Making a Difference: Jailen Leavell

The road to success

“I receive a significant amount of joy and happiness every time I get the chance to tell a new story.”

These are the thoughts of Jailen Leavell, a junior at Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School who participates through KET in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.

Working in a mentorship role, KET has been demonstrating reporting and video production techniques to Jailen and other students at Pleasure Ridge Park as well as at Elizabethtown’s Central Hardin and John Hardin high schools. Students who participate in the project learn how to think critically, problem-solve, synthesize information and investigate important topics.

“Mentors are really important,” says PRP multimedia teacher Mary Dunn. “There is no way that I alone can give students those real-world skills that real producers, real videographers, real writers are able to bring to the table.”

Jailen was one of 42 students and six teachers KET hosted for a day of workshops and presentations on effective interviewing techniques, production planning, video production, and green-screen technologies. KET staff also frequently helps Dunn’s students by critiquing individual stories and providing additional equipment.

“KET is always readily available and willing to help,” Dunn said.

Along with technical instruction on the use of cameras and editing equipment, the Student Reporting Labs also focus on the role of journalism in society and developing broader communication skills, including listening, asking questions, public speaking, and finding, analyzing, and evaluating the quality of information.

For Leavell and the other young journalists in Louisville and Elizabethtown who have been participating in the Student Reporting Labs, the experience has been enlightening. They reported on how their peers view racial tensions in their own communities and how young people are breaking down gender stereotypes, contributing their stories to the PBS NewsHour’s broadcast and digital platforms.

“I really enjoy being on television and producing stories, telling stories,” said Jailen.

“I have a great interest in finding new talent. There are so many talented people in the world, and I just love being able to tell their stories.”

Now Jailen has the opportunity to develop his skills even further.

He is among 20 talented middle and high school storytellers from 11 states selected for summer internships at the PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C.

In addition to hands-on production experiences, the interns will also have opportunities to contribute as PBS staff develops strategies to engage young people in news and current affairs.

“I’m really excited to be going to this and being around kids who are on the same path and want to pursue the same thing.”

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