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Young Journalists Go To Washington

October 24, 2007
By Kathy Shapell
On Oct. 12, 15 local journalists got the interview of a lifetime. The young journalists, staff members of the Teen-Zine magazine, conducted an hour-long question-and-answer session with the chief justice of the United States.

The young reporters, who traveled to Washington, D.C., with chaperones for the interview, were treated to a private tour of the Supreme Court building, a courtroom lecture on the history of the Supreme Court and then the private interview with Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court.

The Teen-Zine reporters included Mariah Aldridge, Deizune Hunter, Kiki Leeper, Kendra Littleton, Keona Miles, Rebeka Miles, Reina Miles, Arianna Miller, Davon Miller, Maurice Miller, Lagara Prayear, Junessa Robinson, Courtney Smelley, Ieasha Walker and Dominique Winston.

Teen-Zine is a publication by teens for teens produced by middle and high school students who attend Laughlin Memorial Chapel in Wheeling.

It is sponsored by The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and Ohio Valley Parent magazine. Teen-Zine is published twice a year and distributed inside the Wheeling newspapers.

The mission of Teen-Zine is to inspire students to improve their literacy skills, while building confidence and self-esteem and expanding their life experiences.

This latest opportunity was arranged by writing to the chief justice and requesting an interview. The trip fulfilled the Teen-Zine project’s mission on many levels.

Research and lessons on the Supreme Court enabled the students to learn more about our nation’s highest court and to compile interesting questions to ask the chief justice.

Traveling to our nation’s capital, navigating the subway system, visiting the national monuments, exploring a new city, staying in a hotel and meeting the chief justice of the United States were broadening experiences that stretched these students to tackle new things.

Traveling to Washington, D.C.

Experiences such as these, which develop leadership skills and build confidence by expanding their life experiences, are significant factors in closing the achievement gap between at-risk minority youth and their non-minority peers.

“Because of this experience, these kids’ lives will be changed forever. They will be empowered to try new things and face new challenges,” said the Rev. James Ellison, director of Laughlin Memorial Chapel.

While in Washington, D.C., for the interview, the students also visited many national monuments, including the new World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and some of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.

The students would like to return to D.C. to visit the Frederick Douglass home and to continue learning about and exploring our nation’s capital. Perhaps more remarkable interviews will be in their future.

Meeting the Chief Justice

The chief justice of the United States is the head of the judicial branch of the federal government and presides over the Supreme Court of the United States, the only court specifically established by the Constitution.

There have only been 17 chief justices in the United States, a relatively small number given 217 years of history. Not many individuals have the opportunity to even shake hands with the chief justice, let alone to get to spend an hour talking with him. The Teen-Zine staffers are unique in that regard.

Before taking questions from the young journalists, Roberts spoke to the group for several minutes pointing out interesting facts about the courtroom itself, such as the meanings of the bas reliefs decorating the courtroom, where journalists typically sit during oral arguments and where the public sits during oral arguments, as opposed to the area for attorneys.

Interestingly, the public area and the section for attorneys are separated by a railing, or bar. He explained that the origin of the term “passing the bar” was in reference to attorneys being able to pass through this bar, or railing, to sit in this special section of the court room.

Roberts’ most relevant message to the students was that through hard work and perseverance, even ordinary people can do extraordinary things. The chief justice shared stories about his youth and the challenges of lacking the experiences of his peers upon entering college.

“It was very interesting to see that the chief justice started as a regular person and became so powerful in the courts,” said Reina Miles, an 11th-grader at Wheeling Park High School.

The students’ interview questions were wide ranging and probing.

Without giving away the details of the interview, this observer’s favorite question was a clever one involving Abraham Lincoln.

The full interview will be published in the upcoming issue of Teen-Zine.

 
 

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