The Youth News Team program is funded by The Philadelphia Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through a grant to WHYY. Below you will learn more about the five student teams (four composed of five high school students each and one composed of 5 middle school students) that were selected from an overall pool of 17 high school team applications and 41 middle school individual applications. Learn more about the student reporters here.


Middle School: 
Youth News Team’s middle school team was drawn from a city-wide competition which included 41 student applicants. The five selected represent the middle schools of J.R. Masterman, Girard Academic Music Program, William Meredith Elementary School, and General George A. McCall Middle School


Emily Lederer

Headshot - Emily LedererBio: My name is Emily Lederer and I live in Northeast Philadelphia. I recently graduated from 8th grade at J.R.Masterman, where I will be attending high school. My favorite subjects are English and History.Every week in 7th and 8th grade, we had to research and write about a current event, including our opinion on the topic. These assignments brought together two subjects I love: writing and politics.


Essay: Covering the Convention would be an absolutely incredible experience. I have a very serious interest in politics and I have been closely following this election. Politics is always a discussion in my household and has been for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to my parents watching recordings of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show and, in first grade, I went door to door with my mother, passing out flyers for the Obama campaign. Being a part of this program will assist me with my political knowledge and make me more well informed about the world of politics and journalism, a subject that I am also very interested in.It would also be amazing to get to share what I have learned with my family and have even more conversation with them about what is happening in the political world. I would love to be able to talk to the candidates at the Convention, though it might be unlikely. It would be very interesting to talk to high ranking public officials and to learn from the delegates a little bit more about the Convention. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would definitely treasure it forever.

Paige Cheatham

Bio: Paige Cheatham is a rising 8th grader at Wm. Meredith School in Queen Village.  An avid musical theater fan and actress, Paige is also passionate about writing and journalism and was one of the first to be featured on Mighty Writers radio.  Paige’s ambition is a career in broadcast journalism, right after she appears on Broadway and wins a Tony Award.


Essay: Breaking news! Meredith Middle School student Paige Cheatham has been chosen to cover the Democratic National Convention!  Can’t you just imagine a proud principal announcing this at school if I am chosen for this program?  It would not only give me an opportunity to kick start my journalism career, but also give me the chance to learn more about what the presidential candidates want to do for our country. It would be amazing to meet any of the over 4,800 delegates from around the country knowing that the fate of the Democratic nomination is in their hands. This opportunity would afford me the chance to understand and hear about the election process and to be able to write about it for other kids. Do you realize that kids my age will be able to vote in just two more election cycles?  How can we take on that honor, that responsibility if we don’t understand how the process works?  I want to be the one to bring that perspective to the coverage of the convention.  Attending the convention would also let me gain a better understanding of  the Democratic party platform. Finally, working with professional journalists would give me rare insight into my desired career.  Not many middle schoolers get the chance to have the superstars of their chosen profession work with and mentor them. I hope that you will consider me for this honor and allow me to be a part of history in the making! Thank you.

Isaak Popkin 

Headshot - Isaak PopkinBio: My name is Isaak Popkin and I am from Philadelphia. I am interested in government and politics, history, baseball, photography, jazz, and many other things. I think that journalism is a great way to express and share my experiences and interests in the political world.


Essay: This year the Convention comes to Philadelphia at a time when I am quite interested and involved in the political world. Covering the Democratic convention will give me an opportunity to see two thing that I love at their best: The city of Philadelphia and government/politics. This opportunity will allow me to further my experiences with both writing and government. I have spent the greater part of this year involved in an online government simulation with kids my age all across the country. The sim taught me interesting things about how government works. Being one of the lone liberals in the game I was forced to defend my ideology and compromise on legislation. It has overall been a great learning experience to prepare me for real world engagement in government and to cover and learn about the convention. Not only has my love for politics grown this year but so has my love for history. In my American History class we have spent a lot of time learning about our country’s political history. By doing this program I would have the opportunity to see the continuation of the story in action and be a part of it. To cover the convention, I would like to interview people working on the candidates‰Ûª campaigns, as well as members of the DNC. This will allow me to understand the convention through both biased and unbiased views, and to share my interest and understanding of the political system with other Philadelphians.

Sophia Ortiz

Bio: Sophia Ortiz attends General George A. McCall public school in Philadelphia, and will be entering sixth grade in the fall. Sophia loves acting, playing basketball, and writing. She has a particular interest in writing and reporting on school funding and educational issues. This year, Sophia helped create a news video on school funding that was shown to members of City Council. Sophia is very excited to be part of the middle school Youth News Team.


Essay: Being able to learn about journalism and cover the DNC convention would be an amazing experience! I have always wanted to be a reporter and cover sports and important events, but actually being able to would be phenomenal. I have written about school events for our class newspapers, including articles about McCall Relays and school fundraisers.  When I was younger I would make little newspapers that included stories about my neighborhood, and print them out. Even at a young age I would write stories for fun. A student reporter would let people see things from a kid’s point of view and it would also be so interesting to cover the DNC, which only happens every four years. I love to write and I’m very observant. I think I would have a unique perspective that many grown-up reporters would not. One person I would hope to speak to is Zoe Garmendia, because she is the Deputy CEO for Logistics, and has a lot of experience with Conventions. She would have good information not only about the politics, but how a convention is organized. She has been working on DNC conventions for over 20 years. This convention would be exciting to cover as a student reporter because of the two leading candidates.  If I had the opportunity, I would ask both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders how they would use the presidency to help public schools, especially city schools.  If selected, I would create some good stories that would wow the world!

Yi Huan Yang

Headshot - Yi Huan YangBio: My name is Yi Huan Yang and I am 12 years-old. I am from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and will be attending the seventh grade of Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP). I am interested in fashion design, cooking and reading. Student reporting appeals to me because I can see situations from different points of views rather than just from the view of one person.


