J-Day: The Experience of a Lifetime for Writers

Celia Parker-Fetterman, Writer

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On April 27th, 2018, students from different schools all around the state went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, for J-Day, or Journalism Day. Shortridge High School was invited to attend, and 9 students got to travel to Ball State to attend this conference. At Ball State, we heard from Lori Byers, who talked to us about this years theme “Stories Better Told, Lives Better Lived.”  She explained how to tell stories better by connecting personal experiences.

The scholars who went on this trip were then able to go attend different lectures, seminars, and sessions about different topics. The topics ranged from Legal Issues on Social Media to Documentary Filming to Conducting an Interview with a Puppy! J-Day was an amazing way for the scholars of Shortridge to discover new topics and improve their writing. Here are some of their experiences.

Tylyn Johnson, a senior and fellow writer for the Echo, had this to share:

“J-Day at Ball State was for me an exercise in understanding diversity in journalism and storytelling in general. Typically, when we discuss diversity, we’re referring simply to the characteristics of a person–their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, and socioeconomic status, among others. Kate Elliott’s session ‘Celebrating Diversity Through Storytelling’ really made me consider the importance of the stories we each have on another level. As an IB Scholar, I already understood that every human being has a unique perspective formed from their experiences, but I did not really think about the necessity of learning the personal stories of the people around me and in my community to fully grasp how media and policies might affect them, and how they come to their specific viewpoints.”

Another senior, Marysa Pike, saw and fell in love with the diversity aspect of the program.

“J-Day was an exquisite time for me that helped me open my eyes to what exactly I was getting into since I’m planning to major in journalism. My favorite part of the day, besides seeing Ball State’s beautiful campus, was learning about what others consider to be diverse. When I hear the word ‘diverse,’ my mind immediately travels to those of different races or sexualities, but that’s not only what makes something ‘diverse.’ It’s the representation of a multitude of people, whether they be skinny or fat, short-haired or long, everyone is diverse in their own way. Our past experiences are what makes us diverse. Diversity is a spectrum, and seeing only one part of it in the field of journalism can hurt you. I also really liked learning the dos and dont’s as a college freshman.”


James Szalkie, a fellow Echo writer and freshman, learned the techniques of journalism that can help him become a better writer:

“I learned a lot of things at J Day this year. I learned about laws, techniques to use, different kinds of equipment. I met many people who had one thing in mind, being a journalist, or another, but they had an interest in journalism none the less, or simply, they wanted to miss a day of school. But, what I learned the most about the forms of a story. There are many forms a story can take, and in our lives, we fulfill many. What I learned at J day was a new way to capture them, and to share them with others.”

Zoe Bardon also learned more about journalism and photography:

“I truly enjoyed and learned so much during J-Day. I had the opportunity to learn so much about the laws surrounding copyright issues. As a writer, I am not generally in charge of photography, but at J-Day, I learned how to take better quality photos with my own phone. I also was a part of a very meaningful discussion about diversity with students all across Indiana. It was very cool to see such open-mindedness all across Indiana in a time where our country is so polarized politically. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to go to J-Day; I feel like I learned so much about journalism, myself, and my community. I hope more students across Indiana will have this opportunity next year.”

Jenna Clay is now using this trip to Ball State to better herself as a writer:
“I loved going in our J-day trip. It was really cool being around so many other people who had similar interests to me. I learned a lot about opinion writing and photojournalism and had such amazing opportunities to meet actual journalists who started writing at about my age. I would totally go again if I could.”

J-Day at Ball State inspired many young people throughout the state to follow their future in journalism and to keep writing, no matter what happens in your life.

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