Cornerstone University’s Journalism Institute (CJI) is meant to give high school students a feel for professional writing and photography. Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism and director of CJI, said it also shows students how their faith can be part of their writing.
“It’s a powerful week in these kids’ lives,” CJI Coordinator Darlene Lund said, “and it’s exciting to work with future leaders.”
She said the 17 high school students have grown in their writing skills and confidence as the week has progressed.
“I’ve told them not to let perfectionism keep them from taking a risk,” she said. “And don’t be afraid of editing.”
One student, Alexa Heeres of Grandville, said she has had to let go of her perfectionism. Deadlines and getting articles written quickly have been a challenge for her.
In addition to the work, she has enjoyed getting to know everyone and loves the atmosphere on campus.
“I was delightfully surprised that it was so fun,” she said. “On paper, it looked kind of boring, but I’ve been able to get to know people, and the professors have been so helpful.”
Each year, Blanchard brings in many speakers, including: Dave Murray, educational writer for the Grand Rapids Press; Paul Keep, editor of MLive Media Group; Martin Hughes, dean of assessment at Cornerstone; Russ Pulliam, director of Pulliam Fellowship at The Indianapolis Star; Luke Stier, producer at WOOD TV8; and Richard Honholt, Cornerstone’s director of campus safety.
Students listened to speakers in the morning, and then had most of the afternoon to work on their articles. During the week, each student wrote an article about a fellow CJI camper, as well as one on a faculty or staff member. Becky Postema, assistant coordinator of CJI and a junior at CU, wrote additional articles about on-campus news and events.
The articles the students write are compiled into a newspaper called the “CJI Times” that is distributed on the last day and is placed around campus for current students to read when they return in the fall.
Postema said she was impressed with the students’ writing ability.
“A lot of the students didn’t have much experience with writing, but showed great aptitude,” Postema said. “They’re improving a lot in journalistic writing, with things like idea development, organization and leads.”
This year’s program, which ran from July 22-27, was the 10th anniversary for CJI.