Essay: Covering the convention and sharing my personal experience will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I want to go to this program to increase my knowledge of how presidential candidates are chosen, what reporters do and how I can help others. This experience will also help with my communication skills. I love reading stories, but this time, I hope to tell the stories for others to hear. I will be able to meet important people and ask them questions that have been piling up in my brain for so long. Growing up to immigrant parents, I want to learn more about immigration policies. Learning about budget cuts to public education from my teacher, I want to share my experiences with these people and learn from them. Where I live, educational programs cost lots of money. Hearing him speak once, I want to ask Mayor Jim Kenny how he makes the decisions that affect the residents of Philadelphia and its future. To learn more about how the convention works, I want to speak with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Amy Dacey. I would like to ask them how they each handle all the unexpected situations that can happen and the different opinions that a diverse group of people have at the convention. Gaining these answers and this opportunity would be a great chance to increase my knowledge and improve my storytelling ability. This historic event would afford me new experiences that I will be able to benefit from in the future.

Middle School Team

32Bio: Middle School Team came all across Philadelphia schools.  The team will be lead by Lorraine Ustaris who is a multimedia storyteller currently enrolled at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, where she studies documentary filmmaking and experiments with 360 video. Before transitioning into journalism, she taught high school English in the School District of Philadelphia for six years. In 2012, she won the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. As an educator, she collaborated with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for several years. She has presented her work at numerous local and national conferences on education and media. Her writing, photography and video work have been featured on, New York’s Amsterdam News, and on the Pulitzer Center Website. She is based in New York/Philadelphia. Follow her on Instagram: @lorraineustar.

Girls’ High
The Philadelphia High School for Girls, also known as Girls’ High, is a public university-preparatory magnet high school for girls founded in 1848. The school is located at Broad Street and Olney Avenue in the Olney section of Philadelphia.
Amina Thomas

Headshot - Amina ThomasBio: Amina Thomas is a hard-working, self-motivated high school student who attends the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She has an interest in politics and a passion for contemporary issues. Her interest in politics and her desire to learn have motivated her to take part in the WHYY Youth Video Journalism course. She sees this as an opportunity to become more aware of the issues and to fully experience the inner workings of our country’s political system.

Essay: Leaders from across the country are going to gather in Philadelphia to select the democratic nominee for president. I would like national leaders to know about the problems plaguing Philadelphia instead of seeing the city as one giant historical site, simply seeing a symbol rather than the city. I would like these national leaders to know how poverty and mass incarceration has stricken our beloved city. Philadelphia is rated one of the top ten most populous cities in the nation for deep poverty. This poverty affects the city’s education system, crime rates, and child development. The city’s education is extremely underfunded, a fact which is evident in comparison to the condition of private schools in Philadelphia. Poverty leads many parents to send their children to neighborhood schools, schools that are underfunded, lack technology, and lack the stimulating environment for the development of children. Deep poverty also breeds crime and increased criminal activity. Poor people turn to illegal means to supplement their income. This increased criminal activity leads to increased incarceration rates. Mass incarceration leads the city to build more prisons and rehabilitation centers with federal dollars. Money that should be directed into the education system and the communities in need. These problems create a vicious cycle of deterioration in the community. I would like to ask delegates how they propose to change this cycle. How are they going to make a good education accessible to everyone? How do they propose to improve the lives of impoverished inner-city individuals? What are they planning to do about the nation’s ridiculously high incarceration rate which takes federal money away from the other important issues that the nation is facing? What will be done about the nation’s gun control policy? What of our nation’s foreign affairs? Will we continue in the War on Terrorism long after we have discovered that the war was started on false allegations? Will the War on Drugs finally stop targeting minorities? Will they finally response to the Flint water crisis? I want to ask these questions to ensure that the delegates understand the real issues. I want to ensure that the interests of the people of this nation are being taken into account. I would hope that through my reporting at the convention, I would be able to bring the issues to the delegates. Sometimes when people don’t have to personally confront an issue, they choose to ignore it, or simply forget it exists. I would hope that by reporting at the convention I could help promote awareness, even to people who live in Philadelphia but don’t have to deal with the same plight as others. Promoting awareness is the most I can hope for, and maybe just maybe the selected nominee will be able to help our city in our time of need. I hope that you will consider all that I have shared today and find it worthy of attendance in your program. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

Xani Wise

Headshot - Xani WiseBio:  Xani Wise is a Junior at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Her favorite sports are softball and basketball. She aspires to become an attorney (prosecutorial) one day and is deeply concerned about problems that affect inner city youth. She is looking forward to learning more about the political process by which presidential candidates are selected while learning how to be a video journalist.


Essay:This July when leaders from across the country gather in Philadelphia to select a nominee for president, I would want national leaders to know about how poverty, lack of education, and violence affects the neighborhood where I live. I would want the national leaders to think about how many kids don’t have access to meals, other than the ones provided to them in school. Many children that live in the poorest locations are not on the proper reading level for the grade that they are in. Children that are struggling in school are more likely to dropout, and turn to criminal activity, such as gangs. I would want national leaders to know about these issues because they are similar to the issues that cities across the nation face.I would like to know how they would deal with these issues and how they would put plans into place so these issues can be resolved. The questions that I would ask delegates would be: How would they deal with issues facing police brutality and their interaction with the public? What plans do you have to lower college tuition so more students are able to better themselves, and in turn improve the nation? How do you plan on addressing the issues of terrorism, and how will you prevent breaches of national security? My reporting during the convention would help increase the understanding of these issues because I would make sure each of the national leaders understood each of the issues facing my neighborhood, and would ensure that all of the delegates hear my questions, and that they gave complete answers, with their own opinions, that would help others understand how national leaders felt about these issues.

Janet Pennington

Headshot - Janet PenningtonBio: Janet Pennington is a Junior at The Philadelphia High School for Girls. She describes herself as a caring person who is always willing to help someone. She believes that anything can be conquered with a little hard work and doesn’t believe in sitting around waiting for things to happen. She is excited by the learning experience the WHYY Youth Video Journalism course will provide.


