September 14, 2021

The High School Journalism Program is one of the longest-running programs at Poynter. Founded along with the Institute in 1975, its goal is to give young people the chance to learn about writing and develop a passion for the values and craft of journalism.

Its new virtual iteration, which was redesigned in 2020 amid the pandemic by longtime program coordinator Sean Marcus, expands the prestigious opportunity beyond Poynter’s local Florida community. 

The 18 graduates of Poynter’s 2021 program are still hard at work applying the skills they learned. Rohan Baxi, a rising junior from Da Vinci High School in Davis, California, just released the most recent episode of his radio show for KDRT Public Radio. In it, he talks to MediaWise program manager Alex Mahadevan about the threats of misinformation. Baxi “learned a lot about journalism and fact-checking in the Poynter High School Journalism program and used all the new skills that I picked up in my radio show.” 

Other students are bringing the lessons home to their school publications. Ava-Claire Castleman, a rising senior at Harmony High School in Gilmer, Texas, is launching her school’s first online news site, assisted by the guidance she received during the virtual program.

The curricular anchors of the program were a narrative/personal writing module and a fact-checking module. Alongside instruction for both of these modules, students participated in sessions with guest speakers from a diverse range of media outlets. Students focused specifically on health reporting, with a session from WUSF/HealthNews Florida reporter Daylina Miller, and conducting interviews about sensitive and personal topics, with a session from Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times.

All participants wrote a personal essay and developed a pitch for a fact check. Several students were able to successfully complete their fact-check project in the short time frame of two weeks, while others worked diligently to focus on finding and pitching their story and beginning the research process. Their stories include: 

Does the NCAA own the name, image and likeness of college athletes? 

Fact-check: Needs context. 
By Luke Wallace
Carrollwood Day School, Tampa, Florida

Is it illegal to teach about Juneteenth in 15 states?

Fact-check: No.
By David Scibilia
Jamesville-DeWitt High School, DeWitt, New York

Did Naftali Bennett, Israel’s current prime minister, say, ‘I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that’? 

Fact-check: Needs context. 
By Calla Duffield
College Station High School, College Station, Texas

Is the Denver airport entangled in a government cover-up? 

Fact-check: No evidence. 
By Inaaya Firoz and Kylie Richardson
Tampa Preparatory School, Tampa, Florida
Okinawa Christian School International, Okinawa, Japan

Was the filibuster created to block civil rights acts? 

Fact-check: No. 
By Ava-Claire Castleman
Harmony High School, Gilmer, Texas

Read Poynter High School Journalism Program student work here. 

Poynter thanks the Dow Jones News Fund, TEGNA Foundation and 10 Tampa Bay for their support of the program.

Interested in supporting Poynter’s programs for youth and early career journalists? Consider making a gift at to make a difference today. 

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
A Poynter Staff byline indicates a variety of reporters contributed to an article, or that it represents the viewpoint of the overall staff. Where possible,…
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