Area teenagers to study media at CNN

By Curt Yeomans


Maya Clark's ambition is to be a political reporter on TV, covering everything from presidential races, to local politics. The 16-year-old rising senior at Jonesboro High School said the seeds for her interest were planted while watching coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign on the "Today" show, every morning before she went off to school.

Clark is one the 13 rising high school juniors and seniors from Clayton and Henry counties, who will be participating in the Decatur-based, 21st Century Leaders, week-long Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience program.

This year's installment of the program, now in its fifth-year, begins on Sunday. In all, there are 100 high school students from across Georgia, who have been chosen to participate in the program, according to Trissy Stewart, the assistant director of 21st Century Leaders.

She said the purpose of the program is to teach young people how broadcast media outlets make decisions about what stories to cover, through a variety of platforms, including television and the Internet. "A lot of them [the students] are interested in broadcast journalism, and we want to expand their knowledge of how the media works," Stewart said.

She said the students will stay on the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) campus, and participate in small-group seminars, led by CNN officials. They will also do a one-day tour of the CNN Center, where they will get to see the news channel's operations up close.

Stewart also said that those participating will be put into small groups, with each group having to come up with a story and pitch it to CNN executives at the end of the week.

One participant, Alfonzo Washington, 16, of Stockbridge, said he is looking forward to finding out about the different types of news stories he could cover as a broadcast journalist. The rising junior at Woodland High School already dreams of, someday, being a sports reporter on television, covering the World Cup, or college athletic conference realignments. But, he said that could change based on what he sees next week. "I want to see what else there is to do as a broadcast journalist, and being at CNN will help me find out," said Washington.

Another participant, Riverdale's Jill Martin, 16, said she is curious about how the media covers politicians. A rising senior at Lovejoy High School, Martin said that while she is interested in the media, her ultimate goal is to serve in the Georgia State Senate. "I want to know what they [journalists] do, and see how they cover politicians, and present that information to the public," said Martin.

In addition to Clark and Martin, the participating Clayton County students are: Amber Camp, from Mt. Zion High School; Reginald Mattison, from Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy; and Thu Doan, from Morrow High School.

In addition to Washington, the participating students from Henry County include: Brikti Petros, from Dutchtown High School; Cindy Caba, from Henry County High School; Damion Grimes, who attends classes at Clayton County's Eula Wilborn Ponds Perry Center for Learning; Emily Erdelyan, from Union Grove High School; Brandi Baker, from Luella High School; Yeshieka Copeland, from Eagle's Landing High School', and Brandon Sims, from Dutchtown High School.