Immersion Cohort

Get to know the high school participants of the Emerging Journalists Program’s 2023 Immersion experience, held from June 19-30 on Elon University’s campus. Hailing from across the county, the 20 student journalists will develop their reporting, writing, multimedia storytelling, leadership and media management skills. The cohort will work as part of a working newsroom, producing professional web content and learning to track audience engagement metrics.

Photo of Zebasil Ayalew.

Zebasil Ayalew

Zebasil Ayalew was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. A rising senior at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Zebasil discovered his interest in photography after playing soccer most of his life. Now he has an interest in all things photography and is currently a house manager, photographer and filmmaker. He looks forward to where his career path will take him and to the films that he will make.

Photo of Brianna Bressan.

Brianna Bressan

Brianna Bressan was born in Torrington, Connecticut, and currently lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Now a junior at Lincoln Senior High School, she’s been a member of the school’s newspaper, The Lions Roar, for the past three years. Brianna has participated in various activities at of school and is currently working on creating a short documentary on overstimulation. Along with her work on the school paper, she is also passionate about art and spends much of her free time creating pieces. Brianna is still trying to figure out what she wants to pursue in college, but either way she loves writing and sharing what she writes with others.

Photo of Mekdelawit Gebreslassie.

Mekdelawit Gebreslassie

Mekdelawit Gebreslassie was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and raised in Frankfurt, Germany, until she was 11, when she discovered her love for literature and writing. She lives with her younger brother and father in Washington, D.C., where she attends Parkmont High School. She didn’t start writing until she entered Day Eight Writing Camp three summers ago. After the summer camp, she founded her school newspaper, Passing Notes. Alongside writing for Passing Notes, she has published two books of poetry with Day Eight, and she is currently working on publishing her first bilingual book. She enjoys listening to music, playing sports, cooking and spending time with her family.

Photo of Brett Germani.

Brett Germani

Brett Germani was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and currently lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Now a junior at Lincoln Senior High School, Brett has been a dedicated staff writer and content creator for his school newspaper and online website, The Lion’s Roar, since his first year. Brett commonly writes and advocates for political and social rights issues, starting in his first year when he wrote an article opposing the ban on transgender athletes and then again the following year when he published an article opposing the contentious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida. This year so far, Brett has co-hosted, produced and edited a weekly school news show titled “The Morning Roar,” which has run for five months consecutively. Brett is excited to meet all different types of people and expand his experience and love for journalism this summer at the Emerging Journalists Program at Elon University.

Photo of Kate Gray.

Kate Gray

Kate Gray lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she attends Montgomery Blair High School. Ever since she joined an arts and humanities magnet school in sixth grade, she has loved writing and communications. She wrote for the school yearbook in sophomore year and is now a videographer for the school’s online newspaper, Silver Chips Online. In 2022, a documentary she wrote and produced with two classmates won honorable mention in the C-Span Student Cam contest. The documentary detailed the implications of state-level anti-abortion legislation on reproductive rights. Outside school, Kate loves theater and recently had an ensemble role in “Into the Woods” at her high school. She also swims for the varsity Swim & Dive team and is an assistant coach at a local swim school. In college, she hopes to study media and communications with possible minors in journalism, public relations or political science.

Photo of Sarah Henry Havard.

Sarah Henry Havard

Sarah Henry Havard was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She attends St. Agnes Academy, where she is on the staff of “Calliope,” the literary and art magazine. To combine her love of the performing arts and journalism, Sarah Henry created and currently runs her school’s theatre Instagram (@stagnes_theatre). Next year she will serve as editor-in-chief of the yearbook. Sarah Henry also participates in theatre and the peer mentoring program. Outside of school, she engages in the Bridge Builders leadership program. Sarah Henry looks forward to pursuing a career in journalism to make impactful contributions to the community.

Photo of Miles Hayter.

