Medill reaches out with High School Journalism Day

Janette Neuwahl

Medill’s first annual High School Journalism Day, the brainchild of Dean Loren Ghiglione and an effort to extend the school’s reach into the community, kicks off today.

The conference, in which 150 high school journalists and advisers will participate in workshops and tours of campus media funded by a $25,000 grant distributed throughout the next five years, represents one step toward furthering the growing partnership between the Chicago area and Medill, he said.

“When I got here it struck me that Medill could do a better job at reaching out to a whole variety of communities in Chicago and one of the more effective ones is the Chicago-area high school journalism community,” Ghiglione said.

After Ghiglione presented his idea for the event to Medill faculty during Fall Quarter, Michelle Pendleton, a former high school journalism adviser, was hired to coordinate the day. Pendleton said she expects about 150 high school journalists and advisers from 20 Chicago-area schools to attend.

“This is not a one shot deal. (The event is) planned to grow and become something over a period of years and that’s what I think is so exciting,” Pendleton said.

High school students attending the conference had to be recommended by their journalism teacher.

After a introduction by Ghiglione, students will participate in three hour-long workshops, choosing their sessions from a number of options. They also will listen to the conference’s keynote speaker, WMAQ-TV (Ch.5) anchor Anna Davlantes.

The grant for the program was given by Carol and Bruce Hallenbeck, Medill alumni who met with Ghiglione last summer to discuss the idea. The funds will be paid in installments of $5,000 for the next five years, reflecting Ghiglione’s hope that the program will last.

Ghiglione said he asked the Hallenbecks to become involved in the conference because of Carol Hallenbeck’s experience working as a high school journalism adviser for 25 years.

“Whether or not you ever go into professional journalism, one’s high school and college journalism experiences are the best possible education because you learn to be curious about everything in life and in the world and you learn to ask questions,” said Carol Hallenbeck, Medill ’49 of Santa Ana, Calif. “You’re encouraged to look outside just the academic work and instead at the whole campus and how the outside world affects it while learning to write.”

Ghiglione and Pendleton said the program’s aim is to help Chicago students become aware of Medill as a resource, as well as provide an opportunity for high school journalists and teachers to discuss media-related issues together.

“I think high school journalism deserves to be encouraged because it is such a great training ground for future writers and journalists,” Ghiglione said. “It teaches them first-hand what the First Amendment means and a student newspaper, TV station or other medium creates a sense of community for a high school.”

The program also will benefit from the assistance of 43 Medill student volunteers, who will help organize each high school’s newspaper in the welcome room and answer questions, as well as lead tours of the campus media outlets.

Although participants will receive literature about Medill and its National High School Institute summer program in a welcome folder, the day’s organizers said the event is not an effort to recruit students.

“Even if students don’t apply to Medill, we’re judging High School Journalism day by a different standard as what we can do to help high school students become better journalists,” Ghiglione said. “Obviously we want to interest them in Medill but it’s not the top priority.”

High School Journalism Day is not the only event generating visitors this weekend. The Campus Activities Office is starting the first annual Sibs-N-Kids Day, where students can invite siblings to visit campus for the weekend. For the registration fee of $30, siblings can attend events on campus and in Chicago to bond with their brothers and sisters. About 50 siblings are registered.