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High schools join Stardust program

February 17, 2009

Five Arizona high schools have been selected for the Stardust High School Journalism Program, bringing to 10 the number of schools that are part of a unique initiative to create newsrooms in underserved Arizona high schools. 

The program is operated by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University under a grant from the Stardust Foundation of Scottsdale. New schools are Betty H. Fairfax and Maryvale high schools in Phoenix; Sierra Linda High School in Tolleson southwest of Phoenix; Maricopa High School in Maricopa southeast of Phoenix; and Monument Valley High School in Kayenta on the Navajo reservation in northeast Arizona. 

They join Buckeye Union High School, Coolidge High School, Douglas High School, Miami High School and Snowflake High School, all of which have launched student multimedia news Web sites and expanded their journalism offerings over the past year. Each of the schools is equipped with computers, scanners, video cameras, digital cameras, lighting, audio gear and the software necessary for publishing and managing an online news site. 

Cronkite School staff installs the equipment and manages the servers that host the school’s Web sites. Teachers and students also attend training at the Cronkite School’s new state-of-the-art building in downtown Phoenix. The training covers writing, reporting, editing, Web production, videography and photography as well as journalism ethics, values and First Amendment issues.  

Judith Bullock, journalism adviser at Monument Valley High School, says her students are thrilled to be part of the program.

“Students have been coming to me every day asking, ‘Would they really help us like that? Could it really happen?’ When I got the e-mail, I ran to (the) room where students were working, and as soon as the students saw me, they started shouting, ‘We got it, didn’t we!’” 

The Cronkite School will install multimedia newsrooms and provide equipment to Monument Valley and the four other new schools this summer, says Dave Cornelius, Stardust Program director.  

“The gear is important for most schools because resources are always limited,” Cornelius says. “However the professional guidance and curricular support is even more important.” 

Cornelius makes frequent visits to the schools, providing technical and journalistic training. He is aided by Jennifer Johnson, an editor at The Arizona Republic, who evaluates students’ grammar and writing abilities and provides training and materials aimed at bolstering their skills. 

That kind of support is critical, says Thom Luedemann, chair of the English department at Sierra Linda High School.

“We wanted to become a Stardust partner because we believe this program will spark an interest in language-based learning by providing unique experiences,” he says.  

This fall Sierra Linda students will get to choose from a number of classes in print media and broadcast journalism, he said. The school also will launch a news Web site for students to post their work.  

The program, which currently serves about 200 students, will grow to nearly 400 students in various classes this fall. All of the schools serve large minority populations and have either lacked a journalism program or have had trouble maintaining a journalism program, mostly due to a shortage of funds.  

“More than twice the number of students we hoped for enrolled and accepted the challenge at our first schools,” Cornelius says. “That’s exciting.  And all of our first schools were fully online in the first semester. I expected that, but it’s still pretty cool.”  

The Stardust Foundation is a non-profit corporation founded by Arizona real estate developer and philanthropist Jerry Bisgrove in 1993. Headquartered in Scottsdale, the foundation is designed to selectively provide grants to organizations that impact the linked concepts of family and neighborhood stability. 

For more information about the Stardust program at the Cronkite School, contact Dave Cornelius at or 602.496.9710.