Hofstra University journalism institute opens high-schoolers' minds

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Nine Nassau County students, including four from Valley Stream, one from Elmont and one from Freeport, took part in this year’s Hofstra University High School Summer Journalism Institute, learning firsthand the ins and outs of the media industry.

The institute, which is funded by the Bernard and Sandra Otterman Foundation, aims to encourage diversity in the media, with almost all of the participating students coming from communities of color. 

The program, held at Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication in Hempstead from July 26 to 31, is headed by Scott Brinton, executive editor of Herald Community Newspapers and adjunct associate professor at Hofstra, and Mario Gonzalez, associate professor at the university. 

“The institute is just so much fun,” Brinton said. “It’s fast-paced — the week just flies by — but I really do believe the students come away with a much better understanding of the media industry and the potential career opporunities that it presents.”

The students spent the week working on the foundational elements of journalism, including writing articles, editing videos and meeting deadlines. They also explored a range of media, from radio to print.

“I’ve always been very fond of radio, and this week I learned a lot about it, and I definitely will look into that as a career now,” said Hadia Choudhry, a junior at Crescent School in Hempstead and a Valley Stream resident.

“The institute showed that journalism isn’t just writing. It’s reporting, photography, videography, radio,” Divina Boko, a junior at Freeport High School, said.

The students also got to hear from a slate of speakers throughout the week, including:

Michael Otterman, author and program coordinator for the Otterman Foundation, and a former Herald intern and freelancer.

Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of the Hofstra Herbert School of Communication and a former news executive at ABC and NBC.

Shawna VanNess, assistant managing editor for features at Newsday.

Karen Albert, Hofstra University Museum director.

Chris Vaccaro, Hofstra graduate journalism director and Altice vice president for digital news.

Mario Murillo, vice dean of the Hofstra Herbert School of Communication and community radio host and reporter.

Nakeem Grant, editor at Herald Community Newspapers and an alumnus of the Hofstra Graduate Journalism Program.

Bill Bleyer, a Press Club of Long Island Board member and former longtime Newsday reporter.

“I really enjoyed the guest speakers,” Momna Choudhry, a recent graduate of Crescent School and a Valley Stream resident, said. “Hearing the different perspectives and different aspects of the industry was amazing and very informative.”

The week was an eye-opener for many of the students, as it introduced them to the numerous possibilities in the industry, and even convinced some to consider careers in media, according to a post-institute survey of the students. 

“I like writing, and I’ve learned that journalism allows you to experience new and different things day to day,” Emaan Tehseen, an Elmont High School freshman and Valley Stream resident, said.

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