Woodlands Academy student part of special PBS project

Clara Bartusiak, a Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart sophomore from Lake Forest, is among a select group of 10 high school students nationwide chosen to participate in a special PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) project. It’s the result of a recently launched partnership between SRL and Close Up, a non-profit civic education organization that inspires students to become informed, active and engaged citizens.

Clara was selected based on her participation in Close Up’s Empowering Female Voices, which was offered to all Woodlands Academy sophomores and some seniors this fall.  Participating students explored pressing election issues with their peers from across the country. The SRL workshop provided an opportunity for those chosen to develop their video production and storytelling skills. In teams of two, they produced short videos highlighting diverse youth perspectives on pressing issues facing our country. 

Clara was teamed with Nashibo Benjamin, a sophomore from the U.S. Virgin Islands, for her SRL project. The topic of Clara’s video was preventing violent crime while Nashibo’s dealt with racial discrimination.

“We learned how to ask good questions when giving an interview, as well as how to adapt and stage virtual interviews through Zoom and other programs,” Clara said. “We then put together everything we discussed to edit videos of the person we interviewed. This experience has connected me with other students all over the country and helped me to realize that you are never too young to learn about and involve yourself with activities that interest you.”

On Dec. 8 Clara and the nine other students selected for this special SRL project showcased their videos to an audience of educators and community members during a special webinar event. They now can be viewed on YouTube.

Clara believes that all of her Woodlands Academy classes – especially Close Up’s Empowering Female Voices – helped prepare her for the program. “I was unsure that I would even be accepted, as I had never done anything like it before,” she said. “But I gave it a try and have discovered something new, and with it, learned that there are some things, such as storytelling or creativity, that I want to carry through my life and share with others.”

At this point, Clara is not sure where her career path will take her after graduating from Woodlands Academy. “I do know that I hope to do something with elements of creativity in it. Whether that's working as a video producer or journalist, I don't know, but I love telling stories –both fact and fiction.”

SRL is a national youth journalism program and public media initiative that trains teenagers across the country to produce stories that highlight the achievements, challenges and reality of today’s youth. It creates transformative educational experiences through video journalism that inspire students to find their voice and engage in their communities. Since 2009, SRL youth media producers have helped students place over 100 video news reports on PBS NewsHour’s nightly broadcast and more on local media outlets. Visit www.studentreportinglabs.org to learn more.