For nearly two decades, St. Pete has been able to gaze through the eyes of its youngest creatives and scholars—student journalists. Midtown and Beyond is an exhibit created for and by students who are part of a three-school multimedia journalism magnet program.
The Studio@620 has hosted the exhibition since its inception. It showcases the work of student journalists from St. Petersburg’s Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High schools.
The opening reception on January 10 was virtual this year given pandemic and capacity restrictions. Program Coordinator Crystal Pruitt opened up the evening with her co-host, Nahshon Cooper, an eighth grader at John Hopkins Middle School. Pruitt explains that students also manned the cameras and technology behind the scenes for this historic, first-ever live broadcast.
“They are still beaming from being able to physically produce a live show,” says Pruitt. “It was an awesome hands-on experience for them.”
Late journalist and educator Cynda Mort founded the Journeys in Journalism program at Melrose Elementary school in 2001. Since then, the program has grown exponentially. Students are trained by news and media professionals in print, multimedia and photojournalism. They acquire skills in interviewing, videography and writing that serve them as they pursue careers in communications and beyond.
In his remarks on the livestream, Studio@620 founder and event sponsor Bob Devin Jones described this year’s exhibition as, “good, delicious nutrition for the soul, the eyes, the mind, and the spirit.” Another program sponsor, Marcus A. Brooks from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, commended the students and educators for adapting in a COVID environment, as well as speaking to the history of the Black community and embedding race equity into the bedrock of the program.
Standout images from this year’s work include a series of black and white photography, as well as unique looks at the pandemic. Among Pruitt’s favorites is a picture of a mask lying on the ground.
Other themes from this year’s exhibit include water conservation and social justice and equity. Pruitt says students are able to talk about important topics like healthcare and homelessness as part of their daily curriculum. Their thoughts and opinions are clearly
captured as you scroll through the virtual online gallery.
“The pandemic provided even more opportunities for us to engage in a multimedia format, which, across the industry, technology is pushing us in that direction,” says Pruitt. “We are making sure our scholars are prepared for this digital world we’re living in.”
Pruitt mentions how quickly schools adjusted to online learning, and how it has provided numerous chances for students to experience real-world aspects of the field. She says students utilized conferencing technology for classes and interviews. They shot video and photography on their phones and turned-out complete media packages.
For Pruitt, the Journeys in Journalism program has taken her professional career full circle. She was a student at Lakewood High School in 1984. An English teacher introduced her to journalism, which sent her on a journey to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the Tampa Bay Times.
Now, she spends her days offering resources and support to staff. However, she most enjoys working one-on-one with students. These young scholars’ journalistic dreams and ambitions bear a striking resemblance to her own, many years ago.
“Our student journalists are very important in helping to get the word out so adults can see things from their perspective,” says Pruitt. “This platform gives our students voices so they can tell their stories through their lenses and portray how they feel on certain topics in a safe and peaceful environment.
“I hope the gallery will inspire other young, aspiring journalists and that families will appreciate their creativity.”