Real-Life Journalism Opportunities for Aspiring Students


NFA Student Reporters Jack Holdsworth and Julia Florence pose with Fox61 Reporters Margaux Farrell and Keith McGilvery

Jack Holdsworth and Karen Lau

Jack Holdsworth, Staff Writer

The essence of NFA’s motto of “Providing opportunities, Preparing lives” can be found in the NFA Journalism Program and its partnership with Fox 61 News in Hartford. The class is co-taught by teachers Cheray Fitzgerald, who has a background in television production, and Tracey DeDonato, NFA’s English department head. Students in this program learn to conduct interviews, write and edit news articles, and produce video news, all while gaining real-world journalism experience in the community.

“You get to become a better writer, you get to be more involved with video  production, and you get to be more involved in your community. When we go out and when we do our projects, we learn to be more of a part of the community as far as our connections, getting to know the people behind the stories, and making that known and being able to produce something that’s true and good for the NFA community,” explained Julia Florence.

The work that the students produce is featured on Comcast’s Education Access Programming (Channel 12), a weekly morning news show at the school, the NFA Red And White multimedia news site, and on Fox 61 newscasts in the Student News segment.

“It gives [students] statewide recognition when it goes onto their news program, which is a big deal. We get on TV [at NFA], but Channel 12 is very limited to where it reaches. Fox61, they have a name, so they have more viewership than Channel 12,” explained  Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald also noted that professional journalists comments on students’ work greatly improves their journalism skills.

“I find that at least for us, when they critique our packages, I think it helps us grow, because I can give a critique, Mrs. DeDonato can give a critique,  but we become like Mom and Dad. We see the students every day, and they constantly hear feedback from us. When they get feedback from someone who does this for a living, in the business, I think that it adds value, and so the stories get better.”

The opportunity for students to view the work of journalism students from other schools has been another helpful component of the Fox 61 partnership.

“I get the opportunity to showcase my work outside the classroom, but also I enjoy that there are many schools in this partnership, so we can see not only other NFA packages, but from other schools as well,” commented lower Karen Lau.

Fitzgerald credits the unique partnership with Fox 61 with the many successful student outcomes that she has observed since 1995, when NFA first started participating in the program.

“We have had a lot of winners that go on to college and study communications. I could make a whole list [of students] who have benefited from participating in Fox. When they got to college, they had a leg up and they knew things that other people didn’t,” Fitzgerald explained.

Florence believes that she is benefiting directly from the student news program.

“It will give me more experience in the career field, because I’ve only seen it in the classroom, but being able to submit work [to a professional news station] is something that is more big picture and helps you understand how working in school, in this class, can become something better and bigger,” Florence remarked.

Every year, Fox 61 holds a Student News Awards ceremony during which they award scholarships to students who produce exemplary work. Last year, NFA student journalists Sydney Martin, Alivia Hamilton, Gabriella Chinigo, and Jack Holdsworth were nominated for Fox 61 awards, and NFA student journalists Aleysha Rivera Bocachica, Shea Gendron, and Bret Wood received awards for their work.

“We’ve won at least 24 [over the years]. We’ve always had a very strong program going into Fox,” Fitzgerald explained.

Student journalists feel that NFA’s partnership with Fox 61 has set them up for successful future careers in journalism.

“It gives me real world experience in the Journalism field, and it also gives me an opportunity to connect with other student journalists,” Lau said, adding that she plans on pursuing a future career in journalism.

With the success of the students far outlasting the work they produce, Journalism students, and their teachers are grateful for the resources and opportunities provided by the Fox 61 Student News program.