Editor-In-Chief, DayOnna Carson, Attends Princeton’s Prestigious Summer Journalism Program

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAYONNA CARSON, ATTENDS PRINCETON'S PRESTIGIOUS SUMMER JOURNALISM PROGRAM -- Carson poses with program founder, Richard Just, after receiving a completion diploma.

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAYONNA CARSON, ATTENDS PRINCETON'S PRESTIGIOUS SUMMER JOURNALISM PROGRAM -- Carson poses with program founder, Richard Just, after receiving a completion diploma.

Cassandra Castillo, Copy Editor

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One of the most prestigious universities in the country, Princeton University, annually sponsors a journalism program that greatly benefits students of low-income backgrounds with an interest in journalism. This year, they received over 300 applications from across the nation, however, only 35 of them were accepted. Central senior and Digest Editor-In-Chief, DayOnna Carson, was one of the few selected. She was able to attend Princeton’s Summer Journalism Program (PSJP) in New Jersey for ten days at their all-expense paid residential program.

“As soon as we got there, we had to go out into the streets outside of Princeton to interview people and get their opinion on the upcoming 2020 presidential election,” Carson explained. “A few other cool experiences we had include holding a press conference with Andrew Zwicker, who was running for New Jersey’s general assembly, and talking to the president of Princeton University.”

From August 2 through August 12, students became reporters who walked the streets of Princeton and journeyed through New York City to get an inside look on becoming a true journalist. The group toured The New York Times, NBC, including the set of Saturday Night Live, as well as Bloomberg and Sports Illustrated. They also went to the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where they watched the Eagles vs. Titans game from the press box along with many other professional journalists.

“Any time we had a speaker or event, all the students would write an article about the visit. This was all in preparation for the creation and production of our very own newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal,” stated Carson.

This program, created by Executive Director Richard Just, an editor for the Washington Post Magazine, in 2002, was a way to give low-income students access to a college environment and important resources. As of now, the program has had nearly 380 participants who have gone on to graduate from the most prestigious schools in the country.

“They paid for everything including plane tickets, housing in the newest dorms, and food; it was an all expense trip,” said Carson.

Current reporters and editors for major news outlets, including CNN and ProPublica, make up the staff of 32 counselors. They are program alumni and Ivy League graduates who decided to join Princeton’s program in hopes of seeing young journalists succeed in the media. Tieisha Tift, Lydia Choi, and Hanying Jiang were crucial in organizing most of the events, speakers, and workshops.

“We had a lot of writing workshops, including how to tackle interviewing extremists,” said Carson.

They were there to guide students throughout the program and will continue to help them throughout the college application process. They will edit essays, answer college related questions, and make sure students reach their goal of applying to 20 colleges, including Ivy Leagues. The counselors have become their personal college advisers, encouraging them and recommending well known universities.

“I met a lot of people who I am still in contact with, like my roommate, Diana Padron, who was really nice,” said Carson. “Everyone is still very close, and we always go to each other for support.”

English 11 teacher and journalism adviser, Mr. Gregory Cantrell, told her about this opportunity in early September of 2018. He encouraged her to apply, knowing that it would be a great opportunity to go to New Jersey for free. The application process began last fall and continued throughout the school year, ending in May. In all, there were three phases; the first included personal information and essay questions. The second phase required her to submit her personal work from the Central Digest and a teacher recommendation, along with academic information. The third and final phase was a phone interview with counselors and program coordinators.

“They prompted us to write a news story for them in the application, so I wrote about how Hamilton County was going to make each school specialize in particular careers and limit zoning restrictions,” said Carson.

Carson won 2nd place in the sports writing category of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association writing contest last year; she wrote an article about the school’s new track. This experience allowed her to get an even better understanding of the inner workings of modern reporting and journalistic techniques. She also got a behind the scenes look at how newscasting works for both breaking news and sports. This trip gave her invaluable knowledge about college and its application process. She now plans to apply to major schools with the help of her counselor, Megan Greenwell, editor of Wired.

“The Princeton Summer Journalism Program taught me that there are a lot of options out there for people who cannot afford all of the expenses that come along with higher education,” said Carson. “Through this once in a lifetime  opportunity, my entire outlook on my future has been completely altered. I now have the tools and connections to succeed in life, and for that I am eternally thankful.”

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