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Rob Curley: Teen Journalism Institute’s Class of 2023 high school interns is full of firsts

It never gets any easier. But it also gets more and more rewarding each summer.

For the third summer in a row – with huge help from a special grant from Bank of America – The Spokesman-Review continues to be the only daily newspaper in the nation to have paid internships for high school students.

Tons of students now apply for what has easily become the coolest summer job for a high school student in all of Eastern Washington. Well, maybe even the coolest summer job in North Idaho.

This year’s class includes our first students from Idaho, as Rathdrum’s Lakeland High School landed not just one but two students in this year’s Teen Journalism Institute.

As our editors pored through all of the applications that arrived this spring, we quickly began to ask ourselves if we could add even more students to the program this summer. Which is exactly what happened last summer, as well.

The applications we received from high school students across the region were so impressive that we also began to ask ourselves if we all should have tried a little harder when we were back in school.

These students all are so smart and thoughtful that just trying to figure out who we might bring in to interview is a real challenge. Then once we have interviewed them, it’s even tougher to decide who we’ll ask to join our newsroom for eight weeks.

That’s why the first year, we had four interns … then upped it to six students for Year 2. Yep, you probably guessed that we have eight students this summer. We couldn’t help ourselves. We also had to literally rearrange parts of our newsroom to get more desks to fit around where all of our senior editors sit.

You’re already seeing their stories appear in our newspaper, and just wait until you see all of the stories they’re working on for next week.

There are so many high school interns in our newsroom this summer that you almost need a game program with photos and bios just to keep them all clear. So we did.

Well, we didn’t actually build a game program for all of our interns. We asked each of our student journalists to write profiles on each other. All of those stories are in today’s newspaper.

You’re going to love their work even more as you learn just how interesting, dedicated and cool they all are.

There are all sorts of “firsts” with this year’s group of students. We don’t just have our first students in the program from Idaho, we also have our first students from Mt. Spokane and Ridgeline. We also have our first student from Cheney High School — though he kinda looks a little like someone else we know. We just haven’t figured out who yet.

We have our first student who is focusing on online journalism and web news design. We have our first student to get to work with The Spokesman-Review’s Charles Apple to build even more of our newspaper’s beloved full-page graphical stories, Further Review.

We even have a student whose YouTube channel has nearly 125,000 subscribers and has amassed more than 17,000,000 video views. That’s not a typo. It’s also more YouTube subscribers than all of the Spokane-area television stations have combined.

This unique program has always been so much more than just a newsroom internship.

These students will meet face-to-face with community leaders, and our elected leaders in Spokane, Olympia and even Washington, D.C. They’re going to get to sit down with CEOs, world-renowned chefs, successful college coaches, astronauts, Hollywood actors and producers, the chiefs of police and fire departments, important community activists, and even get private campus tours from university presidents.

By the end the summer, they’ll definitely know how to document the living history of where they live through writing and researching and interviewing hundreds of people. They’ll also likely know more about this community and its leaders than most adults who live here.

More importantly, they’re going to learn how to make a difference – which is exactly why we don’t care that it gets harder and harder to do this each year.

It’s totally worth it.

Maybe even more for us than for them.

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