Brianna Depra: A rising drama journalist

By Yash Kumar
Jericho High School

Brianna Depra’s dream of becoming a journalist started with her passion for literature at a young age.

“Every time there was a book fair at school, I would always get so excited and stock up on books,” she said.

Classics including the Goosebumps books inspired her to start writing. Brianna created stories with themes including love, mystery and horror. Brianna didn’t want to just write as a hobby; she wanted to explore careers in writing. In her freshman year, Brianna became aware of journalism as a profession and was eager to learn more about it. Unfortunately, there weren’t any journalism classes or a school newspaper at Hempstead High School.

So she began to write in another medium — plays. In her sophomore year, she became fascinated with theater. Brianna was inspired by many of Shakespeares works and wrote monologues and scripts for the drama club when she wasn’t competing on the school’s swimming team.

Brianna received much encouragement from her AP English Language teacher, Felisha Prince, who encouraged her “to step out of my comfort zone,” Brianna said.

“Not only did I write stories and monologues, I started writing poems, biographies, and experiences,” Brianna said. “She showed me how to write with purpose, showing me how powerful diction and syntax is. Because of this AP class, my writing has improved so much.”

Just when Brianna believed she wouldn’t have any journalism experience in high school, Prince helped Brianna one last time before her junior year came to a close. Her teacher informed her of the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists at Stony Brook University.

“I jumped at this opportunity,” Brianna said.

When she learned that she had been accepted into the program, her father, Ramon Depra, shared her excitement.

“When she told me about the journalism program, I knew this would be amazing for her because it will challenge her,” he said. “She is always writing, so a career in journalism is perfect for her.”

“I knew I wanted to be a part of this program because journalism is something I want to explore,” Brianna said. “Maybe I can report on plays and musicals. That’s a dream of mine.”

Taylor Yon: Eyeing an FBI career

By Sebastian Germosen
Archbishop Molloy High School

Taylor Yon wants to perfect her journalism skills and use them for a career in the FBI.

“I have always had a passion for writing, and I enjoy putting all of my thoughts on paper, and journalism gave me the opportunity to write in a way that could be read and informing,” said the 16-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Taylor’s experience in high school, scene of a massacre in  February, has driven her desire to become a part of the FBI.

Though she has no role models in the journalism industry, Taylor admires and respects The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. She also watches CNN for news and inspiration for her writing.

Taylor has achieved academic success in high school, where she has taken advanced classes such as AP World History and French 2. This year, she will take AP Biology, AP Psychology and AP Language Arts. She said that these subjects will help “broaden my horizon.”

Taylor writes for her school newspaper, Eagle Eye. She is active in health and fitness clubs and enjoys many hobbies and activities, including soccer and tennis, taking hot yoga classes with her best friend and reading.

Taylor’s friends describe her as very outgoing and adventurous, due to her love of trying new  things. Her friends go to her for help with all academic subjects except for math. Taylor’s family [Note: all, who?]  describes her as a person who loves to travel and broaden her horizons by learning about different cultures.

Despite her interest in writing, Taylor wants to attend the University of Maryland or Penn State and major in criminal justice to achieve her goal of becoming an FBI agent.

Attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas — where a gunman killed 17 students and faculty — hasn’t been easy for the students, including Taylor. She has used the shooting as an opportunity to expand her interest in journalism and writes stories beyond the scope of her school.

“The whole world was looking to us, and journalism was an outlet that showed the world we are more than a school shooting,” Taylor said.

When asked about her stance on gun control after the shooting, she said her belief is that people should not have access to assault rifles unless they are in law enforcement.

“I am not anti all guns,” she said. “I strongly believe in the Second Amendment as well, but assault rifles to me are a weapon of war and all they do is cause mass destruction to our country.”

Taylor sees the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists as a great opportunity for her to showcase her passion for journalism and to learn new things about the industry. Taylor learned about the program when her newspaper adviser, Melissa Falkowski, told her and her friend Zoe Gordon about it.