Essay: If I had the opportunity to interview a candidate at this year’s democratic convention I would ask so many questions. First starting with abortions, do you think that a woman should be allowed to make her own decision on whether she wants to have an abortion? In my opinion I think women should have the right because you never know the situation that may have caused them to get pregnant. Some women may just not be ready to become parents while others may have been sexually assaulted and just can’t bear the thought of having their offender’s child. I would also ask what is America’s biggest threat and are you prepared to handle that threat? I believe the public has the right to know that if something was to happen today or tomorrow that we would be ready, basically that were not just sitting ducks waiting to be overthrown. Another topic I would like to address is WIC also know as food stamps, what are your plans for that. I’m pretty sure this is a question that mothers all around the world would like to know. A mother wants stability and to know that if something was to go wrong then she could still take care of her family. Also I would like to know what are your views on gun control. Statistics say that there are “270 million firearms possessed by civilians, and only 897,000 carried by police.” So do you think that it’s right for people to be able to carry around weapons? I mean if there are more civilians with guns than the police then how can you ensure the safety of everyone. Reporting at the convention could really help bring awareness to these different topics.

Rashiyah Powell

Bio: Rashiyah Powell is a Junior at The Philadelphia High School for Girls. She loves to voice her opinion and ask questions to get a better understanding of things, and too understand opposing points of view.  Rashiyah is a great listener and observer, which she considers to be, among her best qualities. She is looking forward to the new experiences that the WHYY Youth Video Journalism course and Democratic National Convention will provide.


Essay: What I want national leaders to know about is lack of jobs that pay above minimum wage. This is becoming a growing problem where I live because the government has money to build up the infrastructure but when it comes to building and improving the minds of the people that are living here, there is a lack of understanding that we need better education and help keeping the schools together. So as a result of this blindness to the growing needs to keep us citizens educated, this young generation begins to have the mindset that we have to be rich for anything to matter in our environment. This ties into jobs that pay above minimum wage because it is getting harder and harder to find. We won’t be able to reach anything higher than the poverty line if we can’t find a job that pays good. In this generation the mentality of the teenagers are beginning to be that the only way we can make it in this neighborhood/the world is if we move somewhere far away, although for some of for the young men of this generation,they see illegal “fast money” as their only real opportunity. Philadelphia is supposed to be the city of brotherly love and America is the “home of the brave, land of the free”, and supposedly the country of opportunity, but the opportunity is so hard to come by in the neighborhood that I live, and the opportunity is generally not available if you don’t make a decent amount of money. Philadelphia will never be the city of brotherly love if brothers are constantly put in places where they feel as though the only option is to kill each other to make a come up that education is supposed to provide you with since “education is the key to success”. It seems as though this country is going backward in time, with the tactic of education because the lack thereof seems to affect the young males of our environment more than the females but that still does not mean that the women are not affected by that same education system both positively and negatively. The questions that I would like to ask of the delegates would surround what their plans are to turn this situation around. How will you implement the plan given the present climate that everyone seems to be convinced somehow that the young black male and female is the enemy? What programs would you set up to better the education and the job situation in my neighborhood? Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity?Why? If not how do you plan to aid in making it a better place that offers more opportunity for its people, mainly the less fortunate, beings though you are a fortunate individual? My reporting during the convention can help to increase the understanding of these issues because not only am I a teenager that is affected by this growing epidemic, but i can offer my view of what is going on around me everyday. I live in these problems and the consequences in their lack of understanding will only make things harder on me as i grow with my neighborhood breaking down and getting worse around me. I will confront the delegates with my wish that whoever gets elected will address the issues, will change these conditions and the suffering for young people like myself will stop.

Mahfuza Chowdhury

Bio: Mahfuza Chowdhury is a senior and International Baccalaureate student at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Her hobbies are playing video games, animating and record videos or voices. Through the WHYY Video Journalism program Mahfuza hopes to learn more about video recording, video editing and voice recording. She is also looking forward to learning about Journalism and experiencing the Democratic National Convention.Mahfuza Chowdhury is a senior and International Baccalaureate student at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Her hobbies are playing video games, animating and record videos or voices. Through the WHYY Video Journalism program Mahfuza hopes to learn more about video recording, video editing and voice recording. She is also looking forward to learning about Journalism and experiencing the Democratic National Convention.


Essay: Philadelphia, known to be a historical land for our nation, the very place where our country has gained the freedom to be known as a country, a place when people had to escape from control of slavery, just to gain freedom that they deserve. Yet in the current generation have been degraded to a series of crimes and issues, that we as the people must solve, but instead many choose to neglect. Issues such as thievery, kidnapping, bullying, and discrimination in religion or race. Question that a reporter should give to the leaders are; would you agree to the list of issues that were mentioned and an significant issue to the people, and what you you do in solving the issues? How can the delegates deduce crime in the streets of our town let alone our nation? With racial and religious discrimination, as a free country why should people that are innocent forced to go through views that are stereotypically made, and how should it be stopped? What will you do to stop bullying before it reaches to the point where majority of children commit suicide? In the mindset of a reporter, It is best to look through the lives of the people who has gain personal experience or follow a profession into solving these crimes. Share their stores and their ideas in solving these situations so that our country won’t have to go through the countless issues that has been repeated throughout the years just to be ignored and to grow only worse overtime. It is time to give awareness to the situation at hand and extinguish the problems once and for all. Not just for the people that exist but also for the future of the next generation.

Jaylynn Green

Headshot - Jaylynn GreenBio: Jalyn Green is a Junior at The Philadelphia High School for Girls.  She is a very hard working individual, is quite friendly and is very excited to participate in the WHYY Youth Video Journalism course.  She is deeply concerned about problems that are plaguing urban communities, especially crime and gun violence.  She plans on paying close attention to the Democratic platform in regards to these and other issues.


