They stood next to Kevin Lubin as he explained from his hospital bed the difficulties he now faces after seven bullets tore through his body the day before Thanksgiving. It was his senior year in high school.
They sat in the living room of Trina Kancey as she relived the night that the life of her 16-year-old son, Sam Brown, was snatched away by gunfire at the hands of another teen just two weeks earlier.
They entered the chambers of Juvenile Court Judge Lester Langer to discuss the consequences and statistics of crimes committed by juvenile offenders.
Those were some of many encounters that students had this summer during the three-week University of Miami High School Journalism and New Media Workshop.
A group of 20 high school students were selected from across South Florida to participate in the workshop, which began July 5.
The Miami Herald, Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, James Ansin of WSVN-Channel 7 and retired journalist and psychoanalyst Peace Sullivan, were among the sponsors that contributed to the expansion of this year’s workshop, which previously lasted 10 days. The students lived on campus and worked 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. from the newsrooms and editing labs at the School of Communication.
“I learned something new everyday,” said Miriam Kolker, a student at Miami Beach Senior High. “Something was revealed that I never thought I would have to deal with, maybe just see on the news, and now I’m writing about it.”
This year’s topic, teen gun violence, touched close to home for some. The Zip code 33054, which includes parts of Opa-locka and Miami Gardens, is considered the deadliest area for teens in Miami-Dade County. It is also the place that Victoria McKnight, a rising senior at North Miami Senior High, has always called home.
“How you carry yourself and whom you associate with are what makes your life in Miami Gardens dangerous, not just living there,” McKnight said.
Yet, for the majority of the participants the theme “Got Shot?” seemed like a lifetime away.
“We’re used to interviewing people from our schools, but the impact of interviewing a mother who’s lost a child is a new experience,” said Mariced Perez, editor of the newspaper at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High.
“I think it was very good and challenging for the students to write about such a sensitive issue that has plagued our times,” said Tsitsi D. Wakhisi, the workshop director and UM professor. “It’s not something you would typically read about in the newspaper, but they managed to write about it.”
Students took field trips to Miami-Dade County Jail, Department of Juvenile Justice, Miami-Dade County Medical Examiners Office and Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.
“Jail was scary, but I think the hospital affected me more,” said Miriam Kolker, a student at Miami Beach Senior High. “In jail you can be let free and it’s so emotional. But to be in a place where so many people die and their loved ones are crushed-it was just a bad feeling.”
Arielle Faria, a senior at Miami Palmetto Senior High, has learned just how much of an impact such a serious topic can have on a person.
“I knew that violence was a problem, but with all the researching and interviewing that we’ve done, I’ve really learned a lot,” she said. “And now I want to contribute more in my community-whatever needs to be done, I’ll do.”
Tears ran down the face of an emotional 16-year-old Carolina Garcia as it dawned on her that a three-week adventure had come to an end. She, along with the other participants of the workshop, gathered in the lobby of Stanford Residential Hall after checking out of the dorms. They embraced one another once more as they reflected on the memories of their experiences.
“I feel like a new person after three weeks,” said Michael Allen, a student at Miami Norland High. “This experience has made me a better student, I learned how to communicate and I made 19 new friends.”
To learn more about the summer journalism workshop, visit com.miami.edu/workshop/2007.
Brittnay Starks may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.