For nearly 70 years, Indiana University has been home to the High School Journalism Institute, a summer program for student writers, photographers, and yearbook staff members. Though I have only been a camper at HSJI for two summers now, I can honestly say that each two week period I spend there feels like a lifetime, due to the countless memories I make and abyss of knowledge I absorb. The summer of 2012 I attended the institute as a rising sophomore with not the slightest idea of what to expect. It was not only my first summer enrichment program but my first time traveling outside of Florida without my parents. If it wasn't for a loving push from my mother and the reassurance that came with a close friend accompanying me as my roommate, I would have never registered. Fortunately, I was able to get the best of my nerves, rather than vice versa, and I couldn't be more glad. Arriving in the small town of Bloomington, Indiana, I found an amateur journalist's safe haven. A place where 300 teens shared a mutual passion for the media, where being on one's school newspaper or yearbook staff received recognition rather than ridicule, where a picture could tell a thousand words just as vividly as a thousand words could create a picture. The variety of classes offered at HSJI, from basic reporting to a course specifically for editor-in-chiefs, resulted in a group ranging in experience. Skill differences, however, did not act as a social sever. Each classroom, as well as dorm floor, exuded a familial atmosphere in a matter of days, with instructors and dorm counselors never hesitating to extend a helping hand. My graphic design instructor taught me more in a week-long session than some past teachers have taught me in a semester while my Week 2 Converged Newsroom course was a hands-on learning mechanism that worked wonders on my reporting skills. Night games and activities, such as capture the flag and karaoke, were provided by the counselors each day as means of camper interaction and beyond journalism-fun. By the end of the program, friends, counselors, and instructors could be categorized under the single title of my second family. Immediately upon my return to Florida, I was filled with a sense of nostalgia as if my dorm at Teter Hall was my true home. Needless to say, all I wanted to do was return to HSJI, to continue building my strengths in the career field I wish to enter in the future. This past July, that's exactly what I did. It was as if I had never left. My counselors greeted me with the same open arms I had been wrapped in a year ago. My instructors not only remembered me but trusted me with the position of editor of our Week 2 publication. The only familiar faces missing were that of my friends from last year who did not return. I quickly made new ones, however, that I felt just as close to, if not more. After all, I was at HSJI, where finding people of my same age and interests is far from a feat. While last year I focused on graphic design, this summer I dedicated my session to online journalism, building two websites and immensely growing in the areas of videography and audio storytelling. I'm not certain what I'll be interested in learning by this time next year, my last summer of high school, but I without a doubt know where I'll be. I can only hope to meet some of you fellow writers and photographers there.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.