South LA students learn radio reporting skills

Every Saturday, a dedicated group of teenage journalists meet up at the Urban Media Foundation to sharpen their skills and practice their story telling.

This weekend, the focus was on radio. After some discussion and listening exercises, the students broke into groups, recorders in hands, ready to interview each other about their lives, communities and plans following graduation.

Here are some of their stories!

Jeena Tanks, Brandi Finney and Lafaye Mooer discuss extracurricular activities and what they see themselves doing after high school.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 1 by Intersections

Olivia Smith and Chizo Iberosi tackle tough transitions—from moving from a big to a small school, to moving from another country entirely.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 2 by Intersections

While discussing what they see for their futures, Jocelyn Foster and Bianca Alonzo discover they have a shared interest—science!

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 3 by Intersections

Tia Halsey, Justin Tanks and Octavia Smith all know they want to go to college, they’re just not sure where. One thing they do know is who their favorite authors are – Suzanne Collins and Edgar Allan Poe make the short list.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 4 by Intersections

Aaron King, Kevin Soils and Jesse Gonzales may be young adults, but they’re already thinking about what kind of legacy they’d like to leave future generations.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 5 by Intersections

The radio workshop was led by Melissa Leu and Kaitlin Parker, USC Annenberg students and Intersections South LA reporters.

Urban Media Foundation students anchor news stories

Practice makes perfect. Using a teleprompter simulator, students at the Urban Media Foundation practiced their anchoring skills. These future journalists wrote their own copy and filled the mock news cast with a variety of stories.

To find out more about the Urban Media Foundation, click here.

Summer workshop offers students a chance to become writers and bloggers

High school students who like to write, blog and connect with other teens on the web have a great place where to polish their skills this summer. The Urban Media Foundation is offering a free writing and blogging independent study workshop at their Digital Newsroom & Media Technology Center. The workshop’s objective is to help youth learn and improve their writing, reading comprehension and speaking skills. It takes place every Thursday from 1 to 4 pm, is open to students 14 to 17 years old.


The first supervised session begins on July 14, but several students dropped in this week to get a head start on their summer projects. Some of the students have been part of the organization’s after-school media and journalism training program for years. The summer workshop is a way to keep the teens busy and engaged until the next school semester.

imageDanielle Tavasti, who has been attending the journalism training for two years and travels all the way from Long Beach with her brother Jonathan, loves the atmosphere and what she has learned along the way. “I like that they give us so many opportunities to experience journalism first hand. They took us to the USC Annenberg TV studios, where they showed us how to use cameras. That was really cool. They taught us skills we can use in any career,” referring to being able to write better and to speak in front of a camera. Danielle has even started her own website.

“I’ve learned a lot here,” says Jerriel Biggles, who also interns at Our Weekly newspaper, and contributes articles for the Urban Media Foundation website. image He has just graduated from high school and will be heading to Northern Arizona University in the fall to study broadcast journalism. “My dream is to be a sports reporter for ESPN.”

Whatever each student’s dream may be, they have a place to express themselves here. Mentors will encourage them to publish their work online, whether on the foundation’s website or on one of their own.

“We’re always looking to give youth an opportunity and a platform where their voices can be heard,” explains Sherion Johnson, the foundation’s Acting Director. “If someone wants to send an article or pictures, we want them to become a reporter for us. We have a newspaper, a blog and a website where we can publish their stories.”

Enrollment for the summer workshop is open. The UMF’s Digital Newsroom & Media Technology Center is located at 8732 S. Western Ave., LA 90047. For more information, contact Kianna Shann at (323)905-1330, or email her at [email protected].

South Los Angeles high school students produce Office Max commercial

Office Max authorized us, the Urban Media Foundation news team, and subsequent producers to create a video project addressing the lack of school supplies within our nation’s schools. As a multitude of issues plague our nation’s education system, we believe this video project has the power to facilitate results, and inspire people to reinvest themselves in the future of our nation’s youth. This video project is driven by our thoughts, perceptions, and personal experiences. In addition, these anecdotes are accompanied by several dramatizations that we hope will inspire activism.

imageFrom left: Brandi Finney, Erdavria Rose Simpson, Destany Charles. In the back: Jerriel Biggles.

Even though this project was created by only a few students in Los Angeles, California, we thought it was important to address these issues on a broader scale. A flawed education system does not only affect the students in the system, but it affects the society who counts on these students to become competent citizens. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, dropouts from the class of 2010 will cost the nation more than $337 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes. If U.S. High schools and colleges were to raise the graduation rate of Hispanic, African American, and Native American students to the levels of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $310 billion to the U.S. economy.