Essay: My name is Jalyn Green and I strongly feel that national leaders should know about the issues on crime rate affects the neighborhood where I live dearly. To continue I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. Not much negative action is seen, which is a delight to feel somewhat safe in your own living space. I use the word somewhat to manifest living in an environment where not a lot action is seen doesn’t necessarily mean trouble isn’t five minutes away. With stories of murder, robbery and etcetera being displayed on the news in the city of Philadelphia, puts not only fear but stress on people who are looking for a safe environment to live. This includes people who are trying to start a family or trying to get back on track from previous life crisis. Furthermore, as I previously spoke on crime rate, the affect is clearly there when you have alarm systems on not one but multiple homes. Some questions I might ask delegates is, what would be on the agenda to decrease crime rate for the country? What safety precautions would you work on to put in place, with the rise of gun violence around the country? What are your concerns with underprivileged young adults lack of education due to funding? I feel these questions are accurate for our country’s current events, that are frequently happening in the news. Boost in crime rate has increased dramatically over the course of years and is something that needs to be highly taken care of. To proceed the lack of gun control has made an extreme affect on the country for many years up to today’s current time. Many occasions have been tragically interrupted by gun violence. For instance, you have mass shootings taking place in schools, movie theaters, churches and more to come if, a highly needed change isn’t made. When it comes to underprivileged young adults lack of education because of funding eventually becomes disturbing. To know a young adult can not get the proper education due to a possible single mother, a single father, foster care and the list goes on. This is disturbing to know not having the proper financial aid can change some one’s entire life because they’re not given the chance of education due to money. My reporting during the convention could definitely help increase the understanding of these issues. To support my statement precisely, I am a 16 year old adolescent girl. To have someone young vividly seeing the issues in our country and be able to speak on them means a lot. My reporting can also increase the understanding of the issues because it’s showcasing the affects it is currently having on young children and young adults. To resume we are the future, and if the present time can’t be fixed imagine a world full of the present as the future. To conclude the youth today maybe the future of tomorrow but it doesn’t mean we can’t participate in making a better one today.

Girls High Team

Shayna Allie

Headshot - Shayna Allie FLCBio: Shayna Allie is an honor roll student at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She is participant n various school activities such as Sccer, Service Club and Video Club. In the Video club she learned about camera setup and video editing which has influenced her strong interest in videography. I have many hobbies outside of school like playing instruments, reading, skateboarding but photography would be one of my faorites. I am looking forward to learning more about video journalism and the Presidential nomination process.


Essay:As a country we have many underlying issues that affect our younger and future generations that are not addressed by our national leaders. In order for leaders to create a progressive future for the country, they need to take in account the issues affecting large groups of people in a negative way and search for a solution, focusing on pleasing the many people struggling constantly to obtain the privileges some people already hold. National leaders should know that the many issues of our society hinder the progression of the city of Philadelphia and our nation as a whole, these issues are so ingrained into our society that they are considered normal and play a large part in the view that the world has of the U.S. , causing a damper to our image as a free and accepting country. To name a few, issues of this account include religion-based discrimination, gun control, costs of higher education, and LGBT rights. A few questions I would ask of delegates in reference to religious discrimination are: How would you combat harassment based on the religious background of a group of individuals? In America discrimination of any kind is considered destructive and immoral in society then why are we refusing Muslim refugees based on their religious background? Several questions I would ask on the gun control issue are: Regarding the second amendment, how would gun violence in Philadelphia and the rest of the country be decreased? In Philadelphia crimes involving young people with guns have been increasing, how would the pr oblem of unregistered guns in thepossession of underage people be solved? Questions I would ask about education costs are: Many students seeking higher educationare not in a good financial aid state to pay for tuition, how would you cater to these students? The cost of a typical four-year college has doubled to almost $14,000 dollars a year, given that the money provided by financial aid has only risen to less than 2,000 dollars over the past decade, how would you fix this flawed system? A few questions i would ask in the case of LGBT rights are: Many people still hold negative views towards the LGBT community, will a method to lessen these views be introduced into society in any way? If LGBT rights are included in the humans rights law, why has not any action against public discrimination in schools, such as in proms, taken place? Why do only 12 states in the U.S. have laws that prohibit discrimination in schools on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, while 33 states have no laws protecting LGBT students? What will be done about the 28 states that have no non-discrimination laws for the LGBT community and the 3 states that enforce the prevention of non-discrimination laws? My reporting during the convention will help increase understanding of these issues by informing the delegates and people of the problems many people face that they aren’t aware of. If the issues mentioned are taken under consideration by the delegates,representation of these issues would increase in politics resulting in the increase of public awareness along with the number of people contributing to a solution to these large issues.

Franklin Learning Center
FLC is a Philadelphia High School that offers programs of study in Computer Science, The Academy of Public Health, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Instrumental and Vocal Music, Dance, Business Administration, and College Prep. FLC was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School Of Excellence in 1992 and again in 2010. In 2014 and 2015 FLC received the Keystone Award for Academic Excellence from the Department of Education.


Quetana Honore 

Bio: I am a 16 year student from Franklin Learning Center. My main focus is stressing and acknowledging police brutality and other touchy subjects in this country and sharing them with others.


Essay: Nation leaders must know that issues that are not resolved affects neighborhoods I live in and visit. Such as police brutality, Many cases around my city people of all ages are treated unfairly and are victims of abuse. Which is coming from people in society that are here to protect. If they do not crack down on the training of police officers and make a very precise decision on who is in a position of authority in the city then there will be many abusers of this power. It is very important to me as a concerned member of society to make sure nation leaders hear our issues and make a change. Questions I would like to ask delegates are, What is your opinion on putting an end on the unfairness in the justice system? What ways can we get public schools more opportunity to make education for students more advanced to get ready for the real world. My reporting during the convention will help to increase the understanding of this issue because I am passionate about the subjects and I have researched and learned on my own and I am a big supporter standing up for our rights and stopping the mistreatment and resolving issues in this country. I am willing to invest in making a big understanding in these subjects I stand for.

Visakha Bun 

Bio: I’m a 17 year old who loves media and film. I also love politics and care deeply about the future of America.


