Bonding, Learning, and Excitement: A Memorable Washington, D.C. Field Trip
After a five-hour flight and a one-hour shuttle ride, a group of sleepy but excited journalism and film students arrived in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Led by their adviser Gwen Sidley, the students toured some of the most historically important buildings to our nation’s government.
“One highlight was definitely visiting the White House,” senior and third-year journalism student Chloe Postlewaite explained. “I’ve only seen it from afar and in pictures, and it was cool and different to actually go inside and see it.”
Following a short Metro ride, the students arrived in front of the Capitol Building. After waiting in a short line, the students walked the same halls as the members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“It was interesting to see all the statues, the star in the middle of D.C., and the paintings from the two-dollar bill,” sophomore and second-year journalism student Cedrik von Briel described. “Almost all the most famous American paintings [were] in that one room.”
The students then visited the convention hotel to check in before moving on to the Newseum, which Postlewaite described as a high point of the trip.
“I went there before a few months ago, but it was really cool to be there with so many other student journalists,” Postlewaite said.
The journalists then traveled to the convention hotel to watch the keynote speaker, Meet the Press reporter Chuck Todd.
“Last year, the keynote speaker was Pete Souza, Obama’s campaign photographer,” recalled Chiu. “Chuck Todd’s talk was very different, especially since it was conducted interview-style rather than a presentation.”
The next morning, the convention began, and students headed to workshops and contests.
“There were a lot of students from different states,” stated senior and journalism student Gulnazik Bakhramova. “I was so excited and scared about that because I knew there were some students who had been practicing journalism for four or five years, and this is my first year. But I was still passionate and curious about learning new things.”
Meanwhile, Samantha Brook, Taila Lee, and Chloe Postlewaite teamed up to take on the online news package competition, one of the longest contests at the convention. The team worked for seven hours to create a multimedia package about the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, finishing their contest around 6 p.m.
“I think my favorite part was competing, even though [it was] raining, kinda gross, and a really difficult topic to turn into news,” Postlewaite recalled. “It was still really fun to work together with Taila and Sam and just really create this great package. I’m really proud of the work we did in the short amount of time given to us.”
Their hard work paid off, as the Journalism Education Association later awarded the Woodside students the highest honor of Superior for their online news package.
On the final day of the trip, most students attended workshops taught by reporters, journalism college students, and photographers. Coeditors in chief of The Paw Print, Taila Lee and Emma Chiu, got the chance to present a workshop to other high schoolers attending the convention.
“It was a great experience to actually get up there and talk in front of people who are from all over the country,” Chiu expressed. “They’re students like me, but they’re listening to what I have to say.”
Their presentation detailed student press law and how to cover controversy.
“I was really nervous beforehand, and [when] we walked into the room, it was full,” Lee recalled. “I didn’t think that anyone would come, so I was really nervous but also super excited. Afterwards, people came up to us and said that we did a good job, which made me really happy.”
Mid-afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to the convention and head down to the Metro station one last time.
“This was my first trip with real American friends,” Bakhramova said. “This is my first time to feel [like] a real American. Here, I felt all this positive energy from my teammates, even though I was not ready to do my contest. I was so happy to be with my teammates— my friends, now I can say.”
After spending those four memorable days together, the group of students clearly felt as though they had grown closer.
“All the times we were together and talking and bonding as a group was really nice,” Chiu commented.
Postlewaite shared the same sense of camaraderie.
“I felt really welcomed by everyone,” Postlewaite said. “I feel like we all really bonded during the trip, and it was a really great experience. I got to know everyone better than I did before.”
The White House
After brief difficulties in bypassing security, ten Woodside journalism and video students toured the White House on Thursday, November 21 during their four-day field trip to Washington, District of Columbia.
The students traveled to the nation’s capital to attend the Journalism Education Association’s national high school journalism convention, but they took time out of their schedules to visit tourist destinations as well. Their first stop was the White House, as California Congresswoman Jackie Speier granted them access.
“I think it’s a very unique and special place if you want to understand the government of the United States,” stated Woodside senior and first-year journalism student Gulnazik Bakhramova. “Just by visiting, I saw a lot of historical moments or experiences that the United States has.”
