Future journalists worthy investment

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Let me tell you about Lara Kennedy.

Lara Kennedy is a Clovis High School kid. She is a prime example of what would happen if we freed our schools from the thugs and let the teachers concentrate on students who care.

Lara Kennedy cares. So do the other dozen students who forfeited a week of their summer to gather on the New Mexico State University Las Cruces campus to hang out with professional journalists and high school teachers at the annual journalism workshop.

Nice bunch of kids, all of them. There was Kim Kreitinger of La Cueva High who always had her game face on, a look of determination that signaled she plows through obstacles. There was Tyler Bushnell of St. Pius X High, bright, somewhat bemused by the whole scene. Tyler drew gales of laughter with a hastily drawn editorial cartoon that I never did quite figure out. I would like to think my obtuseness could be traced to generation gap rather than general ignorance.

There was Tyler’s schoolmate Caitlin Medlicott, a young lady with a strong work ethic, quick wit, and delightful sense of humor. La Cueva High’s Rob James whipped through computer programs needed to produce a student newspaper while we adults were duh-duhhing our way through operation manuals.

There was Suzanne Hammons, a naturally gifted writer out of Gallup High School.

I’ve kept a date most summers of the last 25 with New Mexico high school students and each year am reminded what a privilege it is to work with kids who care and how discouraging it has to be for professional high school teachers who are shackled by administrations who refuse to say “no more” to the disruptive element.

The purpose of the New Mexico Press Association’s workshop is to gather student journalists and professionals with the idea of producing a newspaper, The Future Press, and give the kids a taste of what it is like in the real world of newspapering.

Lara Kennedy got such a taste and, for a while, was on the verge of spitting it out. I had watched Lara work intently though much of one day on an editorial, following a format suggested by an adult instructor.

Late in the day, I did not think the editorial was working, and I suggested to Lara she start fresh using a format I suggested. It is difficult to describe the look Lara gave me. It wasn’t disdainful, it wasn’t disrespectful. No, the look Lara gave me said, “I suspect I am dealing with a deranged person but I guess I have to follow his advice.”

And she did. Lara started over and concentrated on her task without complaint. After producing what I considered a fine editorial, she encountered even more changes from the student editor. Lara shot me a smile and glance that said, “Okaaaay, so this is life in the real world of journalism.”

It is, and that was an important lesson for Lara and her classmates from around the state. They learned the lesson well that week at NMSU.

What I learned is that if Lara, Tyler, Suzanne, Caitlin, Rob or any of the rest of those kids were companies, I’d buy stock in them. These are good kids, indeed, and they represent the majority of their fellow teenagers.

Ned Cantwell is a New Mexico syndicated columnist. Contact him at: ncantwell@charter.net