Located on the intersection of Wells and Front, the “Bronze Fonz” statue stands, a testament to the leather-jacket wearing Arthur Fonzie of the classic 70’s show “Happy Days.” The trip to get to the statue from the Johnston Building at Marquette is an estimated time of 22 minutes on Google Maps. On July 20, the KEMPA SJW leadership class took an hour to get there.
With smartphone and GPS use restricted, the four campers in the class had to solely rely on the answers they got from various citizens in Milwaukee.
“I think it’s critical that students are able to communicate with others. And sometimes our first instinct is to go Google something, where as what we should be doing is talking to people,” Instructor Carolyn Wagner said. “[Journalism] is the field of people, and we need to make sure that we build people-to-people communication skills.”
After asking numerous strangers on the street, from customers at a hot dog vendor to an employee at a Bank of America, the campers had to become leaders and take initiative to find what they needed.
“I thought it was going to go a lot faster than it would but it didn’t. But it’s okay, it’s problem solving, we had to go out of our comfort zone and talk to some people that we didn’t know to get to the place that we needed to be,” camper Molly Polirer said.
They had to put this skill to work again at the Milwaukee Public Market, where they were challenged to use the vendors and environment around them to brainstorm three different story ideas. They had a basis for each ‘round’: The first story had to be inspired by a food vendor, the second by a product vendor and the third being a free choice.
“At first when we started doing it, I was like, ‘I don’t think I can think of anything right now,’ because I was so tired and I [didn’t] know if I [was] going to be able to find stories here. But then you finally find yourself walking around and stuff, and you’re collaborating with everyone else. A bunch of stories came to the forefront, and a lot of them we could take back to our own publications. Not just stuff for here in Milwaukee, definitely able to bring it back home and localize,” Polirer said.
“What I wanted them to understand is that stories are abound. We can find all kinds of stories. But it’s the kind of storytelling that helps us or hurts us engage with our readers,” Wagner said.
After presenting their ideas to Wagner and the rest of the class, KEMPA SJW intern Aaron Navarro picked the best from each round. In the end Natalie Hartwig from Brookfield Central High School got two of the rounds, with Polirer scoring the other. Each idea received feedback, from both Wagner and Navarro, which prompted each student to not only give feedback to some of the ideas but help develop and build upon it.
“As leaders they need to be able to generate good story ideas, but more importantly they need to coach writers to help writers come back with quality story ideas so that ultimately [the] products are better and serve our readers more,” Wagner said.
“There were a lot of story ideas that I didn’t think we would be able to come up with, but we did. It’s been super helpful to collaborate,” Polirer said.
The authors of these news and announcements are KEMPA staff members. We appreciate you reading and engaging with our site.