Miles Hayter

Miles Hayter is a junior at St. Andrew Episcopal School (SAES) in Potomac, Maryland. He is a member of the basketball and lacrosse teams, and his other extracurricular activities include the Black Students Association, Newspaper Club, Kingdom Fellowship AME Youth Leadership ministries, and volunteer work for service organizations. Miles enjoys mentoring and working with elementary school aged students. He’s a member of the SAES Lions Club and Babysitters Club. He values the time spent as an intern for the SAES Black Alumni Collective, where he helps create social media content and pitch ideas to support social justice causes for his high school. He aspires to bridge the gap between social justice and the sports world through innovative journalism.

Photo of Frasier Horton.

Frasier Horton

Frasier Horton was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attends the Altamont School. After finding a passion for writing, Frasier joined his school’s newspaper, The Acta Diurna. He became a writer and editor for the publication, producing both video and textual interviews with staff and students. He is also committed to several other activities, such as student government and the Black Student Union. Outside school, Frasier enjoys running track, playing basketball for his school, and playing football recreationally.

Photo of Gabriela Maldonado.

Gabriela Maldonado

Gabriela Maldonado was raised in White Plains, New York, where she attends White Plains High School. After taking a journalism class her sophomore year, she discovered a love for writing and storytelling. She is an associate editor for her school’s newspaper, The Orange, and enjoys writing entertainment and local pieces. She also manages the social media for The Orange, keeping her peers updated with a variety of articles. Gabriela has also participated in other extracurricular activities, such as Latino Coalition and Key Club. Outside school, she enjoys volunteering with the Newcomer Multilingual Learners Academy, where she helps teachers teach English to elementary students. Gabriela plans to explore the world of journalism and learn new things that will help her become a better writer.

Photo of Lauren McCowan.

Lauren McCowan

Lauren McCowan was born and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a junior at South Garner High School, where she has participated in sports teams, arts departments, the Logistics Academy, and created her own business. Lauren has also contributed to her school through her writing and speeches at school events. Outside school, her love for writing does not go away, as she has written dialogues, poems and plays for her church. In the future, she hopes to attend Elon University as a journalism major.

Photo of Kaden Nzaro.

Kaden Nzaro

Kaden Nzaro was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where he attends Baltimore School for the Arts. Identifying as a spoken-word poet, Kaden spends a majority of his time doing creative writing, in which he explores the depth of his voice and finds new ways to connect with the art within himself and the community around him. Prior, he has participated in the University of the Arts pre-college creative writing program and the University of Iowa identity and belonging program, and he has performed in his schools Black History Month showcase. Additionally, he was a finalist in the WJZ Black history oratory competition. In the future, he hopes to be a bestselling author and have his words resonate with the rest of the world. Kaden also enjoys listening to and playing music, reading, composing and playing chess.

Photo of Kennedy Owens.

Kennedy Owens

Kennedy Owens was born in Covington, Georgia, and currently lives in Tampa, Florida. She’s a junior at Sickles High School and was a member of her school’s TV production class in both her first and sophomore years, during which time she attended competitions and anchored and produced stories for the program’s morning show the “Legend.” One story Kennedy produced centered on the controversial “Guardian” program, which gives Florida school districts power to higher armed guards instead of law enforcement or school resource officers. She also completed a package about the increased usage of cryptocurrency in everyday life. Alongside her work on the “Legend,” she also produced and recorded a voiceover for a package during her 2022 stay in Arizona for the PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs Academy about the cultural contributions an African dance/drum troop named Kawambe-Omowale has on Phoenix youth. Right now, she is looking into colleges with strong journalism programs.

Photo of Roman Sibaja.

Roman Sibaja

Roman Sibaja was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but grew up in various places, including Fairfax, Virginia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ellicott City, Maryland, and now Boone, North Carolina, where he lives with his family. He is a member of National Honor Society and is secretary of the Model United Nations club at his school. Roman volunteers at the High Country Food Hub, which helps to distribute local food from farms and businesses across Watauga County. His work has appeared in the Powderhorn, his high school newspaper. He looks forward to sharing his interests in computer science and creative writing, while also exploring the field of journalism.

Photo of Elle Simonsen.