Essay: My name is Visakha Bun. I’m 17 and I attend Franklin Learning Center High School in Philadelphia. Fortunately, the high school I attend is a public school, so my struggling family does not have to directly pay for my education. This is something I’ve been lucky to have for the past 12 years of my educational career. As many people know, if I decide to attend a college, without scholarships, it will be very costly to me and my family. All over the city of Philadelphia, there are so many intelligent young minds that have so much potential but do not have the finances to excel in their academic career. Not to mention the personal growth you have when you attend college. It’s very difficult in this time period to find a substantial job with only a high school diploma, but this is the problem that a lot of young Philadelphians face. Life is constantly in motion and cannot take a pause for your problems, you have to feed yourself and your family. Desperate times call for desperate measures and young adults turn to crime related jobs in order to make ends meet. On the other hand, if they decide to go to college with the little money they have, they will take out loans and be enslaved to the debt their entire life. I see this problem affect my community every day. If they go down the path of questionable ways, they live with the fear of being ripped from the families they are so desperately trying to take care for. Yet, many take this risk because it’s the only way they can get what they need to survive. This is a cycle that people in areas like Philadelphia face. It’s not recent. Many generations have gone through this. I know so many families in Philadelphia that have no member of their family attend college due to the hefty price tag. If the young could afford college, they would be off the streets and out of jail.

Syreeta Williams

Bio: I am from West Philadelphia and currently attend Franklin Learning Center HS. I enjoy doing things that allow me to gain more skill and knowledge. Some of these things include writing, researching, and reading more about current topics that have a huge impact on today’s society.

Essay:  As a young African American female living in West Philadelphia there are various problems that I can identify that affects me, my family and overall my community. Problems such heavy drug usage and policing to poor neighborhood schools with little opportunity for my younger siblings to learn in a positive environment. These various issues interfere with and affect my neighborhood because they continuously cause the younger and older people of my community to make the wrong choices. For example, with poor funding in schools especially neighborhood schools, there is more of a chance for the kids to not be interested in going and staying in school because of lack of materials. From experience most of the teachers don’t care if you stay in school or not. With the lack of interest in school students tend to skip school and sometimes engage in the wrong activities, which can turn into something bad quickly. With younger siblings attending a neighborhood school this constantly worries me because they could easily be pressured to follow their friends and possibly get into unwanted trouble. A question I have for the delegates in shaping the future if this country is how do they plan to attack the smaller problems that play a huge role in most of today’s biggest problems? And what do they think the biggest problems are today in our country? Having the opportunity to report during the convention can help with understanding of the issues identified because its coming from someone who’s actually experienced whatever the issue may be, so it’ll be easier to explain without any hesitations.

Sophie Lubin 

Bio: I love to learn about different cultures and read books. Journalism really interests me because I also love to write and discover new information.


Essay: Hello, my name is Sophie Lubin. I attend Franklin Learning Center, which is located in Center City Philadelphia. Although I attend a school that is located in a part of Philadelphia that is considered welcoming, I live in an area where it is considered the complete opposite. Growing up in North Philadelphia, I’ve experienced viewing many robberies and shootings. Even though I was viewing these things from the screen of my t.v., I still felt unsafe in my own home. Crime around the country has been more prominent than ever, especially because of issues that are bias. Men, women, and children have all been dying due to police brutality, and many people believe that it is due to their race, are or sex. All are factors that should have nothing to do with the death of a person. Even if police officials are convinced of their crimes, they are almost always convicted of no indictment by the jury. Crime affects all neighborhoods in Philadelphia because it teaches youth that things might not ever change and discourages everyone in the community from trying to make a change. When a community is discouraged, they might not ever try to press for a change in their government. College education is also a big issue of the youth in Philadelphia. Most youth believe that college is unattainable to them because of the high costs. This discourages them further, which teaches them to believe that college education is unimportant. As delegates shape their proposed agenda for the country, I would like to ask them many questions. Firstly, I would ask them about what they would do to keep the youth off the street? Would they create centers where any youth could go to get help for certain situations? Also, what are they going to do with all of the unjust police brutality going on in the country? How are they going to keep everyone in the community positive and encourage them that things can change? Will they teach everyone in the community how they can make a difference in their government? Secondly, I would ask them why the college tuition is so high. The college tuition is a major problem in this country and especially for immigrants who can only attend college under certain circumstances. What can we as a country do to solve these problems? With the help of others, we can formulate even more questions to ask the delegates. My reporting during this convention will help to increase the understanding of these issues because I will be able to work with others to get an in depth explanation on the topics that we are passionate about. Growing up, I’ve had these questions running through my mind constantly, and because I can relate to them, I would love to have these questions answered. I would also be able to work on my journalism skills so that I can know how to properly gather and give out information. I feel as though this program will help me to expand my connections and people skills, which are important skills when it comes to journalism. These issues are something I am truly passionate about, and I would love to receive the opportunity to press for answers and actually receive them.

Franklin Learning Center Team


Scribe Video Center was founded in 1982 as a place where emerging and experienced media artists could gain access to the tools and knowledge of video making and work together in a supportive environment. Scribe provides training in all aspects of film, video and audio production and offers classes in computer-based interactive media to individuals and community organizations as well. The five students selected hail from neighborhoods across Philadelphia.


Czar McMichael Bey

Bio: My name is Czar McMichael Bey.  I’m 17 years old and a soon-to-be senior in high school at Martin Luther King High School.  My major is Commercial Arts and Advertising. My future goals are to become a CGI (computer generated imagery) Artist, Filmmaker, and Entrepreneur.


Essay: I would like to tell the National Leaders about how issues, like building new homes for college students in a residential area, can affect the neighborhood in which I live. When they build these houses, they tear down the homes of innocent citizens. The people higher up don’t care about the wellbeing of others. They just want to make money.

If I had the chance to ask the higher ups questions about this, I would ask questions like: “Do you think that tearing down homes of the innocent is effective?” “Wouldn’t it be better to find unclaimed territories to build over?” “Do you plan on compensating those who lost their homes?” “Do you even care, or is it that OUR lives are miniscule in your eyes?” I conclusion, I would like to say that destruction of homes of citizens is unjust and that something should be done to protect them

Karissa Jung

Bio: My name is Karissa Jung. I have achieved a plethora amount of awards and an honorable mention from my poem for the Do the Write Thing competition. In the upcoming school year I will be a sophomore at William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs.


