Isabella Lenarduzzi: Photojournalist in the making

By T’Neil Gooden
Leon M Goldstein High School for the Sciences

Isabella Lenarduzzi, a Kings Park teen, is using her love for photography to branch into the field of journalism. 

The rising senior at Kings Park High School  hopes to use her new attentiveness to journalism and photography to be a photojournalist. As such, she wants to bring attention to different stories that are not popular right now.

Isabella’s interest was spiked by the moving photos by AP news photographer Julio Cortez of the George Floyd protests and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The significance of the photos during this time allowed Isabella to realize that this is something that she thought she could do as well.

His photos influenced Isabella into applying for the Robert W.  Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists. Isabella said she wants to “gain more experience and knowledge about what a career in journalism or studying journalism would look like.” Isabella is split between politics and journalism and she believes that this institute will give her “a good idea if journalism is a good fit.”

Isabella, 16, has a passion for English and reading. Isabella says, “My fifth-grade English teacher inspired me… she was the one who guided my interest in reading and to be excited about reading… she kind of shaped me into who I am today.”
Her friend Susan Hickey, 17, sees her as “smart, reserved, creative, and kind. She is willing to help and she will have her unique take on things. She can come off as unassuming, but she’s memorable… She’s passionate about so many things and so knowledgeable.” 

Isabella says, “I would listen to the NPR politics podcast leading up to the election.”  Her motivation to become a photojournalist stems from the 2016 election.

“Journalists are important because they convey everything that is happening to us,” she says. “This was what made me think of journalism as a possible career.” 

“I thought I liked to take photos of nature until recently when I realized that I actually enjoy taking portraits or candid photos of my friends.” Isabella has been exploring the realm of photography and realized that taking photos of a spontaneous nature is what brings her the most joy. Spontaneous pictures could be used in blogs to show that people should be allowing themselves to live in the moment.

Ireland is the first place that Isabella wants to go for her journalism projects.    

“Most people are not aware of the tension in Ireland right now,  and going to cover it would be cool,” she says. “I think it would be interesting to try and capture the tension that’s slowly bubbling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

Michelle Paszek at the crossroads of STEM and journalism

By Jada Jackson
High School for Community Leadership

For Michelle Paszek, journalism is just one of her passions, along with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). 

At first glance, these two fields seem like quite the odd pair. Yet, Michelle has found a way to intertwine her love of writing and STEM into journalism. 

At 14, the Kellenberg Memorial High School sophomore from Hicksville has already accomplished much. Michelle said her biggest accomplishments have been having two articles published in the Kidsday section of Newsday and becoming an editor for her high school newspaper. 

These accomplishments were the product of Michelle’s early interest in writing and active imagination. Michelle’s mother, Marzena Paszek, said, “Since elementary school, Michelle enjoyed writing poems and creating her own stories.”

Michelle added, “I always had a giant imagination and loved reading as a child. I was always changing the storylines and characters in my favorite works (because why not). That led me to take creative writing camps at local colleges. I later met my English teacher, Mrs. Villani, who encouraged me to join Early Bird [the middle school’s newspaper] and later continue on to Phoenix [her high school’s newspaper]. I also wrote for Kidsday and wrote some poetry.” 

It was a logical jump to the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists.

Michelle’s goals for the week with the Greene Team were clear. “I hope to gain a better/deeper understanding of the other aspects of journalism at this program,” she said. “I would like to use the experience gained from the Greene program to help me become a better editor for my school newspaper.” 

Michelle said that she does “plan on pursuing journalism after this program. I want to continue writing for my school’s newspaper throughout high school and later tie in STEM to journalism.” 

Although she loves writing, STEM is an even bigger passion for Michelle. In fact, her dream career is “being a robotic engineer at NASA.” Her mother also sees her “working for NASA programming robots and including more artificial intelligence in our daily lives. She may double-major in engineering and journalism to combine these two. She would like to write for a technical magazine in her spare time.” 

“In the future,” her mother said, “she will improve a lot of lives with some new discoveries and application of artificial intelligence. She has a curiosity about computer science and a big potential in any STEM field.” 

