Board can really interact with each other, go to holiday parties, and tag one another on group photos. With HS Insider IRL, the idea was to grow our family of passionate individuals as much as possible.”

The purpose of the event was to built a stronger community by finding common ground and building closer connections with students from other schools. The first IRL event centered around college and featured small group and panel discussions with College Insiders.

“Coming from Iowa, I wondered if I’d feel out of place at an LA-centric event,” Elkadi said. “However, I felt the exact opposite. High schoolers are high schoolers around the nation, and having a platform to connect and collaborate is something most teens don’t have. We need those opportunities to share what’s important to us, and IRL allowed me to feel like I had a community of people away from my home.”

“When Nina from Iowa showed up in person, it just felt like this was meant to be,” Valente said. “What started out as a pipe dream became a reality, and there’s no greater sense of accomplishment.”