Essay: Leaders from across the country that will gather in Philadelphia should be aware of communal problems. They should not be considered leaders if they incognizant of areas that they will be leading. There are many problems in Philadelphia, from tax increases to human trafficking. Many people have been negligent to the happiness of small and big communities. Philadelphia has been voted one of the dirtiest and unhappiest city in the United States. Philadelphia has a high crime and drug rate which lowers Philadelphia’s standards. Kensington and areas in West Philadelphia have some of the highest crime rates in Philadelphia. Kensington is known for hit and run killings, shootings, drugs, and human trafficking. Many people have forgotten and neglected human trafficking problems because they have slowly decreased. National leaders should be aware of the drug and human trafficking problem in Kensington, Philadelphia. Many people suffer from sexually transmitted diseases and infections from having sexual contact with prostitutes and from sharing needles to inject drugs. National leaders should devise a plan to limit or annihilate drug abuse and human trafficking. They should know about the dangers residents in Kensington and dangerous areas face every day. People get shot while walking down the street and when they are walking from their car into their house. Many people get arrested from participating in sexual activities with a prostitute but both can suffer consequences depending on whether the participants told the each other if they had an STD. Every national leader should be able to answer questions reporters or anyone asks them about troubling communities. They should be able to go in depth about how their nation is struggling and how they could improve the ambiance. National leaders need to be aware of what is going on in every area of their country.

Denisha Brown

Headshot - Denisha BrownBio: My name is Denisha Monaah Brown.  I am 17 years old.  I grew up in North Philly with my mother.  I am currently finishing 11th grade at West Philadelphia High. I am interested in digital media production and photography.


Essay: If i had the chance to speak with national leaders ,What i want National Leaders to know about how an issue affects the neighborhood where I live is when something occurs an area it does not only affect one person it affects a community as a whole because people refer to others by “hood” not by person. Then as a reaction sometimes a area becomes limited to certain things for example my brother was killed. He was taken away from me because of a loss to a basketball game taken personal. The boy started trouble with my brother but of course he fought back. The boy could not handle the embarrassment so he took my brothers life. Not just my brother, North Philadelphia Allegheny Community All Star basketball player, a neighbor, a co-worker etc. Because of that Shouler Park on 25th was shut down was not to be considered safe. Children couldn’t play there anymore, forced to travel just to have fun. The action of one could affect many. The questions I would ask delegates as they shape their proposed agenda for the country are : 1.)  Does this agenda have a positive outcome for everyone? 2.)  What’s on the agenda to stop crime? 3.)  How do you intend to lower crime rates? 4.)  Was the negatives considered? 5.)  DO you have a plan B if what’s on the agenda fails?  6.)  How do you think our country will react? 7.)  Does this agenda only affect the 13% of blacks? Reporting during the convention could help increase understanding of these issues sometimes listening isn’t always good enough to get an understanding you have to visualize so taking notes could help . Recording also helps because you may have missed something or could not process it at the moment . Most importantly ask questions. If not understood ask for clarification, question their opinions, ask why. Always want to know the full blown detail. There is nothing wrong with reporting because as a reporter you will always gather the correct information and your understanding would be improved which will allow you to generate more ideas, questions and interact more etc.

Cameron Swann

Bio: I’m Cameron Swann, a fifteen year-old girl from West Philadelphia; I have always had a passion for the arts and the world around me. I’ve taken many classes at art schools around Philly, such as Moore College of Art and the University Arts League.  My interest in Scribe’s Documentary History Project for Youth came about because I haven’t taken many classes/programs about photographic and film media, and it was always something I wanted to know more about. My peaked interest in the Democratic Convention comes from my father and grandfather who are very opinionated about how this country is run and how young people need to understand the inner workings of the United States.


Essay: The opportunity to address leaders from across the country concerning issues that are important to our communities is an exciting one. I would like to center my issue around the school system that often makes headlines but not for the right reasons. It seems as though the school systems make the headlines by closing schools and underfunding our school system especially in areas where economic depression is paramount that is in communities of color. We could improve our system by having more access to individualized education. If given the opportunity I would ask the leaders what they intend to address the challenges faces the educational system locally, particularly here in Philadelphia and nationally seeing that underfunding of economically depressed communities/neighborhoods is not unique to Philadelphia. I would also like to know their stance on individualized education. When schools are closed in our neighborhoods it means that we must travel further away from home to obtain an education that increases the safety issues that we are likely to encounter. Because we are high school students our primary audience will be our peers so we will be reporting on the issues that affect them. We will be able to convey to them the importance of being involved in civic processes.

Michael Hall 

Headshot - Michael HallBio: My name is Michael Kahlil Hall.  I was born in 1999 on April 5th, in Philadelphia Pa at Einstein hospital at 3:45AM.  I live with my mother; but I am in a family of three including my sister. Currently I am 17 and I go to Delaware Valley Friends School, a school for children with learning disabilities. I was diagnosed with being dyslexic and A.D.D when I was 10.  Having Dyslexia makes reading and writing more challenging thus making it harder to organize thoughts on a page, and to comprehend things in books. My A.D.D makes it even that much harder to organize thoughts and ideas without going off on wild tangents. I work very hard to make up for my learning differences and hope that I will one day be successful due to my hard work.