Shian James-Harden: A COVID-era journalist

By Dan Stark
Westhampton Beach High School

Prior to the pandemic, journalism wasn’t something Shian James-Harden was considering as a career. It wasn’t even one of her many interests, which include dance, law, and entrepreneurship. But after living through a year of the COVID-19 pandemic in which reporting on the disease and its political ramifications ranged from fact to totally wrong, she was inspired to investigate a career in journalism.

Writing, however, has always been one of her favorite pastimes. “When I was younger, I would go places and write about them in my journal as if I was a publisher, but I never took it seriously,” said the rising junior at Gotham Professional Arts Academy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. 

Another interest since childhood that has propelled her toward journalism is photography. She was inspired by her father, Aziz Harden, a professional photographer, who remembered, “I would take Shian on some of my jobs where she would assist me with taking photos. I explained to her that you must tell a story when taking pictures. I believe that that was the moment Shian began her love for photojournalism.”

Like many others stuck at home during the pandemic, she watched the news frequently to stay updated. In doing that, she developed a new perspective about the news media. “It made me understand how unreliable [some] news is,” she said. “It made me think, ‘I’ve got to get reliable news.'”

During the past school year, her guidance counselor told her about the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists and recommended it as an opportunity to learn more about the field. Shian was accepted as one of the 28 students from Long Island and New York City.

She hopes the Greene Institute can help her reach several goals. One is a better understanding of the role of journalism.

“I hope to learn more about why journalism is more important,” she explained. “I also want to learn the history and development of journalism.” Shian also wants to learn more about reporting, writing and photography. She hopes to use all this in order to develop her own distinct writing voice.

Above all else, Shian hopes to use what she will learn from the program to help curb media bias. “I believe in understanding everyone’s point of view to find the truth.”

Tyler Wong: A young journalist ready to sharpen his skills

By Liliana Stella
North Shore High School

This is how Tyler Wong describes his relationship with his intended profession: “I’m passionate about journalism because it allows me to freely express my point of view.” 

The 16-year-old Brooklyn native attending Millennium Brooklyn High School is involved in many school activities, including the journalism club, creative learning lab, environmental club and the Asian-American club, which helped enhance his enjoyment and interest in K-pop groups. In particular, he likes BLACKPINK and BTS.

Tyler has also been an active member of the Millennium Brooklyn High School newspaper club over the past few years. This differs from his journalism club, which places more emphasis on the field of journalism rather than on crafting and developing work. 

Prior to the pandemic, Tyler liked “working in school because there was a circular round desk with computers.” He noted that during the pandemic he enjoyed working at his desk at home. 

As for his writing, he said, “I originally got into it because I liked to write about certain topics that I’m passionate about.”  Tyler hopes his love for writing evolves. “I would enjoy a career with print journalism because I enjoy writing,” he said, adding that journalism “can really be both moving and informative.” 

Tyler’s journalistic interests are diverse. He said he finds joy in topics involving the environment and pop music. Through his writing, Tyler would like to explore renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and climate initiatives. With his admiration for K-pop, he sees himself working at an entertainment media company.

Tyler’s interest in entertainment journalism is easily recognizable by those around him. One of Tyler’s teachers, Stephanie Feirsen, a speech-language therapist, said, “Tyler often speaks about representation (of minorities) in movies and television shows.”

Through the Robert W. Greene Institute for High School Journalists, Tyler wants to enhance his understanding of how to write news articles and learn “the ropes,” and in doing so, build a broader range of his writing.  

Tyler’s American literature teacher, Alicia Ciocca, said he is “very dedicated to improving his writing and analysis skills. He has an inquisitive mind and constantly questions the world around him. He is also always looking for ways to collaborate with others to learn and grow.”  

Tyler’s curiosity motivates him to pursue his passions and develop detailed and inspiring stories. He said that his curiosity enables him to look beyond his personal interests in his writing. He said journalism is worth pursuing because he would be  “writing useful information about something that can influence or inspire others.”

Sophia Herrera: Representation in reporting

By Julia Capitelli
North Shore High School

Representation is paramount to Sophia Herrera. 

The issue is so significant for the rising junior at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset that she wants to pursue a career in broadcast sports journalism.          

The South Huntington resident already has some journalism experience, beginning when she was 12. Now 16, she has been published in her high school’s Windows Literary Magazine and helped other students write articles for their middle school newspaper, 360 News.