“I was and still am so excited to learn and grow from this program,” Taylor said. “I want to learn as much as I can while I’m there.”

Christian Miller: A journey through filmmaking

By Nijha Young
Baldwin High School

Christian Miller has showed interest in film since he began shooting YouTube videos on a friend’s channel in seventh grade.

Christian, a rising senior at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, was responsible for creating scripts and directing short comedy videos for the channel.

The oldest of four children, Christian has continued cultivating his interest in film throughout his high school years. On top of balancing a class schedule consisting of Creative Writing, Speech, AP Literature and U.S. History, among other courses, Christian contributed to the school’s newspaper and broadcasting department for the past three years.

Though Christian’s early film work focused mainly on comedy, his style expanded to various genres and perspectives over time.

“He goes through a variety of different things,” explained Andrea Miller, his mother. “Sometimes he’ll write from more of a historical, social studies, even current events nature and then it’s a little more straight-laced.”

Although Christian hopes to continue working on comedic movies in the future, Mrs. Miller said that he is also the type of person who is often willing to “try anything new.”

The West Islip teen’s experience, however, is not limited to what goes on behind the scenes of a production. Christian has also acted in a number of short films in addition to school productions like “The Music Man.”

The next step for Christian is deciding where to pursue his aspiration. At the moment, he is interested in attending Hofstra University or the University of Rhode Island. Whichever college Christian chooses, his field of study is not in doubt.

“I decided to stick with filming just because it made me happy when I did it with my friends,” Christian said.

Lauren Nicks: Writing to make a difference

By Emily Bishop
The Stony Brook School

Acting was Lauren Nicks’ passion through middle and high school. However, during preparations for her eighth-grade performance in “Bye Bye Birdie,” she realized that she wasn’t as interested in acting as she was with the popularity that it offered.

“I started to look at acting as superficial, and I wanted to do something that would actually mean something to people and could actually help,” she said.

The 17-year-old senior at Baldwin High School looked to be a positive influence in her community. Friends and family suggested she consider becoming a journalist, so she began considering the possibility. The idea took hold while she was watching a news report two years ago.

“I was sitting at the dining room table, and there was this story on ABC News with Diane Sawyer,” Lauren said. “And she was in a different country, in the Middle East, and I was like ‘You know, I think I kind of want to do something like that. Go overseas, meet new people, and hear their stories.’ ”

Lauren was inspired to join her school newspaper, The Golden Wave, and eventually became a layout editor. There she not only developed her abilities as a photographer but also interviewed people and learned valuable listening skills.

“I’ve read her article on Black Lives Matter, and one thing I can say about her is that she is very involved in finding the truth and making sure often ignored stories are heard,” said her mom, Nakesha Nicks. She also praised Lauren’s curiosity and drive, qualities that she believes make Lauren a good fit for a career in journalism. Lauren says her parents have always supported her journalistic journey, as has her younger brother, Justin.

Lauren says that the main reason for her pursuit of journalism comes from her desire to connect with people and share their lives with the world. “What I really like is getting to know people, getting to hear their stories, getting to spread their stories, stories that need to be heard,” she said.

When one of her teachers set up a TV studio, Lauren was thrilled to be a part of that as well. Whether standing in front of a screen or delivering her school’s morning announcements for “Good Morning Baldwin,” she was delighted to be gaining more journalism experience.

Beside journalism, Lauren’s main interest is reading. As a child, she was mesmerized by the Harry Potter books and claims that reading those stories fostered her English skills and pushed her to become a better writer. She continues to search for books that transport her to different worlds and engage her imagination.

When Lauren learned about Stony Brook University’s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, she applied because she believed it would improve her writing and networking skills.

Lauren knows she would like to attend New York University, but she is unsure about whether to pursue journalism in college. She hopes her week with the Greene Team will make her decision easier.

