What path will they take?

Published 11:26 am Saturday, February 8, 2014

In spite of my profession – or perhaps because of it – my interactions with children and young people are usually far and few between. But last month I had two consecutive encounters that impressed me enough to share.

First, the Journalism Club at Capron Elementary School invited me to speak during a Friday afternoon session. The members are creating a newsletter, and evidently thought I could provide some input. Per some guidance from Principal Allison Francis, I explained to the seven youngsters present that just about each article they write should answer the questions of who, what, when, where and why and even sometimes how. Thankfully, they were actually already familiar with the idea through previous club meetings. Nonetheless, it’s a practice worth reminding.

Avoiding slander in print, better known as libel, was another point I stressed. As examples, I referred to tabloids as examples of publications that play fast and loose with the accuracy and fairness.

My brother would say those are his trusted sources of news. He’s often suggested in the past that I use them as a reference for story ideas, or even outright lifting them onto our pages. What a card.

I inadvertently told on Dr. Francis and myself when one of the students said to the others that they should interview her. I casually mentioned that she and I attended the same college and even went so far as to say when. The budding journalists looked at me with widened eyes. One girl went so far as to say I didn’t look that old. Out of the mouths of babes, eh? I was ready to adopt that child just so she’d be ready with such compliments.

What really impressed me, though, was the students’ overall enthusiasm for their project, and I look forward to reading the newsletter and all others to follow.

The following week I got to help judge the American Oratorical Contest at the Charles R. Younts, VA Post 73 in Franklin. A junior in high school and a home-schooled senior were the only contestants, and both came from outside Franklin and Southampton County.

Both students had to speak on selected amendments of the Constitution, and their speeches reflected the preparation. The prepared speeches, for example, were easy to follow, logical and eloquent. Suffice to say that when it came time to judging, the choice was tough.

On reflection of these two separate encounters, I remain impressed by the children and young people’s words, deeds and even good manners. The positive experiences also lead me to wonder what choices they’ll make in the future that will guide them into careers.

I hope they pick journalism.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer of The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at 562-3187 or stephen.cowles@tidewaternews.com