Essay:  A convention will be held where leaders worldwide will select a nominee to become president, and create platforms based on issues important to their parties. Something that makes a good democracy is everyone knowing about a variety of issues from many social classes, so we can improve them. Presidents often struggle with their ability to remember the little guy, often neglecting issues on smaller scales such as our communities and neighborhoods. One president that did an immaculate job with connecting with people, and actually changing something was Franklin D Roosevelt, with his creation of programs that help the community on a micro level, until later affecting them on a macro level a Problems coming from me that are in between macro and micro are things such as gun control, citizens mental state, our educational system. If I were to have a conversation with a leader then I would first ask him questions about those issues. Beginning with question one I would ask are you aware that there were over 109 homicide victims in philadelphia in 2016? I would also ask if he/she is aware of the other crimes that were happening in philadelphia? I would finally impose the question of how they intend to fix the problems that were just presented to them? The next subject I would elaborate on is gun control. I would first ask them if they knew that kids in the public schools of philadelphia bring guns in almost every day. I would also present to them the philadelphia public school debt of 2796000000$ since 2014, asking them how they think those two facts are connected. After I’d ask them if they could talk about how they will put money in that budget, and if they think that it is important to be literate in a democracy, arguing from direct quotes from Horace Mann the creator of the public school system. I would conclude our conversation asking what social class they have been in and if they have ever known what it would be like to be in the position of only making 15,000$ a year and if that is enough to actually live off of. I think that these questions and facts would definitely appeal to someone’s moral correctness, and hopefully use moral suasion so it sticks in their minds. I think by being a reporter there that actually is aware of these subjects would make a small difference that would one day affect the nation on a macro scale.

Scribe Video Team

The Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences is a magnet high school focused on agricultural sciences in Roxborough. Saul is the largest agricultural farm school in the United States.


Kayla West

Bio: Kayla West is a rising sophomore at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science where she is currently majoring in Environmental Science. Encouraged to become more active extracurricularly, Kayla plans to be more involved in her school’s Multimedia Club next academic year. She chose being a Youth Reporter during the Democratic Convention because she enjoys talking and meeting new people, and feels her gift of gab and socializing are traits that might direct her towards a career in journalism. Additionally, Kayla is artistic by nature and enjoys singing, dancing, and drawing.


The area that I would like to cover with National Delegates is the absence of good water fountains in schools. Water fountains in most schools are not as good as they should be or enough for the student population. The questions I would ask to the Delegates include, why is that so access to working water fountains not a priority?

It has been found out that old water fountains in schools have some traces of lead in them and it is harmful to the children in our schools. In schools where lead is in the water fountains have been found, the solution has been to turn them off. According to a recent Harvard study more than half of American children are dehydrated, which can have repercussions for their health and academic performance (Dr. Mercola). The lack of water children our drinking causes extra demands on the kidneys and sometimes heat stroke. Which leads me to my next series of questions: Why hasn’t the school district fixed the lead problem in the school fountains? Why is there lead in the pipes when new pipes should have already been put in?

Another thing I would like to bring their attention is the lack of afterscshool and summer activities. What people are most worried about is the fact that children get in trouble after school and in the summer because they don’t have anything to keep them occupied. More summer and afterschool programs will keeps kids off the streets and doing things that they think are fun. Some children have short attention spans so there should be plenty of things for them to do to keep them busy and out of trouble. I think the problem is that they don’t have things that kids are interested in. not all people are interested in sports or art. Trying out new things that kids would like cooking, things that have to do with the future, jobs that they might want to try and maybe a media club for them to go to learn about things. There could also be something like this where they can learn how to write essays and prep. Having them do fun activities or beneficial activities can keep them off the streets and can keep the adults happy that there kids are doing something can help them. What can the Democratic party do to increase and improve the number of afterschool and summer programs?


Victoria Thornton

Bio: Victoria E. Thornton is a senior Animal Science major at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science where she is an active member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the FFA. As a member of the National Honor’s Society, Victoria excels academically. Victoria is a talented aspiring singer, who placed second at the Apollo Amaturer Night this past winter. Additionally, she is involved in her school’s Multimedia Club where she has been featured in a number of their YouTube video projects also being featured on PSD TV. Due to these extracurricular activities, she was awarded with two proficiency awards. Victoria is not only involved in her school but in the community as well. She’s a junior board member in an organization called Tabitha Cumi Haven (Aramic for Daughter arise), an organization that helps distressed, young women mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially. She’s also a caregiver; she helps her family take care of her disabled father, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy.


Essay: Unfortunately, there are a million and one different issues that are occurring in our country today. But the goal is not only to fix the problem, but to eliminate it. The way we achieve this is by dealing with it as a whole and together. It’s going to take more than one person to make things better again in our Country. At home, families are not comfortable with giving their children the “birds and the bees talk”. Because of this, that responsibility should be placed on the school district. Students spend 8 hours in school, everything that’s taught is academic. Academics aid students in getting far in life, it helps them with their future; the strongest thing one can have is their mind. But, what can the school do to help them get through the present? As every adult know, teenage years fare one of the most difficult phases people can go through in life. It’s the years where we try to conquer confusion, we try to find ourselves, and discover who we are. Nowadays, sex is part of that process for some teenagers. Due to their lack of knowledge they’re not only going to discover who they are, they’ll discover what the hardships, consequences, and dangers that can come with the territory. That’s where Sex-Ed comes in. –If you’re comfortable with answering would you say that Sex-Ed helped you in some way in life? –Do you have any children? If so, would you approve of them being enrolled in this class to study its curriculum. –What do you personally think about some school districts not having this class? Do you plan on changing that? –How much funding will we need to have this class put in students’ rosters? –From your professional opinion do you think that this class is essential regardless of the statistics on teenage pregnancy?

Catrina Marcellino 

Headshot - Catrina MarcellinoBio: Catrina Marcellino is a twelfth grade student at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences where she is majoring in Horticulture. In addition to learning the fundamentals of horticulture and landscaping, Catrina was among the students contributing to Saul’s 2016 award winning Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit. Additionally, she is an active member of the school’s Environmental Science Club, resulting in her team competing in the Pennsylvania Envirothon. Community services also plays an important role in Catrina’s extracurricular activities, as she is involved in her church’s Youth Group and has participated in various charitable experiences associated with the Make a Wish Foundation, Girl Power, and Bucks County SPCA. Catrina is extremely excited to be a Youth Reporter at the Democratic Convention because by the time of the election she will be of age to vote for the first time.



