Before the cap and gown, before singing the alma mater, before the diploma, seniors at Miami Lakes Educational center must complete their Capstone Presentation, the culmination of three years of journalism education comes together at the end of the student’s’ senior year as they deliver their presentations to a panel of esteemed judges.
“The purpose of capstone is really to demonstrate the depth of knowledge that students have acquired over their time here,” said the journalism adviser, Neyda Borges. “They take all of those skills that they have honed over the years and they create something new and exciting, something that they’re passionate about, and something that they themselves have to challenge themselves to complete.”
Each year, journalism seniors create a product and they present that product before a panel of expert judges.
In all the years that the journalism students of MLEC have presented their capstones, some things– like the senior’s anxiety and the high standard of excellence that the students easily surpass– have never changed.
“I was really nervous about it because, after all, it’s your four years of journalism put together and you don’t want people to criticize it harsh, even though that’s going to happen no matter what,” said senior Juanita Cardona and yearbook editor-in-chief.
Though her classmates echoed that sentiment, the judges and audience members saw nothing but spectacular displays of hard work and extensive journalism education.
“What I saw today was truly impressive,” said Ms. Helena Castro, an audience member and MLEC’s Activities Director. “I think that this really sets a bar, not only for the level of work that can be done through our journalism program, but really what a capstone should be.”
While those things have come to be expected with capstones, other things are completely new every time. Though on the surface the projects may seem similar, each year the students put their individual personalities and passions into their projects to create a unique take on the plethora of skills that they’ve learned under the tutelage of Mrs. Borges.
Throughout the years, Mrs. Borges instills in her students the qualities of professional journalists. The students learn skills such as article writing, interviewing, photography, videography, layout design and more, and their capstones showcase how they’ve been prepared to transfer these skills to future careers in journalism.
“I’m so impressed,” said Michael Putney, senior political reporter for Local 10 News, political columnist for the Miami Herald, and capstone judge. “Everybody who I have seen can have a career in journalism.”
As future journalists, the students have adopted the mindset of Steve Rothaus, Neighbors editor and LGBT Issues Reporter for the Miami Herald. Rothaus says, “It’s important for student journalists to not think of themselves as writers or videographers or broadcast students,” and MLEC’s journalists share that sentiment.
MLEC’s journalists take on all of the jobs associated with media and communications and never limit themselves to playing only one role. They are not solely reporters or photographers. They do not constrain themselves to print or video. They dabble in everything. Many of the students don’t limit themselves to journalism either; they intend to follow another career path, yet are aware that the skills they acquire in the journalism program will benefit them in any career and in all aspects of their lives.
“We really wouldn’t be here without her,” said senior Laura Romero. “Everything that she taught us, it’s not just about the technical things– how to write a story, how to do a layout– it’s much more than that. I know that [we] are going to take these life lessons that she’s instilled in us to college and throughout our life.”
Though Borges prepares her students well, there are still myriad struggles that the students face as they prepare their presentations. While there are always plenty of technical difficulties that arise when taking on a project of such magnitude, this year’s students had to surmount internal conflicts as well.
These conflicts included breaking ineffective time management habits and combating the intrusive feeling of self-doubt that crept up on them in their most stressful times.
“Throughout the four years of my time in journalism, this has been the most challenging project I have taken on,” said senior Edysmar Diaz-Cruz. “Mostly because there are so many components. For us, it was more than just a documentary: there’s a business aspect, a social media aspect, an aspect of making it unique, making it a brand. Working with my partner, we faced several technical difficulties and compromising with one another.”
Despite the difficulties that come with undergoing such an onerous task, the students were able to create incredible products entirely independently, which is a testament to their brilliance, resilience, and preparedness for anything coming their way.
“Each student that has presented over the course of the last few days has shown the application of knowledge and the experiences they’ve gained,” said Ms. Castro. “It speaks volumes about our journalism program; about Mrs. Borges as an adviser; and it makes more certain that we have set on this path as educators because of this end product, and that end product is our students.”
Through these projects, the students were able to immerse themselves into a new world of knowledge and in their community. As the students conducted countless interviews, took an immeasurable amount of photos, and trekked through the lively city of Miami, they were able to encounter a wide range of people and create unforgettable experiences.
“Seeing the end product has really catalyzed within us this passion to continue truth seeking… to continue being activists and journalists.” said senior Carolina Espinal. “With this project I’ve become even more immersed in journalism and the power of storytelling than ever before and I’m really excited for the future and to continue writing.”
“In completing the capstone, it made me realize that I don’t know everything about the world,” said senior Cesar Zafra. “I learned that the only way that you can make progress with something is knowing first what you have to fix. That is the reason I made this capstone: I wanted to be a voice to the voiceless.”
The relentless hard work of the journalists resulted in final products that were met with applause and praise by their peers, advisors, and the panel of venerated judges.
“I think it’s tremendous to see young men and women who want to be journalists, and who have exciting, creative ideas. The examples I saw today are encouraging, tremendous, impressive,” said Rothaus.
“At the Miami Herald, I’ve worked with several of the students over a period of time from this school, and I’m always very impressed with the professionalism that they bring to the Miami Herald, and to the work they do more than any other school in Miami-Dade County.”