Her particular focus is the lack of women in sports broadcasting. Women “make up the biggest part of the population,” Sophia said, “but we have the smallest voice.” 

Sophia also is concerned about the wage gap between men and women in the field. And being Latina, she advocates for a stronger voice for minorities. 

Professional soccer star Megan Rapinoe is Sophia’s idol. “She’s kind of a motivation for everything for me,” said Sophia, who has played soccer since age three. 

According to Sophia’s mom, Loreley Villanide-Herrera, “eventually [soccer] became a passion.” 

Sophia said Rapinoe, in addition to being a two-time World Cup champion and soccer superstar, has brought women’s and LGBTQ issues to light in the sports world. “She’s not afraid to voice her own opinion,” Sophia said. “If anyone’s against her, she really isn’t going to care. She’s going to say it anyway; she’s going to stick to it.”

Rather than pursuing her passion with a network like ESPN, Sophia’s goal is to start her own production company. She understands that would require hard work and lucky breaks. “When I have an aspiration, I work to get there,” she said. “If it’s not immediately, it’s going to happen, whether people like it or not.” 

She has support from her mother, who she said works in HIV research in much of the developing world and also does work with “women’s issues, women’s empowerment, working with marginalized communities [and] LGBTQ.” 

In addition to her mother, Sophia lives with her father, Robert Herrera, and her 12-year-old brother, Gabriel. Like Villanide-Herrera, Robert Herrera, who is in book publishing, has strong political opinions but keeps an open mind. 

Sophia is primarily interested in broadcast media because “I want to be the person that people see and they know they can trust.” 

She said she hopes the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists will be an opportunity to “grasp a deeper understanding of journalism itself.” 

If Sophia becomes a sports broadcaster, she hopes to do more than give scores and analysis. She wants to have a platform to voice her opinions. “I’m a feminist,” she said. “As someone who has really strong beliefs, I really feel the need to voice them.”

She wants to ensure that underrepresented people have a place in broadcast too. “I feel like people need to have that voice.” 

Jada Jackson and the joy of writing

By Michelle Paszek
Kellenberg Memorial High School

Jada Yahda Jackson’s writing adventure started young. 

The 17-year-old Georgia native, who moved to the Queensbridge Houses development in Queens at age two and is now a rising senior at the High School for Community Leadership in Jamaica, Queens, discovered a gift for writing in elementary school. They wrote a paragraph recap whenever they went to see a film, which their stepmother read. This was what first got them into writing.

“Writing has always been therapeutic for me,” Jada said. 

While Jada continued to write, it wasn’t until recently that they went public with their work.

Jada’s mother, Tywanda Taylor, recounted that “recently, they wrote about their feelings and fears. They use their writing to express themself, as well as their style.” These are mainly for Jada only. However, they posted their feelings about Juneteenth on Medium.

They recently started the column “Jada’s Corner” on their school website, in which they write about COVID-19 and its impact. They also post work on Medium and Instagram and take part in the New York Rat Pack Podcast to give their viewpoint on current events.

“They’ve always asked questions and paid attention to the news,” Taylor noted. “They have a lot of opinions about what’s going on in the world. If something happens in the world they write and tell me about it.”

Their first work, posted to Instagram in May 2020, was on the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19.

“It felt scary at first,” Jada said. “Even in school assignments, I tend to get very personal. Yet when people read it and reposted it, I felt over the moon.”

Jada wishes to pursue a career as a political journalist and activist. In addition, they would like to be a freelance travel writer.

Their biggest journalism inspiration is Angela Davis, the writer and activist. “I want to write so the people most affected can understand and help create change,” Jada said. “I believe that journalism should be about getting the truth out and being accessible to everyone.”

In their free time, they listen to music, watch horror and Marvel films, and practice perfecting their goth makeup and roller skate. “It helps me feel free and nothing can touch me while I’m in a roller rink,” Jada explained. They also spend their weekends going to protests and marches.

Jada took the opportunity to attend the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists “because I wanted to truly pursue journalism before I go into college. I want to major in journalism. I feel like if I truly want to do something, why wait? And I saw this opportunity to prove to myself that I’m serious about doing this for a living. I truly look forward to the program and put my skills to the test. While in this program, I hope to meet people that have similar interests to mine and learn what being a journalist will truly be like.”

