High schoolers ponder multimedia careers at MTSU Innovation J-Camp

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Innovation J-Camp student A.J. Hughes takes a photo outside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building at MTSU. This year's journalism camp for high school students ran July 9-13. (MTSU photo by KeWana McCallum)

Central Magnet High School student Moyin Onafowokan was eager to be a part of this year's Innovation J-Camp at MTSU because she knew there would be "new."

"(I) learned a lot of things, like (how to) use a (stick) mic and how to just operate a camera," said the 14-year-old Rutherford County resident, who was among 15 students attending the weeklong, hands-on summer camp for high school students interested in multimedia journalism.

Wrapping up Friday, July 13, the five-day workshop targeted students who have a passion for creating stories using mobile, social, digital and video platforms.

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Based at the Center for Innovation in Media and in partnership with the College of Media and Entertainment, the camp was again directed by center director Val Hoeppner, who had a vision for starting the program a few years ago and has been able to make it happen with the assistance of colleagues such as Christine Eschenfelder, Dan Eschenfelder and Chris Bacon, among others.

"I came in knowing that I wanted to do a high school camp because I wanted to just get more young people involved in journalism," said Hoeppner.

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Campers learned about news basics and new media platforms each day, then tackled hands-on assignments in the field with camp instructors. At week's end, campers posted videos, photos and written stories online to showcase their multimedia projects.

Hoeppner's background includes work in digital, mobile and multiplatform journalism for more than 15 years and she's also an MTSU instructor. The camp allows the university to expose the motivated campers to MTSU facilities and programs just as they're determining where to begin their higher education journeys.

"We wanted to recruit new students to the College of Media and Entertainment," said Hoeppner about the added benefits of hosting the camp on campus. "We've had at least one, if not two or three students, that next fall become students here."

Some students even come back to the camp a second year to gain more knowledge and experience, and one former camper is now a Blue Raider.

"One of our best writers on Sidelines is Eric Goodwin; he was in my very first J-Camp," said Hoeppner, referring to MTSU's student-run news website.

For the camp, Hoeppner also has a partnership with Canon, who provides camera equipment for campers to allow a better hands-on learning experience with current technology. Along with these tools, Hoeppner provides scholarships for some students.

"I wanted to make J-Camp as diverse as possible, so I offer three diversity scholarships every year," she said.

J-Camper Karina Rovey, a 17-year-old student at Page High School in Franklin, Tennessee, isn't quite sure what she wants to be when she's older, but as she snapped pictures in the Center for Innovation in Media earlier this week, she noted how the program can help campers "figure out what you want to do in college."

Caryn Tramel, now an MTSU sophomore majoring in video and film, participated in the program's inaugural year and is now a program mentor, helping out with the different groups throughout the week.

"We pretty much did what they're doing now, just like learning how to use the camera, taking photos, (and) learning what a story was," said Tramel. "We're not pushing them to do anything but kind of like guiding them, and some of them already have these skills, so it's cool to see them throughout the week get more confident in their skills."

The Innovation J-Camp will be held again next year during the second full week of July. For more information or to register, visit http://innovationjcamp.org/about-innovation-j-camp/.

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