Two years ago, I realized I wanted to study journalism. Before that, I was an English major who wasn’t involved in any extracurricular activities. All it took was a little inspiration.
I was hooked on the thrill of becoming a journalist when I heard Allan Richards, the associate dean of FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, tell stories about being a rock ’n’ roll journalist in his Intro to Journalism course. Shortly after, I began working with Chris Delboni, the news director of the South Florida News Service, on stories to be published in mainstream media. Delboni, the adviser for FIU’s Society of Professional Journalists, encouraged me to join the chapter.
Today, I’m the president of SPJ-FIU.
In the past, our chapter has been known for coordinating zany events. We’ve supported students to interview zombies, we’ve hosted an obituary writing contest inside an actual funeral home, we’ve enticed students to give up their first amendment rights in exchange for free food, and much more.
But this semester is different. Under my leadership as chapter president, I wanted us to build the foundation for long-term projects instead of only focusing on single-day events.
When thinking about how I got to where I am today, I have come to realize that I have had some pretty amazing journalism educators and mentors in my life. Therefore, it’s only fitting that I wanted SPJ-FIU to initiate two mentorship programs this semester with Coral Gables Preparatory Academy and MAST@FIU.
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, our chapter hosted a field trip comprised of 20 seventh and eighth grade students from Coral Gables Prep, in which the middle schoolers heard reporting “war stories” from Professor Neil Reisner, Allan Richards, Journalism Chair Teresa Ponte and Chris Delboni. Acting like mini professional journalists, the inquisitive group of students interviewed our SJMC faculty and students.
Coral Gables Prep’s field trip to the SJMC was merely an introduction for those students to become acquainted with our SPJ members and what it’s like to be a college journalism student. In just a few weeks, some of our members will be visiting with them again, this time in their own classrooms, to teach them a workshop about the importance of photojournalism through the lens of an iPhone.
A little closer to home (or only a few hundred feet down the halls) our members will soon be teaching various workshops this semester to the 60 high school journalism students from MAST@FIU, who are working on producing both their school yearbook and news stories. The plan for next semester, once I have graduated, is for our members to continue one-on-one mentorship in helping those students develop a news story from conception of the idea through to the final stages of editing.
Also this semester, our chapter was humbled to lead our own panel at the 43nd annual Journalism Day, a partnership between FIU and the District 6 Florida Scholastic Press Association, in which hundreds of middle and high school students convened to learn from industry professionals and even participate in a news writing contest.
Our Star Wars themed panel, “The Interview Menace: Mock Interview,” involved two of our members dressing up as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, hosting a fake press conference in which they revealed the dark truth about Darth being Luke’s father. Despite the corniness of the event, the energy from our younger peers in the room was inspiring. “This question is for Darth,” was something many of the students said with confidence, treating our mock press conference as if it were a real one.
My favorite thing about SPJ-FIU is we are a close-knit, hardworking team with innovative ideas. Our chapter has won many accolades, including first place for best chapter in our region for the past three consecutive years and also second place nationally for the 2015 best college chapter of the year. But for me, the thing I will be proudest about when I graduate this December, is to know that I was able to launch a journalism education initiative for SPJ-FIU.