An issue that affects my neighborhoods is drug dealing. The houses that the dealers work out of are dirty, rundown, and have a constant flow of people coming in and out. This is an unsafe environment for kids to be living in. Nobody want to buy a house in my neighborhood when they drive past my neighbors house and see the overgrown grass, broken front steps, and their door hanging off it’s hinges. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to play out front of my house, because my neighbors were out there dealing, then and their clients would hang out front. My neighbor and his brother were arrested for selling to an undercover cop, but this didn’t stop them from selling. Their kids starting selling for them to kids at school. The school district cut music, drama, art, and other clubs as well as after school tutoring. The kids had nothing to do after school so they went over to my neighbors house and brought fromm them and hung out at their house. The kids that I lived next door to that sold drugs dropped out of school along with a few of the kids that hung out and bought drugs from them. Most of the kids that hung out at my neighbor’s house had been in the music and drama club. When it lost funding they went to my neighbors for something to do. Some of the questions I would ask the delegates are –What funding sources are available support after school clubs for kids so they don’t get involved with buying and selling drugs? –What are different programs that you know of that currently in place so that kids known for buying and selling drugs or dropped out of school can help get them back on track in school? –What laws would you put in place to make these neighborhoods are safer for the kids that live in them? My reporting during the convention could help to increase the understanding of this issue by bringing attention to it. So that people can see the effect of the budget cuts in our schools is not just inside school but part of the kids every day life.

Tisharah Morton

Bio: Tisharah Morton is an upcoming sophomore at Walter B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science majoring in Animal Science. She is an active member of her school’s Multimedia and Art Clubs. Her career goal is to become a large animal veterinarian and a traveling entrepreneur. While she is only 14 years old, Tisharah has a particular interest in politics which is why she jumped at the opportunity to become a Youth Reporter at the Democratic Convention. An advocate for equality she is particularly invested in youth rights, education and support of the LGBT community.


Essay: My neighborhood has many issue that I would ask the delegates about. The main issues are school funding and discrimination. School funding has been a problem since 2014 when “seven parents” ( brought attention to the issues. That means it has been 2 years and it has gotten worse. They’re beginning to close down schools to protect the Philadelphia School District budget system. We know that they can afford to increase the public school budget because they hive other schools more money based on their location. I attend Walter B. Saul High School, which is in a better neighborhood than my recent school, Edward Heston Elementary School. Unlike my old school, my new school has many types of different learning materials. For example, Heston had old, used Apple laptops that we usually had to share because most of them were broken. On the other hand, Saul has working Apple laptops and Google Chromebooks. This is an example of the way the School District “discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities.” This leads me to my next issue, which is discrimination. Discrimination can obviously be about things other than race, like sexuality. The three main discrimination topics that you hear about are race, sexuality, and religion. Race has been a problem for centuries, but somehow it’s still a problem. Starting from the KKK marches to the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Grant, etc. Also, sexuality is a problem because of prejudice towards the lgbt community. One way the lgbt community can be more equal is the transgender bathroom situation. Transgender people are not the gender they are born with mentally or sexual orientation-wise. They feel as though they are the opposite sex, which they are in my opinion. With this said, they should be able to go the bathroom in which they prefer so they can feel as comfortable going to the bathroom as anyone else does. Lastly, another discrimination topic is religion, which as been more abrupt since the 9/11 incident. People have been prejudiced and afraid of muslims and people from the Middle East. One recent example of prejudice is the story of Ahme Mohamed, the boy who built a clock for a science project and was arrested for bringing a “hoax bomb” (Google) to school. This is just one case of islamaphobia that happened to innocent American citizens. Also, Donald Trump recently said he wants to “temporarily ban most foreign Muslims because it degrades them and gives them no control of what happens in their lives. These are my issues that are in my neighborhood and everywhere in America. The questions I would ask a delegate connected to my school funding is: What would you do to help school funding issues? How do you think each presidential candidate will help the school funding issues and do you think that’s one of their priorities? Why do you think suburban neighborhood schools have better material than rural neighborhoods? The questions I would ask about the discrimination issues: How would you fix the racial problems in the police department? How would you fix the alarming KKK problems? How will you fix the transgender bathroom situation? What presidential candidate do you think would prioritize the discrimination issues? Do you think it’s ok for a presidential candidate to demean a race, religion, or any opinionated personal belief? Do you think that discrimination and equality are topics that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will fight for?


Carmela Marcellino

Bio: Carmela Marcellino is a rising senior currently attending W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science as a Horticulture major. Her academic involvement at Saul includes maintaining the campus landscape and hardscape, as well as greenhouse maintenance. She was a contributing student to Saul’s 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit, which received a number of awards and recognition. Additionally, Carmela is involved in the school’s Wildlife Club, where she has become skilled in identifying birds calls, animal tracks and scat. Outside of school she is an active member of her church’s Youth Group, in which she has participated in charitable volunteer activities supporting the Make a Wish Foundation, Girl Power, and Bucks County SPCA. Carmela is looking forward to participation at the Democratic Convention as a Youth Reporter because she will have the chance to ask questions directly to our political leaders about topics relevant to teens.



Carmela Marcellino

One of the most important issues affecting my community is the understanding of education. Everybody is aware that Philadelphia schools need money, yet no one seems to do anything about it. How is it possible we have money to host major events like the Pope’s visit to redo streets and shut down most of the city, but yet there is not enough money to properly educate our cities children? I often wonder why do we have destroyed and outdated textbooks, not enough technology (i.e. computers and modern equipment), and cuts in art and afterschool programs. Having programs such as marching band, sports teams, after programming, and art classes would not only benefit students academically, but also keep them off streets and away from trouble. Other programs we could have along with the after school activities, we could have other programs that would help students get ahead in their academic career such as dual enrollment. If given the opportunity to interview representatives of Democratic party I would ask questions such as: -How can we get more funding to bring back arts education, after-school programming, and sports that have been cut? –How can the federal government help fund programs such as dual enrollment to help high school students take college courses/ Why is it schools in other areas allow colleges go to the high schools instead of high school students going to a college campus? –Why do we not have home economics classes/clubs for kids to learns how to care for themselves? By me having this opportunity to broadcast these question it will allow the students voices to be heard and know why things are not the way we feel they should be. Also answer the questions my peers and I have wanted to know for so long.

W.B. Saul High School Team Led by Gregory Smith