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Cleveland Media Academy wraps up with inspiring keynote from veteran journalist Leon Bibb, recognition of graduatesand scholarship winners

By: Aidan Booker, March 6, 2024: CLEVELAND, Ohio

The Cleveland Media Academy was an eight-week intensive journalism program designed to

immerse high school students into journalism and ethics. Each week, professionals across

Northeast Ohio visited The Plain Dealer building to speak to students about their experience in

journalism. Afterwards, students were required to create a recap article, video, or podcast on

what they learned.

Throughout the eight weeks, the students went on three field trips, where they were able to

immerse themselves in different journalism settings. One of the field trips was a tour of WKYC

Channel 3 Studios, which was hosted by anchor Russ Mitchell. They also visited WEWS

Channel 5, where they had the chance to meet meteorologist Katie McGraw, anchor Tessa

DiTirro, reporter Remi Murray, and John Pana from They also visited Signal

Cleveland, where they met with Lawrence Caswell, the Managing Editor for Cleveland

Documenters, along with Rachel Dissell, Community and Special Projects Editor for Signal

Cleveland. Dissell also works with the Marshall Project.

On the last day, the Cleveland Media Academy closed with words from Director

of Content Laura Johnston and investigative reporter Kaitlin Durbin on holding the government

accountable. The students then worked in groups to perform a journalism ethics simulation with reporter Lucas Daprile and The Land reporter Mandy Kraynak.

Hall of Fame journalist Leon Bibb was the keynote speaker. Along with being Ohio's first

African American primetime news anchor, he’s won multiple Emmy awards and has notable

interviews with people such as President Barack Obama, George H. W. Bush, and many others.

He spoke to students about his upbringing in Northeast Ohio and finding passion in journalism,

encouraging students to find something they love. He left students with a powerful message

that’s at the basis of journalism: “Everybody’s got a story.”

After the speeches, awards were given out. Again, this year, students were given a weekly news

quiz to test their knowledge of current events and stay informed on what’s going on in the world.

Cleveland veteran TV journalist and Academy facilitator Sandra Scott administered this test.

The student who scored the highest on this year’s news quiz was senior Annmarie Ciulla from

Mentor High School. She received a $100 award for her research.

A new award was given this year titled the Greg Mills Award, awarded to one ambitious student

who displayed unwavering enthusiasm in the pursuit of journalism. Junior Sada Jenkins from

Bedford High School won this award and received a $50 gift card.

The final award given out was the Eric Russell Scholarship. This scholarship is named in

memory of Eric Russell, a student who participated in the Urban Journalism Workshop and

passed away during his senior year at Charles F. Brush High School.

There were two winners of the Eric Russell Scholarship last year, but this year there were four

outstanding journalists who stood out among the rest. Bedford High School Senior Aidan Booker

was awarded the scholarship for the second time. The other three recipients were Beachwood

High School junior Allie Rindsberg; Mentor High School senior Annmarie Ciulla; and

Benedictine High School senior Russell Peterson.

Also acknowledged as graduates:

● Alex Kierzonek, St. Edward's High School;

● Amaiya Walker, John F. Kennedy High School;

● Amari Pitts, Cleveland Garrett Morgan High School;

● Charli Schnetzer, Revere High School and CVCC;

● Destiny Hall, Lutheran High School East;

● Donovan Farrow, Revere High School;

● Ethan Schmidt, Richmond Heights High School;

● Faith Brown, Brush High School;

● Hannah Conforto, Revere High School;

● Khalil Anderson, East Technical High School;

● Lyndia Zheng, Beachwood High School;

● Madeleine Mehler, Beachwood High School;

● Rameer Askew, Ginn Academy;

● Sabastian Riccio, Olmsted Falls High School;

● Sean Johnson, Richmond High School;

● and Taia Menefee, Beachwood High School

The Cleveland Media Academy students would like to thank all the sponsors, staff, and parents

who made this program possible. Additionally, they would like to thank the professionals and

journalists who visited the Academy.

Academy staff:

David Campbell, Sports Manager at and The Plain Dealer; Lucas Daprile,

reporter and columnist for; Mandy Kraynak, Economic Development Reporter

for The Land; Moreen Bailey Frater, Community Relations Director, News Channel 5; Helen

Maynard, Signal Cleveland; Joe Stills, Cleveland media veteran and freelance writer.

Professionals and journalists who spoke to students:

● Fred Barrett, Founder of Socially Good TV and Emerging Media Manager at

PBS Western Reserve;

● Kierra Cotton, reporter for WKYC Channel 3;

● Katie McGraw, meteorologist for WEWS Channel 5;

● Tessa DiTirro, anchor for WEWS Channel 5;

● Russ Mitchell, anchor for WKYC Channel 3;

● Danielle Wiggins, reporter for WKYC Channel 3;

● Remi Murray, reporter for WEWS Channel 5;

● Andrea Mitchell, professor at John Carroll University;

● Julie Washington, healthcare reporter for

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