R-JENERATION: Valley students on their way to becoming the next generation of news gatherers

The thirst for knowledge, the enthusiasm for learning and the passion for journalism lie in the hearts and minds of the 2013-14 R-Jeneration team.

In its 13th year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s R-Jeneration program has given aspiring student writers, photographers, artists and videographers the opportunity to learn journalism skills.

Each Thursday, a group of about 25 teens meets at the Las Vegas Review-Journal to get a firsthand look at what it takes to be a real journalist.

Professional journalists, photographers, an artist and videographer work with the students. By listening to guest speakers and meeting with mentors each week, these young writers and photographers gain valuable advice.

The R-Jeneration team learns about all aspects of journalism. With help from R-J staff, student journalists generate ideas for articles, photos and illustrations for publication online and on the R-Jeneration page in the weekly Sunday newspaper.

Throughout the school year, all members of R-Jeneration are required to write three features and one R-Voice column. These articles help build the student’s portfolio and the overall experience enhances their resume. After two semesters of hard work, students are able to attend an annual awards luncheon in the spring. Seniors are eligible for two $2,000 Review-Journal scholarships.

Assistant Features Editor Lindsey Collins heads the R-Jeneration team. She leads the team in discussions about plans for the week and journalism techniques.

Collins hopes students gain the essential writing skills that can help them in any profession.

“Knowing how to write will always serve you well, no matter the career,” Collins says.

Each year, members of the R-J staff volunteer to mentor the young journalists. Review-Journal restaurant critic and features writer Heidi Knapp Rinella has been a mentor for about 10 years.

“I enjoy working with the student journalists because of their energy and enthusiasm — and, of course, because they’re the news-gatherers of the future,” Rinella said. “And I can’t tell you how gratifying it is when a former student makes a point of letting us know the positive difference we made in his or her future.”

It appears the students feel the same way.

“I am most excited for the experience with the mentors and for them to guide us to be better writers,” Las Vegas Academy senior Shannon Sneade said.

R-Jeneration members feel a great sense of achievement when they see their work published in the Review-Journal.

“I feel so accomplished and happy that my work is being put out into the community for others to read and enjoy,” said Claudia Close, a senior at The Meadows School.

Las Vegas Academy senior Allison Strande said she feels that her experience at R-Jeneration will enhance her writing skills.

“I really want to improve my writing,” she said. “I want to study journalism in college and be a reporter.”

First-year members are eager to be a part of R-Jeneration. Meadows School junior Amanda Newman said she hopes to get insight into what it is like to work for a real paper as opposed to the student-run paper at school.

“It’s very exciting to be a first-year R-Jen,” she said. “I can’t wait to start working with the other students and mentors and to see all of our work get published in the R-J.”

Many returning students are excited as well and look forward to see what this year has in store. Returning R-Jeneration writer Zara Siddiqui, a senior at The Meadows School, wants to diversify her talent.

“I hope to expand my horizons in terms of subject matter in journalism,” she said.

Second-year photographer Austin Connell, a senior at Mountain View Christian, said he hopes to get more experience to strengthen his photography skills.

“I wanted to return because I enjoyed going out and taking pictures that are later published in the paper,” Connell says.