Celebrating Scholastic Journalism Week

As the Journalism Education Association (JEA) celebrated Scholastic Journalism Week, The Drag’s staffers and First-Year Training Program participants took a moment to reflect on the role scholastic journalism played in shaping our passions. From podcasts and yearbooks to UIL competitions and school newspapers, these experiences have left an indelible mark on our lives, shaping the storytellers and communicators we are today.

I always remember my first time writing for school — an article (more like a review) critiquing celebrity outfits at the Grammy Awards. I was just in fifth grade at the time, and though the content was not very good, the experience of seeing my words in print on a pamphlet distributed to fellow students was super exciting. I then went on to join the school yearbook for the rest of my early education. I became editor-in-chief in my junior year and had the chance to get real-life experience that continues to help me today. I attended meetings with Balfour, our yearbook publishing company, to talk about design and content. I trained photographers and edited copy — all skills that allowed me to be in the role that I am in today. 

Mandira Ganti, a participant in The Drag’s First-Year Training Program, told me her love for journalism started in high school, too. She said she and a friend started a podcast titled “What We Think,” which highlighted conversations about politics with teens nationwide. Ganti says working on the podcast expanded her communication skills and facilitated conversations about politics, setting the stage for her future in journalism.

Editor and producer Aislyn Gaddis, who found her passion for journalism through UIL competitions, said the impact of her high school journalism experience helped her choose her future career path. Despite her school lacking a newspaper, Aislyn found her niche in the UIL Journalism team along with only two other girls. She was able to explore various journalistic styles. 

“Throughout high school, it was my only opportunity to learn about the industry, and without it, I don’t know if I would have ended up majoring in journalism and being where I am today,” Gaddis said.

First-Year Program participant Abby Breyfogle’s journey in scholastic journalism led her to the school yearbook staff, where she discovered her passion for writing and journalism. She was able to learn feature writing, photography, design, editing, copywriting, press law and so much more. She said the memories she made during that time were priceless. 

“None of it would have been possible without my amazing adviser, Alison Strelitz. She went out of her way to find opportunities for us to develop, including nationwide conferences, submitting us into competitions and even getting us press passes to cover Beto O’Rouke’s gubernatorial run,” said Breyfogle. “Not only was I able to learn how to be a journalist during my time on her staff but I also developed into a leader during my senior year when I was Editor-in-Chief. There were a countless amount of lessons that I was able to learn during my time in scholastic journalism, and I would not be the same person today without it.”

Social media producer Emma Welty also found her confidence and strengthened her writing skills through UIL Journalism. She said she gained the courage to pursue journalism at a higher level.

 “Journalism UIL introduced me to a whole new world of writing…and even led me here to UT,” said Welty. 

Editor and producer MJ Tilton’s love for writing paved the way for her career.  She said her journalism advisor in high school encouraged her to come to the University of Texas, which eventually led to her working in audio and with The Drag.

“Growing up I had always been a writer, but as a member of my high school journalism staff I really learned how to hone that love of writing and turn it into a career,” Tilton said.

As we celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week, we recognize the impact that scholastic journalism has on shaping young minds and making future storytellers. These reflections from our staff showcase the importance of mentorship, community, and hands-on learning in fostering a lifelong love for journalism

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