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Teen Press puts La Crosse students in the shoes of journalists

Kaitlyn Riley

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From answering questions in the classroom to posing questions as young journalists, students at Longfellow Middle School successfully completed their first-ever Teen Press series.

Teen Press is a journalism project developed with Mid West Music Fest and local schools. The goal is to help students get real-world experiences and develop writing and communication skills while building self-confidence. Participants create stories and video blogs on musicians associated with Mid West Music Fest.

“Cotter High School in Winona began the process in the area, and they extended the invite to La Crosse,” Longfellow Middle School Instructor Stephanie Hein said. “It was initially proposed last year, and we were pumped about it. Then COVID struck, and we had to take a different perspective and look at it this year.”

She explained Teen Press is an extracurricular activity that students eagerly joined.

“These kids are amazing,” Hein said. “They are doing this above and beyond what they are doing each and every day. I’m just proud of these guys for taking on something new during that sometimes feel really isolated and really alone. They’ve grown in that goes beyond the world that we’re caught up in right now. I’m proud of this group and this community for providing these opportunities for us to take action.”

Longfellow student Abigail Holmes said it was an outlet for her to be involved even in a pandemic.

“Since COVID started, you can’t really get out of your house and do anything,” she said. “I thought it was a great way to expand social skills with a complete stranger. It is great to get to know people.”

A fan of music, Longfellow student Nathan Ivens said he joined to learn from the artists.

“I like the interviewing part and getting to know the meaning behind songs from musicians and bands,” he said. “I didn’t think I could interview a musician, so it was cool to actually do that.”

They put in plenty of prep work before the interview. After selecting who they would feature, the students would contact the artist to schedule a time to meet. After researching the artist, they conducted an interview that typically lasted about 30 minutes.

Holmes and Ivens admitted they were nervous to take on this new adventure, but both agreed they would like to participate in Teen Press again.

After its first successful series, Hein hoped the school can open it up to more students and keep their experienced members on the team. She credited LASD Communications Coordinator Nick Marcou for helping the students by creating graphics and helping with edits to bring it all together.

“We really do look forward to making this a full-circle student project where he can just be someone who watches and helps them create the video so that will even open up more opportunities for students who don’t necessarily want to get in front of the camera but want to be behind the scenes and putting the images together and putting that final piece out.”

Teen Press videos can be found on the School District of La Crosse’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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