Jessica Barrett and TrinitiFaulks taking photo and video for JIJ 2019. Photo by Antonio Villasenor-Baca, for Borderzine.com.
High school student journalism program turns17
Journalism in July celebrates 17 years with its latest class. The journalism “boot camp” is the only of its kind in Texas and prepares high school students from the Borderland area including Ciudad Juarez and Las Cruces, for journalism at the university level as well as at the professional level.
The Borderzine boot-camp for high schoolers is funded by the Dow Jones News Fund is a week-long program where high schoolers experience a fully immersive, hands-on week in journalism and end the week by creating an online magazine. The program creates a family-like newsroom that expands every year preparing the next generation of journalists and reporters.
Dino Chiecchi, JiJ’s current program director and associate professor of multimedia journalism at UTEP, said: “The goal is to expose students to the magic of journalism. Hopefully they will select journalism as something that they will want to pursue, or, they’ll be exposed journalism at a very professional level and they’ll realize it’s not what they want do. The worst thing that would happen is for someone to study journalism and realize at the end of their fourth year that it wasn’t they wanted.”
Dino Chiecchi, speaking to the 2019 JIJ class. Photo by Antonio Villasenor-Baca, for Borderzine.com.
The week is comprised of classes and lectures in skills and tools that are used at the highest levels of journalism, as well as meetings and discussions with professionals in the Borderland area varying from year to year but with trips to places such as the KVIA station and the KTEP radio station.
With now over 200 students having gone through the program, the alumni are now spread out the field of journalism. Kynan Marlin, a sports journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, is part of the 2013 class and is now graduating.
“It really helped us learn a lot of skills early on. Like I was just going in to be a sophomore when I did Journalism in July, so I was the youngest one there. But I learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t learn in high school. That’s where I started to take photographs for the first and ironically now, instead of being the writer that I thought I was going to be, I’m mostly a photographer and videographer,” he said.
Genaro Cruz, a technical director at Ch. 26 KINT, a Univision affiliate, has a unique perspective on the program as he was both a student and then three years later a counselor in the program.
Cruz was one of the students that then-director, Zita Arocha, recruited from Ciudad Juarez. Now working at Ch. 26, Cruz sees how the skills he picked at JIJ have stuck with him. “For the students that do keep going into journalism, everything they learn in that week, they’re going to keep doing it.”
And the week for Cruz like for so many others, changed his life. The story he wrote for JIJ won him a scholarship that helped him pay for tuition at UTEP. His roommate was Mauricio Casillas, now morning anchor at Ch. 7 KVIA.
“It shaped my future,” he said. Cruz then came back and served as counselor and expressed that it’s the norm for so many of the program’s alumni.
Paola Pacheco working students from the JIJ 2019 class. Photo by Antonio Villasenor-Baca for Borderzine.com.
Paola Pacheco, the current program assistant of JIJ, has been involved with JIJ for three years but is completing her second year in the position having taken over for Angel Cancino.
Pacheco has one of the heaviest burdens of the program putting it together and making sure it runs smoothly, knowing that the program is to help students not just get ready for college but for a career in journalism.
“I keep doing it for the love of journalism,” she said. “So I do it so the students can get that experience. As a UTEP alumnus of journalism, I think it’s important to have that experience at a younger age so when you do get to college you can have the full college experience.”
The program’s alumni now spread across the country, with students and counselors having found tenures at places from El Paso outlets such as KVIA to national publications like the Washington Post.
Danya Perez, newsletter producer for the Houston Chronicle, worked with JIJ for a few years and worked as a counselor in 2013. She came to work with JIJ through her time working with Zita Arocha and David Smith-Soto in their classes during her undergrad studies at UTEP.
Perez described it was “energizing for me in college at that time, seeing students progress in program.” Her notion of paying it forward exemplifies how al those involved with JIJ come together like a family or newsroom, everybody helping each other, rooting for each other.
“The bigger part of it was the exposure angle of it all. Also take teams and have them meet with industry people and we would have them meet with reporters, with producers, from all areas from TV to radio to print, and kind of just broaden their spectrum of what journalism was, what were some of the options they could go into if they wished to actually stay in the field. So I love the energy of it,” she said.