Inna Ali: Love of journalism pushes Brooklyn student

By Julianna Orkin
West Islip High School

Long before Inna Ali started writing, she knew she loved it. Once she started high school, she began to write due to the stress of life.

“I needed a space to put it all down on paper,” she explained. “It was a way to cope with everything going on in my life.”

Ali, an incoming senior at the Secondary School of Journalism at Jon Jay Educational Campus in Brooklyn, was inspired to join the Bird’s Eye View, the school’s digital newspaper, through her love of writing. She held the title of assistant editor. She wrote editorials and film reviews and focused on a variety of topics, including racism and sexism faced by black women.

This led to Ali’s budding interest in journalism, which peaked when she discovered how to make a story her own.

“Journalism can be used as a means of educating people on the realities of the world and how we can make it better,” she said.

Unfortunately, not enough people were able to commit to the paper so it eventually dissolved during her sophomore year. As of her junior year, there are currently still no active publications at her school. This did not stop Ali’s desire to read and write so she could continue to improve her craft. She read zines, handmade magazines that are traded from creator to creator as a form of expression, and newspapers in her spare time.

“Zines allow me to be able to shed light on real world issues that need to be discussed more,” she explained.

She also reads the Metro US Newspaper every morning.

“The musings about new restaurants, movies, fashion trends and celebrities, as well as important political matters capture the essence of living in New York City, as well as the good and bad,” she said.

Ali has a range of interests in makeup artistry, shopping, reading, and writing, all of which help Ali exercise her creativity.

Inna’s father, Mohammed Ali, an author and creative writing professor at NYU, explained that her talent for writing has been present since elementary school.

“She has always kept a journal, and had once started writing a novel,” he said.

Ali found out about the Robert W. Greene Summer Journalism Institute during first period when her English teacher, Ms. Williams, passed out a flyer about it, but had a slight hesitation to apply initially.

“I had no hope that I was going to be accepted into this program,” she said. “I decided to apply at the last minute and I’m glad I did.”

Ali found out from her father that she’d been accepted into this program. “I felt shocked, then excited,” she described, and has been thrilled ever since. Ali’s entire family was equally excited.

Ali describes this program as, “a heaven-sent to us as a family, as it is making manifest a dream Ali has been nursing since elementary school.”

He also spoke of the tremendous opportunity this is for Inna, explaining that, “this program allows Inna to practice journalism at an even higher level than what her current school would ever dream of offering her.”

He said that Inna dreams of becoming a magazine editor or opinion writer, something she talks about frequently. But at 17, Inna said she is unsure of her career path.

She believes her future is starting to head in the direction of a potential career in journalism.

“I want a job that will be profitable but also enjoyable,” she explained.

Julianna Orkin: Inspired by professional journalists

By Inna Ali
Secondary School for Journalism

Julianna Orkin’s passion for journalism began when she was 14.

That’s when the now West Islip High School junior wrote an article for her middle school newspaper on budget cuts in the Beach Street Middle School music program. She said her teachers were highly impressed with her work and suggested she become a journalist. After that, she knew she wanted to pursue that field.

She said her father, Steven Orkin, has a lot to do with that pursuit. Orkin — who didn’t pursue a career in journalism but enjoys creative writing and facilitates a local writing group — said he always does his best to discuss real-world issues so that Julianna can apply it to her own life.

“I’m very passionate about the craft of writing, both fiction and nonfiction,” he said. “I’m also very interested in learning about what’s happening in the world, trying to make sense of it and coming up with some answers as to what to do about it. I’d like to think I’ve inspired Julianna to do the same.”

Julianna attended her first Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference in March and described the experience as “mesmerizing.”

“There were many like-minded people, all interested in journalism or creative writing,” she said. “I got to hear the stories of many people in the various news workshops I attended. They talked about overcoming censorship … and tragedy. It was inspiring and gave me more of a look into journalism.”

Julianna hasn’t decided if she wants to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, political journalism or investigative reporting. She hopes her week at the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists will help her make a choice.

Julianna said she hopes to get better at meeting deadlines, become a better interviewer, and have a better understanding of journalism after her week-long stay at the Greene Institute. She hopes to meet new people with similar interests and overall become a better journalist.