In today’s academic climate, students are constantly encouraged to get as much real-world experience as possible. Here at Tampa Prep, our seniors spend the final weeks of their high school career participating in off-campus internships related to their future field of study. This allows them to start off their college years with experience already on their resume. But what about the experience gained in the classroom, let alone, an elective classroom? More specifically, the elective I teach:  journalism.

As the adviser for both our online news website and our school yearbook, I have the pleasure of watching students create their own content that they feel represents their student body. I get to sit back and “watch the magic happen” as I observe student leaders instruct and direct their own classmates (and even friends) to be productive, accountable, and creative. Most importantly, I have fostered an environment that allows students to polish up on real-world skills. While some skills may seem specific to the world of journalism, it is also possible that they apply to a variety of fields. Communication, leadership, organization, time-management, accountability and ethics are just a few of the foundational concepts that students learn when involved with a student publication.

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Staff members report to student editors who oversee the time management and productivity of the classroom. They’ve learned to check friendships at the door and hold each other accountable for the work that needs to be done. Together, they’ve created entire systems for submitting work, having that work edited and revised, and finally making sure the work is published in a timely and effective manner. While they may not find themselves overseeing a newsroom in the future, they will definitely find themselves in a position of leadership which they can feel prepared for and excited about, thanks to the experiences within the journalism classroom.

This year, for instance, students completely rebuilt their online platform, restructured their story cycle process, revamped their social media presence, and created a new student-run podcast available on Apple and Spotify. The best part of it all; This was all their idea. From the planning to the execution, these students stepped up and made their ideas a reality.

DSC_0561Still more real-world skills are gained in a journalism course. Media literacy and digital citizenship are crucial in the current era of media distrust and consumption, and students who are involved in journalism programs not only learn how to consume objective, factual media, but also know the steps to take in order to create it.

I found my love for journalism within the four walls of my own high school newsroom, and that passion carried through onto my college career. It was during those years that I learned invaluable life lessons and experienced things so unique (and sometimes downright crazy) that I still can’t believe they happened. From wandering the halls of the 2012 RNC as a member of the press corps to reporting on crime-fighting superheroes throughout the streets of Seattle, journalism has opened many doors of opportunity, and it is my goal to open those same doors for the students of the Tampa Prep.

My hope is that students enter my classroom inspired by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:  Seek truth and report it. If you can do that, everything else falls into place.