Our goal for this project is to hopefully expedite changes within flawed education systems. We are aware that this will take time; however, any small change is a step in the right direction. During moments of comic relief, we hope viewers will remember to think of the schools in their communities. We hope after hearing our stories viewers will want to lend a helping hand. We hope to shed light on an issue currently sitting in the dark.

We know we are still successful students despite the overwhelming statistics. Even though, we lack certain tools we still prevail. As a whole, we do not make excuses for ourselves because this hinders our learning capabilities. Instead, we appreciate the teachers, parents, and community members who are picking up the slack in order to give us the proper tools to learn.

Just dance: Cali jerk

By QueJonne Smith, Frederick Douglass Academy High School

There’s a new trend that has skyrocketed in the last few summers: dancing. There has been a host of new dances since the summer of 2009: (different variations of) The Jerk, The Reject, the Spongebob, The Pindrop, the Drop Kick, The Dougie, the D-Town boogie, and a range of other dances that keeps the teenage and juniors crowd interested and engrossed in the growing fashion.

Let me teach you how to jerk.

The Jerk: There are many different ways that people have taken the jerk and made it their own. They have taken the original jerk, where you bend your knees and begin to pop up and down in a jerking motion, and put their own spin on it. They have put different hand motions, flips, head movements, and dropping to the floor and coming back up in order to make the dance better in appearance.

The Reject/ Spongebob: The Reject is the new dance that resembles the backwards “Running Man” has been added to a variety of footwork and drops that make the dance better. The Spongebob is best described as the sideways reject that can be combined with the reject, jerk, and other dances to make the combination appealing to their audience.

The Pin Drop: This dance requires the dancer to place his/her foot behind the knee of the other leg and fall onto that foot in order to pivot and spin around in order to stand back up. This dance can lead into any of these other dances.

The Drop Kick: This dance can be accompanied by a host of footwork that can make the dance a part of another combination.

Combining it all is like a freestyle that you can put together on the dance floor.

Cheerleading: a real sport

imageBy Erdavria Simpson, Hamilton High School

Cheerleaders always feel that they don’t get recognition, always bringing school spirit to games and school events and still get talked down. From administration in schools to students talking about how they are boring. Some of this might be very constructive but most of it hurts since we are still not seen as a sport.

Cheer takes so much out of so many people. No time for the beach-I have cheer practice, no money in my pocket—I have cheer payments, no money in my mom’s pocket—she just paid for cheer camp. “Hey babe can I see you today?” –from boyfriend, a cheerleader’s answer: “I’m sore and sleepy. Catch me tomorrow.”

Even as I write this I’m in pain sore in a chair because of a stunt accident.

We tried a set it up stunt, which included the flyer, me, jumping over her back spot. No one caught me and I landed hard on my left foot and tore a few ligaments in my ankle. So I’m out for a while, but it’s okay because that’s what happens in cheer.

We work hard, practice rough, and always give 100% to everything we do– from stunts to tumbling dance and cheer; we have to be assertive and diligent. I know all of this from experience, I’ve been cheering for the past four years of my high school career at Hamilton High and each year we have been improving constantly.

Yet throughout those years the criticism of the team has been intense. It’s bad enough cheerleaders already have negative stereotypes of which we recognize and try to change. Television has done absolutely nothing to help change them; our effort in school has been completely undermined. Administration blames cheerleaders for lack of school spirit and instead they compare their high school days to ours, when everything has changed since then.

Students just don’t care about school. This generation looks at school for fun and not for education, they would rather chill with their friends than attend or support a pep rally. By trying out to become a cheerleader and effect change it is clear that we understand the lack of school spirit in our high schools.

Students tend to degrade cheer efforts just by spreading false rumors, or constantly complaining about how we are not awesome or don’t do enough “poppin’ cheers.” Our football players say that we don’t support them enough, but while they are on the field we are on the track. If they are playing and it starts to rain we are cheering in the rain.

And then there are the few who make cheer worthwhile, besides the connections you make with other girls and getting cheer sisters, and seeing work effort get paid off in the end with great dances and cheers. You make new friends, get to know and understand your school with a deeper connection by seeing how you could change it and make it better.

So I’m still a cheerleader and always enjoy cheering, dancing, and encouraging a crowd or team with and without recognition—recognition just helps.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons