The Ida B. Wells Society ended its yearlong partnership with Riverside High School with stories of the triumphs, trials and teachable moments of newsgathering from the student journalists.
Members of the Society along with teachers, journalists and parents gathered for the capstone event at the Durham County Main Library on May 25.
The evening featured presentations by the students about the investigative projects that they completed over the last year, providing context into how they came up with the idea, why they felt it was important, what the biggest challenge was, what they are most proud of and more.
In addition to Ida B. Wells Society staff, Riverside teacher Bryan Christopher and the students, the event was attended by some of the students’ families, Riverside alumni, Ida B. Wells Society co-founder Ron Nixon, and Durham Public Schools staff and faculty.
“It’s an honor to be here and also great to be back in Durham. I spent an early part of my career here,” Nixon said. “This is something that we really wanted to support because it has to start early.”
The students’ coaches, Laura Brache of the News & Observer and Report for America and Thomasi McDonald of INDY Week were both present. The two coaches along with Christopher were presented with plaques for their dedication and service to this project by Ron Nixon and Ida B. Wells Society Director Rhema Bland.
During their presentations, the students spoke about the most helpful information that they took away from their coach with many of the students sharing how both Brache and McDonald pushed them to go further with their investigations.
“The biggest takeaways [from my coach] were learning how to dig deeper for research and asking more effective questions in interviews. I got a lot better at interviews and asking questions this year,” shared student Ethan Haine who wrote about Riverside’s carbon footprint and recycling.
Each student took their turn at the podium to share more about their investigative stories. Student Victoria Alcindor wrote her investigative piece on cultural appropriation, Deeper than hair: Students talk style and appropriation.
“What I’m most proud of is seeing the impact that the story had,” she said. “I saw students pick up the story and read it, who didn’t even know it was an issue and internalize it. It made me realize that it’s more than just a story. There is power and meaning behind everything that is written.”
Student Elena Paces-Wiles wrote two investigative pieces on why there are so few students of color in the Advanced Placement courses at their school titled Early opportunities create an unlevel playing field.
“My biggest takeaway is that investigative reporting is a critical field,” she said. “It informs people of society’s injustices and with that comes the opportunity to create change.”
Check out the links below to read the investigative pieces from even more Riverside students in the most recent editions of Riverside High School’s bilingual student paper, The Pirates’ Hook.
The Pirates’ Hook November 2021 including investigative stories on bilingual students helping ESL students learn, teacher shortages across the state and AP course offerings
The Pirates’ Hook March 2022 including investigative stories on air quality at Riverside, female students in male football and the effectiveness of homework
The Pirates’ Hook May 2022 including investigative stories on the poor state of Riverside’s bathrooms, mental health challenges for student-athletes and a deeper look at the school’s engineering program