21 students gather at the 26th annual workshop; key people tell how they sustained it over time.
When Daniella Cioffi stepped onto the University of Miami campus last July, she had no idea what to expect.
“I was wearing really casual clothing and we got to work right away,” said Cioffi, 18, a recent graduate of Miami Killian Senior High who will attend the University of Miami in the fall.
“I think that’s when I understood how serious and tedious this was going to be.”
Cioffi is a former participant of the James Ansin/Peace Sullivan Workshop in Journalism and New Media at the University of Miami, July 5-25.
The 2009 workshop offered 21 high school students from Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties the opportunity to create a tabloid newspaper, the Miami Montage.
This year, two students traveled from Puerto Rico and St. Petersburg to participate.
The students also worked on producing multimedia videos, a Web site and a blog.
“The program gives kids a chance that they normally wouldn’t have at their own high schools,” said Sam Grogg, dean of the UM School of Communication.
James Ansin and Peace Sullivan are major contributors of the program, along with the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and the Miami Herald.
James Ansin is the general manager of WSVN-Channel 7, the local Fox affiliate in Miami, while Peace Sullivan is a philanthropist, retired journalist and psychoanalyst.
Ansin and Sullivan offer a half scholarship to one workshop participant to pursue journalism at the School of Communication.
UM provides the other half, based on the student’s financial need.
“The best part about the scholarship is that it’s helping you make the commitment to a future in journalism,” said Steve Pierre, 18, a recent graduate of Miami Edison Senior High, and a former workshop participant.
“It’s a morale booster and a gift toward your dreams.”
Pierre and Cioffi share the 2008 Sullivan/Ansin scholarships at UM.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the workshop, which was founded in 1984 by Bruce Garrison, a UM journalism professor.
At the time, the workshop was a minority program, focused on introducing young journalists in the Hispanic and African-American communities to journalism.
“I thought it was important to bring diversity into our program,” said Garrison, in an e-mail.
The program began as a seven-day crash course. Garrison recalled the long nights and endless hours the students committed to produce the workshop newspaper.
“We never seemed to have enough money or enough time,” Garrison said. “But, in the end, it worked.”
Garrison left the program after 15 years and UM journalism professor Tsitsi Wakhisi took over. Then, the workshop grew to two weeks.
“Imagine doing all (this work) in a span of 10 days instead of three weeks,” Wakhisi said, a former Miami Herald editor.
With the help of Ansin and Sullivan, the program has evolved into an intensive three-week experience.
As the students work to produce the newspaper and multimedia, they are introduced to college life by living on campus.
Students adjust to living with a roommate, sharing bathrooms and facilities, and being away from their parents and homes.
“The dorms were a place to unwind coming back from a long day,” said Aura Altamiranda, 17, a former workshop participant and senior at Miami Sunset Senior High.
“That’s mostly where we got to know everyone. I was surprised how close we all became after the three weeks.”
The workshop also helps students understand the importance of teamwork.
“If one person on the team slacks off, the whole team suffers as a result,” said Robert Hosmon, vice dean of the School of Communication.
Professional journalists are brought in as guest speakers to introduce students to the journalism industry.
Former workshop participants, including Miami Herald foreign correspondent Jacqueline Charles, have gone on to work in broadcast and print journalism.
“I knew journalism was what I wanted to do,” said Rudy Tomarchio, a former workshop participant who now is a writer at WSVN.“The workshop is a good crash course in what it takes to be a semi-pro. You’re learning in a matter of days to do what professionals do every day.”
Yves Colon, the current workshop director and UM journalism professor, describes the main goal of the program.
“Hopefully we’ve stoked their interest during the three weeks that we are here,” said Colon, a former Miami Herald reporter and editor who is in his second year of directing the workshop.
“The students have had the opportunity of really doing great stuff, which encourages them to go on and do more.”