“I’m going to figure out if it’s something that I want to pursue later on,” she said. “Other people have been telling me that I was a good fit for journalism, but being here, I want to find it out for myself.”

Is this really for me?

I’ve never been one of those people that easily pick up a passion, and it seems like most of the things I develop an interest for quickly die. Actually, being in this program makes me fear that I’ll discover that journalism isn’t for me. I don’t want to have to settle for just any ol’ career, I want to actually do something I care about — something that fills me with excitement every time I wake up for the next forty-five or so years I’ll be working. I’ve always found it sad that at the young age of 17 or 18, we’re expected to make pretty much the most important decision of our lives. Twelve years isn’t nearly enough time to actually figure out you want to do for the rest of your life, especially since, for most of it, we’re dealing with all these other challenging aspects of adolescence. It really isn’t fair.

On the first day with the Greene Team, I realized how incredibly lucky I was. I have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a career I’m thinking about pursuing instead of just dropping thousands of dollars majoring in a career after high school. As a person that is constantly changing their mind, this is probably the best program for me. Pitching ideas in a room full of my peers, getting feedback, and coming up with ways to execute ideas is the first aspect of journalism we touched on and one I really liked. I don’t have a shortage of ideas, and finding a place where I can extend them is comforting. Yesterday, we had a speaker discuss the change in the industry from television to the internet, and with that my biggest fear is the career itself might not be what I completely envision for myself. It seems the journalism field is always changing, similar to other fields, but I find with journalism, it’s faster than others. Is journalism a stable career with all its rapid changes? I always envisioned myself on a channel like ABC, reporting World News Tonight. What steps would I actually have to take to get there? As the week continues, I hope to find what I envision within this career.

 

Welcome Greene Team 2018!

Welcome to the home of the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists!

Our tenth year is off to a great start, with students from high schools on Long Island, New York City and Parkland, Florida. They were accepted into the program because they all have already produced great work for their schools in the spirit of pioneering Newsday investigative reporter and editor Robert W. Greene, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and a founding faculty member of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.

Photo by Wasim Ahmad.

Meet the 2018 Greene Team:

Inna Ali – Secondary School for Journalism
Adeishe Bagaloo – Uniondale HS
Emily Bishop – The Stony Brook School
Jianni Burnett – The Scholars’ Academy
Jennifer Cirigliano – W.C.Mepham High School
Brianna Depra – Hempstead HS
Brianna Diane Foster – Smithtown High School East
Emanuel Figetakis – Francis Lewis High School
Sebastian Germosen – Archbishop Molloy HS
Zoe Gordon – Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Corianna Jackson – Brentwood High School
Yash Kumar – Jericho High School
Caroline Ledoux – Roosevelt HS
Christian Miller – St John the Baptist
Lauren Nicks – Baldwin Senior High School
Julianna R. Orkin – West Islip High School
Emily Palazzotto – Connetquot High School
Matthew Quan – Longwood High School
Meghan Reilly – Westhampton Beach High School
Rachel Schneider – Great Neck South High School
Parker Schug – Bayport-Blue Point High School
Chelsea Sibri – The Scholars’ Academy
Laila Stevens – Benjamin N. Cardozo High School
Taylor Yon – Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Nijha A.Young – Baldwin Senior High School

Each Greene Team member in Summer 2018 will work in the School of Journalism Newsroom on breaking news stories that will require them to perform key journalistic tasks on all media platforms including writing news stories, taking photographs, producing, shooting and editing video, conducting an interview, addressing a newsmaker at a press conference, posting text and images to a blog or website and covering a speech. Each student will also work in Stony Brook’s television news studio operating a teleprompter, appearing live in front of a camera at the anchor’s desk or reporting live as an on-air television correspondent.

By the end of our weeklong workshop, each participant will work in a team on various multimedia assignments that will be posted here. Students will be blogging throughout the program also.

We invite you to explore the site to see the fine work the students produce!

–  Zack and Cathrine