Capturing Summer Stories

Capturing Summer Stories

 By Karis Hustad, Courtesy Inside Loyola

28 articles, 32 videos,  47 photos, 53 points on a Google map , and one complete website. All in five days.   

This would seem a difficult feat for any team of journalists, but the storytellers behind this project make these statistics even more impressive. Armed with audio, video, and reporting equipment, high school students took to the streets of Chicago from June 18-22 to report for the Loyola School of Communication’s High School Digital Storytelling Workshop.

 Twenty-nine students participated in the workshop, most hailing from the Chicagoland area (though one came all the way from Kansas City) and most are rising juniors and seniors in high school. The week aimed to acclimate students to digital reporting techniques as well as college life. Megan Ashbrock, partnership coordinator for the School of Communication and the de facto “camp director” for the workshop, says the week offered an opportunity for Loyola to reach out to talented communication students who may become Loyola students in the future, especially after working with the resources the School of Communication (SOC) offers.

“The SOC has a record of partnering with high school students to increase their digital media and journalism skills,” she says. “With such an impressive studio and growing reputation within the Loyola community, the city of Chicago, and nationwide, we strive to highlight our unique position as a communication school.”

Throughout the week, students had the opportunity to use nearly all of the many resources the SOC offers, from expert professors to top-of-the-line equipment. The first three days, students were split into small groups, each assigned either a Loyola professor or undergraduate student mentor as their guide to the city and consultant in journalistic techniques. In the morning, students learned various digital storytelling techniques: student media manager Ralph Braseth taught video on Kodak video recorders, professor Aaron Greer taught audio using Zoom H4n recorders, and professor John Slania taught the basics of man-on-the-street reporting and writing. In the afternoon, students took their newly acquired reporting skills to the streets, heading out to document various neighborhoods and attractions in the city.

From Chinatown to Oak St. Beach, Wrigleyville to Millennium Park, the students talked to countless Chicago residents and tourists about their experiences each day. Despite the blistering heat (the high was above 90 degrees all three days) and frequent rejections (unfortunately not everyone wants to be interviewed), the students came back with many interviews that eventually made up the “Loyola Summer Stories” website.

But the days didn’t end there. In addition to getting a taste of the college life, bunking in Baumhart Hall and eating in the Terry Student Center dining hall, students had the chance to see a few attractions in the city and experience Chicago media first-hand. Monday night, only 12 hours after arriving at Loyola, the students each had a chance to DJ on-air on WLUW-FM. Tuesday night, the students sat in on a live taping of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and asked host, and Loyola professor, Phil Ponce questions about being a news show host. Wednesday night, after enjoying views and fireworks off Navy Pier from the Hancock Observatory, the students returned to the SOC only to find out they had a surprise assignment, courtesy of Braseth: film a music video on Michigan Ave. The final product, a lively dance-filled set to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead, can be seen here. Thursday night brought a ghost tour, introducing students to even more areas in Chicago, as well as its haunted past.

The final two days of the workshop were spent editing audio, video, and photos. Students quickly learned the ins and outs of Final Cut Pro, how to upload videos to YouTube and photos to Flickr, how to create an interactive Google Map, and how to publish an article in WordPress. Most students also took the opportunity to do an on-camera anchor read in the Convergence Studio. Those can also be seen at the Loyola Summer Stories YouTube channel.

Marek Makowski, a senior at Huntley High School, says the top-level instructors made the camp a true learning experience.

“The best part of the camp was working with all of the brilliant professors and getting to pick their brains a bit. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t pay attention when Ralph [Braseth] went on his captivating rants and lessons,” he says. “They definitely taught me a few things about not only media and journalism, but also about life.”

He also says the exposure to different kinds of media opened his eyes to other opportunities in journalism.

“The camp also opened up my mind to various fields of journalism,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to go into magazine journalism but after being on WLUW and working with different media equipment, it gave me a second thought about possibly going into some other form of communication.”