Loyola University Chicago

School of Communication


No more pencils, no more books...

No more pencils, no more books...

By: Jennelle Dronkers, SOC Staff

School is out for summer.  In addition to the heat waves, summer has brought 29 high school students to Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication (SOC) for one week.  Traveling from Chicago’s suburbs and other parts of the Midwest, students were dropped off at Loyola like college freshmen on Sunday to spend 5 days with the SOC for its 2nd High School Digital Storytelling Workshop. (Loyola Summer Stories)

Aged 15-17, each student has experience or an interest in digital media.  While most are active in their high school newspapers or news shows, others excel in student film production or creative writing.  As for what they want to be when they grow up, their ambitions span from broadcast journalist to engineer to sports reporter to lawyer to screenwriter, and of course to the undecided path.  For now, they are all digital storytellers, for this week at least. 

On Sunday night students broke the ice by getting to know each other and then, by hitting the radio waves.  Monday morning launched the students into a 3-day lecture and field work series, in which audio, writing and video were taught at the SOC in the morning by Loyola faculty.  The afternoons were reserved for field work in 3 Chicago neighborhoods.  The group traveled to Chinatown on Monday, Greektown on Tuesday, and the Latino community of Pilsen on Wednesday.

‌With CTA passes in hand, all 29 students and SOC staff and faculty ventured the L and the bus to Chinatown.  Very much like its nation counterpart, Chinatown welcomed the group with kindness and humidity.  Loyola alum and China Town Chamber of Commerce representative, Rahsaan Liddell, met the group to provide a detailed tour of the history and culture of Chinatown.  Within seconds of Liddell’s introduction, each student assumed the position of a dedicated reporter.  Notebooks were scribbled in, microphones were extended towards the tour guide, and hands shot up in the air equipped with sharp questions.   

SOC faculty encouraged students to utilize the communities of Chinatown, Greektown, and Pilsen as resources for potential story leads.  Lauryn Daniel, 16 and Senior at Kenwood Academy, said, “I am really happy with the cultural areas we are visiting.  There are so many different kinds of people in Chicago and exploring these diverse neighborhoods makes me want to get out of my comfort zone and explore more.” 

Tuesday’s visit to Greektown began with a tour at Hellenic Museum.  Tour guide and Loyola alumna, Chelsea Trembly, brought the group to the rooftop of the museum to give everyone a bird’s eye view of Greek Town.  Following Trembly’s tour the students, in groups of 3, hit the streets of Greektown in search of a story.  Some groups found success in interviewing restaurant and shop owners.  Others struggled to initiate interviews, however with guidance from chaperones and trial and error, were able to find sources for their stories. 

“I found it more difficult to interview people in Greek Town, but it taught me to try new approaches in asking someone for information about their life,” said York High School senior Natalie Watts, 17. 

Once Tuesday’s interviews were recorded, the students headed back to the SOC to upload their material and get ready for an evening at CBS Chicago.  CBS opened up its doors, so that these young journalists could see what happens behind the scenes.

“I had an idea of how TV worked,” said Willam Mason High School student Katie Hansen,” but seeing CBS’s broadcast put it all into perspective of what people do like writing scripts minutes before they read the news.”

Students will spend the last 2 days of the workshop at the SOC putting together the pieces of their field work to produce a digital story.  SOC faculty professors Ralph Braseth, John Slania and Aaron Greer will guide and instruct the students as they develop their stories. 

“It has been exciting to watch these young media makers take their first steps,” said Greer, “I think the process of creating their stories will give them a greater, fuller appreciation for how media is developed.  This workshop is a piece of media literacy and I think there is no better introduction to digital media than spending a week learning and practicing it.”