Writing, Art, and Ianna Banfield

By Camila Rojas
Hempstead High School

Whether she’s creating a fantasy story or editing her school’s newspaper, writing is something that comes naturally to Ianna Banfield, who calls it “the one consistent thing I’m 100 percent sure that I want to do for the rest of my life.”

With her passion for writing, the rising junior at Park Slope Collegiate in Brooklyn hopes to have a future as a journalist.

“I believe that journalism could provide me with the voice I need so that I could speak out on important things. Journalism will help me explore the world around me and teach me new things. I’m always up for new experiences.”

To help accomplish this goal she is participating in the one-week Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists at Stony Brook University, where she hopes to learn more about the field of journalism and also push her boundaries as a writer.

This past year has been monumental for Ianna, as she has taken a step closer to her dream of becoming an author. One of her fiction short stories, “Suki’s Magical Journey,” was published by The New York Public Library.

“The story is about a girl who moves from the country to the city and is having a bit of trouble adjusting to changing environments,” Ianna said. It was “one of the rare moments where I actually felt genuinely proud of myself. I was also insanely excited to finally show people my writing since I normally keep it hidden, being that the stories I write are very important and sacred to me.” 

At an early age her parents introduced to her the power of reading, which has stuck with her throughout her life. “I like to read all kinds of books… the books that grasp my attention the most are fantasy and dystopian novels, and sometimes realistic fiction.” 

Ianna, 15, also enjoys art. She participated in a program with New York University where a few of her art pieces were published on its website. Many of her paintings spread the message of equality and acceptance for women.

“My art is mainly influenced by my writing, which is mainly influenced by my experiences, causes that are important to me and the people around me.” 

Ianna’s friend, Camila Pierre, described her as “energetic, intelligent and eager. She is very outgoing and loves to talk to people. In her journalism career she could use this in a positive way as she is easily able to connect with everyone she meets.”

“I would definitely focus on the writing aspect and getting to learn about different people and environments when I go into journalism,” Ianna said. With the help of the Greene Institute she wants to expand her writing skills. “I expect the week with Stony Brook to help me because the mentors will provide me with the guidance I need. They will also teach me more about journalism since I do not have much knowledge about it.”

Moriah Pettway: A lifelong love of writing

Moriah Pettway loves writing and public speaking — two skills needed for an aspiring broadcast journalist like herself — so much that she once took a science-based advanced placement seminar because it involved lots of both.

When it comes to writing, Moriah, 17, of Baldwin, a rising senior year at Baldwin High School, said she feels it is different from other subjects because it’s an expressive outlet. “Other subjects have certain rules and guidelines that need to be followed, yet writing is something that is all yours.” 

As a young Black woman aiming to be a professional journalist, Moriah said she expects to feel added pressure to serve as a representative because she will share her image with the public. Moriah said she doesn’t feel that way now because her school is racially diverse. 

“I’m going to basically be the spokesperson who represents Black women such as myself in this particular industry and it is added pressure. But at the same time it’s a hurdle, which I know I just face in order to make a difference.”

 As motivation, Moriah turns to several role models in the journalism and writing fields who are Black females that inspire and motivate her. 

“CNN anchor Abby Phillips is truly an inspiration to me and I love her work.” Another role model Moriah has is her former English teacher. “I see that Ms. Barnes is a smart Black woman in a high leadership position in my school and it gives me hope for my own future.” 

As hobbies, Moriah plays guitar and sings. She also runs cross-country on her school’s girls track-and-field team. 

Moriah’s family loves how hard she works in school. “What I appreciate the most about Moriah’s work ethic is she consults various resources for the best outcome while not relying solely on her own intuition for success,” said her father, Corey. Moriah’s sister, Shekinah, added: “I appreciate her drive and dedication to her school work and how well spoken she is.” 

Moriah applied to the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists in part for guidance on how to become a successful journalist, but more so because the program catered to the exact thing she wanted out of writing and journalism. 

“I wanted to do this program because I had always had an interest in journalism but I never had an outlet that was specifically dedicated to journalism. So when I heard about this opportunity I knew I couldn’t give it up.”

A Single NBA Game – Chadwick Roy

By Chloe Findlay
Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School

A dribble up the court, a ball flying through the air, fans rising out of their seats, hearts in their throats, SWISH! This is the way Chadwick Roy, a rising senior at Mathematics, Science Research and Technology Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, Queens, got into journalism.