None of the students had been to the White House before, so many were excited by the opportunity. However, before entering, they had to clear four rounds of security; during the first, a student was forced to discard a glass bottle. During the second and third rounds, another student—Jack Freeman—was briefly detained.
“I thought I was going to die, because you’ve got all these [secret service members] vested up with guns,” Freeman described. “They were like, ‘you’re going to have to step aside,’ and I was like, ‘yes sir, I will step aside.’”
Fortunately, after being redirected to a side area and questioned, Secret Service allowed Freeman to pass. He noted that security cleared an eleven-person group to pass through the initial gates and was unsure why he was stopped, hypothesizing that it was part of a random check.
“I think if you had a group of more than ten, then they assume there’s got to be a bad egg in there somewhere,” Freeman joked. “It was unfortunate that it happened, but I think it was one of those security measure things.”
Around 8:00 p.m., the group made it through the final round of security and entered the White House, beginning their self-guided tour. After walking down a corridor lined with presidential pictures, they viewed the Library, Vermeil Room, and China Room before ascending a set of stairs into the expansive East Room. They then passed through the Green, Blue, and Red Rooms before concluding their visit in the State Dining Room.
“My favorite room was the State Dining Room, because it was a huge room with Lincoln’s portrait,” Bakhramova stated. “Lincoln is very significant for a lot of Americans, and I learned a lot about how… he still motivates people. That’s why I thought it was a very beautiful room.”
Meanwhile, Freeman was slightly less impressed by the visit, as he had hoped to see more actively-used areas of the building.
“I didn’t love that it was mainly these fancy, furnished rooms with paintings or photo galleries,” Freeman said. “This seemed more of a tourist thing, [and] I feel like I was expecting … a tour guide leading you through the White House, like, ‘oh, this is the meeting room where they meet every morning.’”
Ultimately, Bakhramova felt that the visit was not only beneficial to her own experience but also a good exercise for aspiring journalists.
“I think it’s just one more experience about observing the White House from the view of the journalist and observing the emotions of the people,” Bakhramova explained. “I saw a lot of people [for whom] it was their first time visiting. They were all excited, and… I saw their interest in government.”
Still, although Freeman is grateful to have had the tour, he also questions whether the wait was worth it.
“It’s cool to say ‘I’ve been to the White House,’ but I think having a thirty-minute tour after thirty minutes of security was kind of taking away from the experience,” Freeman stated.
The Newseum, an interactive seven-story museum detailing the evolution of media, will be closing on December 31, 2019. Johns Hopkins University, which is purchasing the building for over $370 million, plans to use the space for graduate programs.
Open for over 11 years and receiving nearly one million visitors a year, Pennsylvania Avenue’s Newseum is in the heart of Washington D.C. The museum is well-known for its interactive exhibits about news, the First Amendment, famous journalists, photography, and politics. The News Corporation News History Gallery, NBC News Interactive Newsroom, Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, Berlin Wall Gallery, Today’s Front Pages Gallery, and Journalists Memorial are some of its most popular exhibits.
Nine Woodside students participated in the National Student Media contests at Washington D.C.’s National High School Journalism Convention on November 22, 2019. Students got experience being journalists in the real world and learned a lot in the process.
“It was a good test, in terms of writing under pressure,” said third-year journalism student Emma Chiu, who participated in the news writing contest.
Jack Freeman, a Woodside junior and second-year journalism student, competed in the sports writing category. He felt that his topic, triathlons, had little news involved.
“I think that really helped me with ingenuity, to be like ‘okay, they handed me nothing and I have to make something,’” shared Freeman.
Three students, Samantha Brook, Taila Lee, and Chloe Postlewaite, took part in the online news package contest. Their assignment was to find a story to cover at the Smithsonian National Zoo, producing an article, video, photo gallery, infographic, and social media elements. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, the students won the competition, placing at “superior.”
“The most challenging part was probably trying to get interviews at the zoo on a weekday when it was raining,” said Lee. “As a student journalist, I improved my [collaboration] skills with my team.”
Brook shot and edited video for the contest, and she shared her impression about the experience.
“It was very much a real-life journalism experience, and I’m happy to have had it,” Brook added.
The team of three didn’t expect to win, but everyone was excited to receive the news about their victory, especially as the group was the only one to win “superior.”
“We did what we went there to do,” stated Brook.