Elle Simonsen

Elle Simonsen is from the San Francisco Bay Area and a senior at Saint Francis High School, where she has been a member of the student council all four years. An avid soccer player for 10 years, Elle plays defensive back for both her club team and her school’s varsity team. Combining her passion for writing, storytelling and service, Elle works with two teen volunteer organizations as social media manager and board member. In these roles, Elle strives to inspire teens to get involved in serving their communities. She writes and designs creative Instagram posts, surveys followers and shares results, pre-packages service events for area teens, and publicizes opportunities. Elle plans to major in strategic communications and will shadow a marketing communications professional this summer to learn more about the field.

Photo of Connor Skinner.

Connor Skinner

Connor Skinner was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He spends his weeks in Santa Fe as a residential student at New Mexico School for the Arts and majors in creative writing. An avid activist, Connor co-founded the Trans Action Group at his school and has spearheaded school walkouts and marches. He started an independently run newspaper titled The December Tusk that reported on important global, environmental and political news in a palatable way for students. Outside of his pursuit of justice and a free press, his creative writing has been recognized with a National Scholastic Award. His ambition is to start a literary journal that blends interdepartmental expression and diverse voices to cultivate a more inclusive artistic platform.

Photo of Ryan Turner.

Ryan Turner

Ryan Turner is one of the editors of the Stagg Line at Stagg High School in Stockton, California. He is in Journalism II works hard to be a high achiever and make the classroom environment enjoyable for everyone. In his time as editor, he has helped make the class fun, yet professional. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, hanging out with friends and listening to music. His favorite pastime is writing stories.

Photo of Alexa Umanzor.

Alexa Umanzor

Alexa Umanzor was born in Columbus, Georgia, and currently lives in North Carolina. She is a junior at Henderson Collegiate High School, where she’s part of the varsity women’s soccer team, the Gardening Club and AAPI club. Learning about global warming in AP Environmental Science drove her passion for protecting the natural ecosystem, so she joined the Gardening Club to take care of the planet one plant at a time. She was also part of the Black History Month committee and National Honor Society. She hopes to continue her passion for environmental science.

Photo of Megan Walsh.

Megan Walsh

Megan Walsh lives in Clemmons, North Carolina and attended Paisley IB Magnet School from sixth through 10th grade and graduated with an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) Certificate. As a high schooler at Paisley, she served as the editor of the school’s yearbook. Megan is now a junior in the Middle College of Forsyth program, taking college classes at Forsyth Technical Community College alongside her high school classes. Megan is a member of North Carolina’s Crosby Scholars Program and Middle College’s National Honor Society. She plans to continue her work with yearbook and journalism in her senior year. Beyond school, Megan takes classes and works as a dance instructor at Juxtaposition Fine Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she teaches students ages 2-10. She plans to pursue a career in journalism to highlight the underserved communities of the world.

Photo of Sam Weiss.

Sam Weiss

Sam Weiss was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and currently lives in Elgin, South Carolina. A junior at Richland Northeast High School, he’s been a staff member and news director of the school’s news show, “RNE-TV Live.” While on staff, he won awards for the broadcast stories he produced about the safety of Richland Northeast High School and the legality and governmental approach to marijuana. Alongside his work for “RNE-TV Live,” he runs the school jumbotron for football games and anchors all sports coverage. Sam is also a committed actor who has starred in shows at Richland Northeast, such as Seymour Krelborn in “Little Shop of Horrors” and Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole.” Sam looks forward to pursuing a career in journalism, so he can truly give a voice to the voiceless.

Photo of Olivia Woodall.

Olivia Woodall

Olivia Woodall was born in Long Island, New York, and currently lives in Marietta, Georgia. As a junior at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy, Olivia has participated and been a part of a plethora of student organizations. In her first year at MBCA, as a sophomore, she was a staff member and president of the literary magazine, and a reporter and co-editor of the yearbook staff. Olivia is also involved in Student Ambassadors, Chick-Fil A Leader Academy, Model UN, Environmental Club and Girls in STEM. Outside school, Olivia serves her community at the local YMCA as a lifeguard and swim instructor and as an executive board member in a chapter of the national Black-owned organization Jack and Jill. Olivia is set to be editor-in-chief of yearbook, president of Student Ambassadors, and first vice president of the North-Suburban Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill during her senior year. Olivia looks forward to what the future has in store for her and cannot wait to take on new, exciting endeavors.