The Herald launched our 'Journalism Next' project for 2011-12 today. For several years, we have published weekly articles written by Manatee County high school students. Most of the student writers are working on their school newspaper and/or taking a journalism class at school.
The survival of both of those endeavors is vital, we believe, to keep journalism alive. And from the representation in our schools this year, we believe the effort is alive and thriving.
East Manatee Editor Jim Jones and I met with several high school journalism teachers last week to prepare for Journalism Next. They talked about the budget cuts they had endured, the tough year ahead, and of their diligence to their students. And then we were told this testimonial: Nelson Lopez, Palmetto High's teacher, said one of the key reasons his journalism class had survived the cuts was "Journalism Next." Supervisors and budget-makers could see the results.
And there are some mighty promising high school journalists in our community. Today's lead-off writer is a shining example.
Aiste Zalepuga, a senior at Saint Stephens Episcopal School, contacted me a few weeks ago for a "favor." She was chosen to represent all of Florida this summer at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Conference. Upon her return, she was asked to try getting her essay about the conference published locally.
Aiste's essay is phenomenal, and fits right in with Journalism Next. (Saint Stephens has always been a great contributor, as well.) She came to the Herald last week, and her unbridled joy at being in our newsroom for the first time was contagious. Wow. (Oh, she also is a pianist, a swimmer, president of the National Honor Society and wants to teach yoga.)
Aiste is a first-born American; her parents are Lithuanian. Her passion for journalism stems from their passion for freedom. Will she pursue this as her career? We hope 'Journalism Next' has helped hook her for a while.