High school journalists combine teamwork and mentorship to get the perfect shots
Since 1923, The U-High Midway has kept the Lab community informed with its first-class reporting, consistently receiving national recognition for its student journalism. One essential part of the Midway’s success is the eye-catching imagery produced by Lab’s Photojournalism program. Under the guidance of Journalism teacher Jayna Rumble, student photographers in the program experience a real taste of the lifestyle of a photojournalist as they go on assignment and gather images for each issue. Beyond their individual success lies a commitment to teamwork and mentorship that defines the program.
Twelfth-grader Andrew Burke-Stevenson started in the Photojournalism program during the 2020–21 school year, developing his skills and becoming the Photo Managing Editor for his final year at U-High. Burke-Stevenson describes how it has “been really interesting to see both sides of the coin” as both a mentee and a mentor. Speaking of the younger photographers he has taken under his wing, Burke-Stevenson says, “I see a lot of the same struggles I had that they have.” Passing along the guidance he has received from both peers and the Journalism teachers helps Burke-Stevenson improve his own technique and “keeps the program alive and helps build a community.”
This ethos of teamwork and mentorship expands from the classroom to their assignments. “For some of the bigger events like spirit assemblies or a lot of the bigger in-school events or retreats, we’ll have a team of photographers go out,” Burke-Stevenson describes. “We’ll try to set up zones for each photographer attenuated to their skills and their challenges…So we’ll get real good quality while still building their skill, and they can still learn while on assignment.”
For Burke-Stevenson, this collaborative atmosphere has led to a number of national awards for his photography, commercial work with Nike, and coveted freelance gigs at both his local neighborhood paper and the Chicago Tribune, giving him a look forward at what a career as a professional photojournalist could look like. “One of the assignments I remember is I covered the BMO-Harris Bank Lights Festival Parade, which happens in early December… I got on my train to go home, and through that I was just working, writing captions and editing all my photos.” Working with the Tribune has been a capstone experience of all that camaraderie and training Burke-Stevenson has received as part of the Midway staff. As he rode back from one of his first official shoots as a photojournalist, Burke-Stevenson remembers thinking, “Wow, this is very professional; this is pushing me further and further. But I was able to make it through because of what I learned here.”
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