Written by Lauren Caggiano
Sherdell Baker, a New Haven High School senior, got a taste of the multi-faceted world of journalism at a national conference this summer for high school youth.
According to its website, George Mason University is the host of the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) and each summer welcomes high school student leaders from all over the country as National Youth Correspondents. National Youth Correspondents join the Mason community which includes students and faculty from all over the world. Mason is both the largest public university in Virginia and one of the most culturally diverse universities in the nation.
Baker, who was chosen based on academic standing and interest in journalism, attended the conference from July 15-20. She joined a select group of peers from around the country, who participated in hands-on experiential learning through simulations designed to evoke the tensions of a newsroom. The experiential element was complemented by sought-after industry speakers. In Baker’s words, the experience was life-changing and opened her eyes to career possibilities.
“I came back a different person than before I left,” she said, noting that her peers become like family.
But why journalism? According to the 17-year-old, that’s a story in and of itself. “My first love was poetry,” she said. I’ve always had a fond love of writing. I was published and then poetry led me to book writing. I did some research and journalism slowly started entering into my life.”
So, journalism has stuck. Baker says she enjoys hearing people’s stories. In fact, she enjoys it so much that she plans to study journalism at a historically black college and university (HBCU) next fall. In the meantime, she’s completing an internship at the Allen County Public Library’s Access Fort Wayne, where she’s charged with everything from helping to produce shows to script writing.
So, in this way Baker is continuing the momentum she gained from the conference. In hindsight, she said the conference drilled some truths, about journalism and the world at large, into her head.
For one, she learned about the power of connections. “I definitely learned that networking is essential,” she said.
Another takeaway related to the intersection of race and gender.
“You have to work harder. I have to do more than the average person (as an African-American female),” she said.
To that end, Baker wants to encourage young minorities like herself to dream big. “It’s easy to give up on a dream because someone is trying to talk you out of it,” she said. “Anything you want to do is attainable.”
Baker shared a summary of her experiences at the conference on a blog. You can find it here: http://curlyblanco.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-breakdown-of-wjmc.html