On Monday, July 23rd, over 100 high school students descended upon UCLA to kick off JSA’s Gene Burd Institute on Los Angeles Media and Politics. They spent a week engaging with elected officials and experts on different aspects of media about several key issues facing Los Angeles: crime, immigration, education and city politics.
Throughout the week students engaged in a media workshop where they produced their own news broadcast from the standpoint of different political perspectives, where they discovered first hand how to report the news while maintaining credibility.
KFI Morning Radio Talk-show host, Bill Handel, had the students on the edge of their seats speaking frankly about how to have a strong opinion while also maintaining a following. Students also learned how to create their own political campaigns from leading policy and public affairs firms in Los Angeles: Cerrell & Assoc., Consensus Inc. and JSA Alums James Lee of Lee Strategy Group and Ted Green from Woodward & McDowell. Another JSA alumus, Kamy Akhavan, President and Managing Editor of ProCon.org, conducted a stimulating exercise for the students and helped them understand messaging of controversial issues.
The scenic Bradley Room at the top of Los Angeles City Hall was the venue for speakers who focused on the ins and outs of local politics. Among others City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Tom LaBonge spoke to the students and answered questions from the crowd. The 360-degree view of the city was the perfect backdrop for the intense dialogue about the challenges that the nation’s second largest city faces on an ongoing basis.
Junior Diamond McKay from King Drew Medical Magnet said, “While at the program, I gained exposure to political life — to what it means to make a difference – and got the chance to produce my own political TV broadcast. This JSA summer Institute has provided me with confidence I need to be a leader and a positive role model in society.”
Education was a hot topic, as students passionately engaged with Judy Burton, the CEO of Alliance for College Ready Charter Schools and Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Charter Schools, as well as with Gerardo Loera, the Director of Curriculum for LA Unified School District. They got an overview of how schools are learning what is and isn’t working to maximize student learning capacities, and each of these theories are built into the overall structure of varying schools and districts.
Many students said the week changed their lives, giving them clarity that they do have a voice, and now they know how to better use it to impact the world around them. The program is partially funded by a donation from JSA alumnus and Professor of Communications Dr. Gene A. Burd. Dr. Burd’s commitment to JSA’s mission and to improving civic education outcomes for students led him to contribute an endowment for the program that provides scholarships and underwriting for additional programming focused on media. Thanks to Dr. Burd, the JSA Institute has enriched the lives of hundreds of students and will continue doing so in the future.