For kids, by kids

Fourth grade Bucks County resident selected from 400+ applicants to be a Kid Reporter for the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Last year, several reporters traveled to Washington, D.C., to interview former first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. These weren’t your seasoned CNN newscasters, but rather a group of 10- to 14-year-olds already ahead of the game in building up their resumes. These were the Kid Reporters of the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps, a program designed for the publishing company’s core demographic to promote the sharing of news for kids, by kids. This year, Scholastic welcomed 20 aspiring young journalists to the program, including Bucks County’s own Sarah Awadalla, an ambitious fourth-grader who resides in Yardley.

The big story: Out of a record-breaking 400 applicants, Bucks County’s Sarah Awadalla was selected as a 2017–18 Scholastic News Kid Reporter. PHOTO: Scholastic News Kids Press Corps.

The Scholastic News Kids Press Corps was created in 2000 with the idea the company’s readers could benefit from learning about elections and other current events from their peers. According to Press Corps editor Suzanne McCabe, parents may not realize national issues affect their children, but most are curious about what’s going on in the world.

As a kid reporter, these middle schoolers are able to get out in the field to address issues and topics they and their peers are interested in. They are free to cover everything from community events and national news to sports and entertainment, all while gaining real-life experience in the reporting world.

To become a kid reporter, an application must be submitted with a sample writing piece and story ideas they plan pursue if chosen. This year saw a record 400 applications, with 20 new and 24 returning kids selected for the 2017–18 season. Scholastic recently opened up the opportunity to other countries as well, so international coverage will come from countries such as Australia, China, United Kingdom and India.

Despite the competitive selection process, Awadalla came out victorious. When asked how it felt to be chosen out of so many applicants, Awadalla had one word to describe her emotions.

“Amazing,” she said with a smile.

Awadalla got a taste of journalism in the third grade when she had the opportunity to interview her music teacher, which she thoroughly enjoyed. By chance, her mother came across the Press Corps and suggested it to her daughter, who was open to giving it a shot, never believing she would be one of the lucky few selected.

Though she hasn’t reported on any stories yet, she already has a few ideas in mind, including an in-depth look at the murals throughout Philadelphia. Awadalla still has at least a decade to go before she needs to figure out her career path, but said reporting is a possibility. In the meantime, she’ll continue to explore her interests, which include math, soccer and horseback riding.

As far as how much and how often Awadalla and the rest of the kid reporters cover stories, McCabe explained it all depends on their schedule, since most are busy with school and other extracurricular activities. In the beginning, she’ll assist them in setting up interviews and brainstorming questions, but after some time they’re usually confident enough to reach out to contacts on their own.

Recently, one kid reporter in Austin, Texas, visited the Georgetown Municipal Airport to speak with volunteer pilots who were sending supplies to Hurricane Harvey victims. Another spent the day on the set of Young Sheldon, a spinoff of the hit comedy series The Big Bang Theory, and had the chance to interview the star of the show, Iain Armitage.

In the 2016–17 program year, many covered national events, including the presidential election, President Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington, while others interviewed notable figures such as Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., skateboarder Tony Hawk and co-host of ABC’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg.

By attending these historical events and interviewing such high-profile figures, the kid reporters gain a sense of maturity and learn how to hold their own while out in the field. Often, they’re covering news alongside seasoned adult reporters…who are much taller. According to McCabe, the kids become professionals at making their way to the front of any crowd.

They’re also obtaining real-life experience that can come in handy if they choose to pursue a journalism career later on. McCabe reflected on one Press Corps alumni currently in the field. Now a producer at NBC, he told her he owes much of his success to being a kid reporter, which helped shape him and become familiar with the media world at a young age.

For McCabe, the most important part of the Press Corps is the ability for kids to learn about the world and topics they care about from the viewpoint of other kids.

“By reporting age-appropriate, high-interest news stories, our kid reporters are helping their peers gain an appreciation for quality journalism and a broader understanding of the world so that they can become well-informed community members and voters of the future,” she said.

To view kid reporter stories, visit kpcnotebook.scholastic.com ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com