Loyola University Chicago

School of Communication


Digital Storytelling Workshop a Success

Digital Storytelling Workshop a Success
By Nader Issa, SOC Web Reporter

High school students from across the country had the opportunity to sharpen their skills at the School of Communication’s 2016 High School Digital Storytelling Workshop.

The week-long program, which featured trips to Chicago’s Pilsen and Chinatown neighborhoods, provided attendees an opportunity to try different aspects of multimedia journalism.

From video storytelling in Chinatown, to writing articles in Pilsen to broadcasting live on Loyola’s WLUW radio station, students saw what a week in a School of Communication student’s life looks like.

But the educational experience wasn’t the only takeaway for many students. While learning about journalism, the students quickly made new friends, and some said they are still in touch.

Rachel Marr, a St. Charles, Illinois, native, said she talks to at least one of her workshop peers almost every day.

“I know I’m going to Michigan to go see [people I met at the workshop],” said Marr.” I would definitely do it again. It was a lot of fun, and you meet new people and see new perspectives.”

While Marr, 16, and many other high schoolers came to Loyola’s Water Tower Campus from Chicago and its suburbs, the group of 29 students included high schoolers from Michigan, North Carolina, Kansas, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Back closer to home, two students from Senn High School attended the workshop. School of Communication staff and students have volunteered at the Rogers Park high school for the past three years. 

Workshop mentor Mike Niche, a rising senior in the School of Communication with a broadcast journalism major, volunteered at Senn in the spring of 2016. Niche, 22, said he was excited to see Loyola’s presence at Senn encouraged students to apply for the workshop.

“Given the work that all these kids had done previously, specifically our kids from Senn, I think for them it was a lot of putting into action all that they’ve practiced and worked on in class,” said Niche. “Watching their progression of working on things we helped them with at Senn, then they’re coming here and doing it again was remarkable and inspiring.” 

One of those Senn students said he found his experience at the workshop to be a valuable one. Edgar Flores, a 17-year-old Rogers Park native, said he would recommend the workshop to his younger friends at Senn.

“I think it was pretty cool to get to connect with [Loyola faculty and staff] a little more,” said Flores, who said Loyola will be one of his top college choices when he applies to universities in the fall. “Since I actually want to go into journalism, I thought it was really awesome. If it weren’t for everybody coming from Loyola, I wouldn’t really be considering it as one of my top college choices.”

Michelle Bukowski, an administrative assistant in the School of Communication, had worked with the workshop the past two years as a chaperone. But this year, she was involved in a different capacity. Bukowski was tasked with working with Academic Advisor Kat Fraser to plan and organize the workshop.

Bukowski said she was pleased by how the week turned out. 

“If [journalism] is the road they want to go down, having them get a really good idea of what would be expected of them [was helpful],” said Bukowski, who will enter her fourth year in the School of Communication this fall. “I think they enjoyed having a week of getting to know what it’s like to be a college student. You’re meeting people that you would have probably never met before, and for the most part right now that is a good thing now that they’ve created these lasting friendships.”

Bukowski and Fraser had help in making the workshop run seamlessly. Associate Dean John Slania, Associate Professor Aaron Greer and WLUW General Manager Eleni Prillaman instructed the students every morning before moving to hands-on journalism work in the afternoons. Student Media Manager Ralph Braseth and four undergraduate mentors advised workshoppers and traveled to each neighborhood to assist with their work.

The group of four mentors included rising senior Grace Runkel, who worked at the workshop for the third straight year, Niche and Jamie Hiskis, the first workshop alumna to become a mentor. 

Runkel, the Editor-in-Chief of the Loyola Phoenix, Loyola’s student newspaper, said it was nice to see the students break out of their comfort zones and develop their skills throughout the week.

“The students are always so excited to learn about journalism and get a glimpse of the college experience,” said Runkel. “They weren't afraid to grab people on the street for interviews, and they never got deterred if their original story idea wasn't working.”

Flores, who met Runkel at Senn in the spring, said he appreciated all the work the mentors and staff put into the week.

“The [mentors] were really awesome, and it seemed like all of us really bonded,” Flores said. “If I didn’t go to the workshop, I would have never met any of these awesome people.” 

The workshop is expected to continue next summer on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus. Applications for the 2017 High School Digital Workshop will be available in January.