Westland Hialeah, Robinson High Schools win inaugural newsroom grants

SPJ Florida is proud to award its inaugural high school newsroom grant to Westland Hialeah Senior High School, located in Hialeah, and Thomas Richard Robinson High School, located in Tampa.

Both schools will receive $500 to go towards their media programs.

“We already have an established scholarship program for college journalists, and it’s been a goal of the board to help high school journalists as well,” explained Christiana Lilly, SPJ Florida president and chairwoman of the board’s Scholarship Committee. “We’ve heard so many stories of how students and their advisers are restricted in growing their programs because they do not have the monetary support, and we hope this grant will help alleviate that.”

The first $500 grant will be awarded to Westland Hialeah, where more than 250 students are enrolled in the 6-year-old Digital Media Program.

“Our equipment is quickly becoming outdated,” said Lisa Espinosa, the program’s founder and adviser. “Recently, we suffered a huge loss in that our wireless microphones no longer work. After countless hours talking to various techs . . .  it seems that the frequencies our wireless mics run on have changed by the FCC. In short, all our microphones are obsolete.”

The program does not have the money to purchase a new microphone receiver and transmitter for its morning announcements, and students have sold DVDs of school productions to help raise money. With the grant, they will be closer to purchasing the equipment needed.

Of the Title 1 school, Espinosa said that many of her low-income students have been able to use their new skills in photography and film in the workforce when they graduate high school, helping them save for college.

“I prepare them for the real world in which if they are good employees, they will be able to pay for their college themselves,” she said. “My philosophy is give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

In Tampa, Robinson High School’s media program exploded when the print and online newspapers were combined into one staff — from five students to 40 in just one year.

“It’s been a real challenge because we have had to publish twice as often and are constantly working on two separate publications. But, because we do not have permission to touch yearbook’s money, we have absolutely no freedom to get new gear to improve our publications,” Macy McClintock, the managing editor of Robinson High School Knightwriters and RHStoday.com, said in her grant application.

With the money, the staff will be able to purchase photo and video equipment to continue creating visual media.

Read here for more information about the grant.

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