An NBA playoffs game in 2020 with his friends and family led to a realization for Chadwick–or more realistically–his friends. As Chad and his friends were watching the game, Chad got more and more upset by what a sports journalist was saying. Chad recalled that “he was saying that this team wasn’t going to make it, but I’m telling you, this team IS going to make it. They don’t have an all-star, but they are a good team, they have a good core…and that team so happened to go all the way to the finals.”

That’s when his step-dad turned to him and suggested he try journalism. Chad recalled his step-dad telling him, “You know your facts. You should try to learn how to be a journalist, be on TNT as a career”. 

Chad started focusing on his writing more. And with the help from a favorite teacher, Ms.Richardson, he applied for the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists. He was slightly reluctant to apply. “Some writing programs are boring, but my English teacher brought it to me, my journalism teacher brought it to me. They.told me it’s a good program…and so far it’s been good”

As for what field of journalism Chadwick wants to go into, it’s always been sports. “I started writing in the sports section of my school paper. It just clicked. I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

When he and his brother, Jeremy, were younger, their dad used to watch them play basketball. His dad’s passing in 2020 was a driving factor that kept Chad playing sports, pursuing journalism and working towards all of his many goals.

His 15-year-old sister Sydney recalls SAT season when “he was studying every single day, and he was like ‘everyone, you need to be quiet right now.’” But when it comes to his sports, he is even more motivated. “I’ll go outside and play with him, and my little brother sometimes…and when he’s really into it, I’m like, you can’t block the 9-year-old, Chadwick..

Chadwick’s family is his greatest support system. Jeremy, Chad’s 9 year-old little brother, said “I’m always there for Chadwick and he’s always there for me.”. Sydney says the two brothers are inseparable. When the two are playing basketball, “they’re always on the same team, they never split”. 

His mom was also a huge part of his success in life and in journalism so far. Chadwick remembers that “my mom would always tell me to write. Write for this, write for that. At that age I thought it was boring.” 

Camila Rojas: Sketching out a future in law

By Ianna Banfield
Park Slope Collegiate

Camila Rojas sees journalism as a path to a successful law career. A stop on that path is the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists.

“Journalism interests me because it’s a great outlet to learn about current world problems and about all different types of people,” the Hempstead High School rising junior said. “As my dream is to become a lawyer, I think that it’s important to know what’s going on in the world in order to know how to fix the problems that our world is currently facing. I am not extremely familiar with the field of journalism yet. I just want to learn more about it.”

Camila, 16, who lives in Hempstead, manages her school’s social media and is active in after-school programs and community service, 

In her free time, she reads, watches videos on Netflix and YouTube, and takes care of her little sister, but it is painting that captures her imagination. 

She sketches out her ideas — an object, a person or beautiful scenery — and lets her imagination go. “I’ve always been into art whether it was drawing or coloring,” Camila said. “My mom tells me that when I was little, I was always coloring and that I hardly ever played with my toys because I was always doing something art related.” 

Her art pieces are a reflection of her imagination, and her words are a reflection of her passion for the arts, “I love painting because it’s the one thing that brings me peace while at the same time creating something beautiful. I find it to be an outlet for my feelings and in ways it helps me express myself.”

In addition to her artistic skills, Camila has a writing skill that can help with word use — poetry. Her sister, Fiorella, 9, said, “The poems that Camila writes are really in-depth. She’s also very bubbly, intelligent, open-minded, and confident.”

For Camila, journalism is a way to project her voice and help solve the world’s issues.  “What I like about journalism is how you are essentially talking and informing others about real life problems. I think it’s very important to know and understand what’s happening in the world around them, which is why journalism is a great way to do so.”

One powerful motivation to study journalism and law is the need for justice, Camila said. “I don’t ever like to see others suffer, and I try my best to do the best I can to help someone, no matter how big or small it is.” 

Camila follows the news regularly, mostly watching Telemundo and Unavision. She admires Spanish language journalists that she sees on those channels for sharing information with native Spanish speakers like her. 

Attending the Greene boot camp, she said, was part of her plan to learn more about journalism. “I want to get pushed out of my comfort zone and learn more about it.”