ROME, N.Y. -- Journalism students at Rome Free Academy’s Knightly News were already in the business of telling the stories of their fellow students, but their job became more important as they found themselves in the middle of a major story impacting the school, the state, the country and the world.
COVID-19 has changed lives across the globe in ways large and small. Students were abruptly sent home from school with no clear idea on when they’d go back. Close to a month later, last Friday those students and faculty all found out simultaneously they would not go back to complete the school year in their respective school buildings.
We spoke with the students at the Knightly News at RFA who have seen their bi-weekly broadcast take on a reinforced purpose to keep students and families connected and heard.
Their reaction to the news that school would not open up this academic year?
“Depressing,” one said.
“Shocking,” from another.
“I didn’t think it was actually going to happen,” Sophomore Alana Fragapane said. “It didn’t seem real.”
The journalism students found themselves living a story as it unfolds and becoming a lifeline of communication for fellow students stuck at home. They kept on doing what journalists do. They set up interviews with teachers, athletes, staff and lawmakers. They even requested an interview with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“We put in a letter to Governor Cuomo,” said Carl Managanaro, MORIC and RFA staff member. “We don’t know if we will get that one, but we are trying.”
Jared Hussey is a junior at RFA. He says the main goal for him at the Knightly News is to get as much information out to families and students as possible.
Sophomore journalism student Ashton Thompson said the class gives him purpose. “It’s still fun being able to do our classes and everything and being able to experience some parts of our tenth grade and junior years.”
Kaila Hoskins is an English teacher at RFA. She also advises these budding journalists. Hoskins told NEWSChannel2 as the students started interviewing real figures to find out answers, “It’s almost like they were thrown into what it is like to be a journalist.”
I think they started out with the idea of trying to stay connected because they are all staying in their own homes and are unable to connect to their friends, so I think they just kind of wanted to reach out,” Hoskins said.
The students’ idea to reach out went above and beyond that, with real-life informative interviews on real issues, like the one Sophomore Alana Iacovissi did previously with State Senator Joseph Griffo.
“I think they were just as surprised to interview Senator Griffo as maybe he was to see us reach out to him,” Hoskins said. “But I think it’s taken off and the broadcasting aspect is better than it was maybe even in school.”
Their last broadcast saw about 1,000 viewers.
Their next broadcast, one week after the announcement that school facilities are shut down for the rest of the academic school year will focus on student athletes who did not get to play their spring sports season.
They’ve interviewed RFA Athletic Director Michael Stamboli as well as student athletes and seniors.
The feedback they’ve received?
“They believe what we are doing is a great thing, especially for the senior class,” Hussey said.
Also feedback from the likes of Tom Moore, a meteorologist who spent 33 years as a lead forecaster for the Weather Channel. They say Moore commented on the YouTube page giving the students a compliment for the interview with Griffo.
Back to the seniors at RFA.
“We feel really bad for the seniors,” Alana Iocavissi said. “They didn’t get to finish their school year. They might not have a graduation.”
“We are thinking of was to recognize this year’s seniors because what we are going through is something not a lot of people have ever gone through,” Hussey said.
And from a teacher’s perspective, Hoskins said, “It was heartbreaking to not be able to go back or to hear the news that we weren’t going back, but to be able to continue to do this and to stay connected this way, helps to ease things up a little bit.”
The strength comes in numbers and connection.
“Realizing it’s not just us going through this,” Hussey said. “It’s the entire world going through this.”
Click here to watch tonight's Knightly News broadcast.