Student Testimonials 

University of Massachusetts Amherst and the High School of Commerce students reflect on what they have learned in the duration of their Community Journalism Course — the classroom experience has helped students continue in the work and apply it to other departments of their life.  

 Morgan Hughes, Class of 2019  I chose journalism because I wanted to tell stories that mattered. I’ve struggled to find a place for the kinds of stories that can uplift communities, embrace folks who’ve never been there, and be a driving force of change by perspective. I was a part of Community Journalism for about a year-and-a-half, and it is undeniably an experience I point to that changed my outlook on what we do as journalists.  As I prepare to enter a career in journalism, I constantly reflect back on the way we told stories in the program — by letting the ‘sources’ tell it themselves. This non traditional approach is not yet embraced by many newsrooms in the age of the digital, 24-hour news cycle. Telling each communities stories of heartache and struggle, perseverance and triumph, love and conflict is an important part of creating community, period.  In Community Journalism and its sister program, NEPR’s Media Lab, Nick and Carlos McBride taught me to tell stories in the humanistic approach that 24-hour news cycle is lacking. He reminded us to be in touch with the real people being hurt by the broken systems and institutions we write about. Through telling stories, we as a group were able to lift each other up and discover light in ourselves and light in our stories. We were also able to help young people so often written about or grouped together in the news take control of their own narrative, and share it.  Community Journalism helped me define my mission as a journalist, as a student, and as an educator. I carry it with me, and share it whenever I can. Community Journalism; both words in the name are as important as the other, and together they should stay.

Morgan Hughes, Class of 2019

I chose journalism because I wanted to tell stories that mattered. I’ve struggled to find a place for the kinds of stories that can uplift communities, embrace folks who’ve never been there, and be a driving force of change by perspective. I was a part of Community Journalism for about a year-and-a-half, and it is undeniably an experience I point to that changed my outlook on what we do as journalists.

As I prepare to enter a career in journalism, I constantly reflect back on the way we told stories in the program — by letting the ‘sources’ tell it themselves. This non traditional approach is not yet embraced by many newsrooms in the age of the digital, 24-hour news cycle. Telling each communities stories of heartache and struggle, perseverance and triumph, love and conflict is an important part of creating community, period.

In Community Journalism and its sister program, NEPR’s Media Lab, Nick and Carlos McBride taught me to tell stories in the humanistic approach that 24-hour news cycle is lacking. He reminded us to be in touch with the real people being hurt by the broken systems and institutions we write about. Through telling stories, we as a group were able to lift each other up and discover light in ourselves and light in our stories. We were also able to help young people so often written about or grouped together in the news take control of their own narrative, and share it.

Community Journalism helped me define my mission as a journalist, as a student, and as an educator. I carry it with me, and share it whenever I can. Community Journalism; both words in the name are as important as the other, and together they should stay.

 Brian Becilacqua, Class of 2016  I owe all of the success and happiness I’ve experienced as a young professional to Nick McBride and my time spent working with young people in Springfield through his courses and projects. I was a fourth semester student searching for a path. I enrolled in his Community Journalism course at UMass which helped me realize what really mattered.  Mentoring young people in the city led me to a sense a purpose. I quickly realized that this was where I wanted to tell stories. I ultimately spent the remainder of my time at UMass assisting McBride’s cohort of high school and college students. As graduation approached, I knew I needed to stay involved. I joined New England Public Radio’s Media Lab team and endeavored to carry the lessons I learned to a larger platform.  If you’re searching for a chance to make a difference, if you’re searching for underrepresented voices, if you’re searching for unique, genuine, heartfelt work, check out Nick McBride’s Community Journalism class, NEPR’s Media Lab, and the stories from Springfield and Holyoke they share.

Brian Becilacqua, Class of 2016

I owe all of the success and happiness I’ve experienced as a young professional to Nick McBride and my time spent working with young people in Springfield through his courses and projects. I was a fourth semester student searching for a path. I enrolled in his Community Journalism course at UMass which helped me realize what really mattered.

Mentoring young people in the city led me to a sense a purpose. I quickly realized that this was where I wanted to tell stories. I ultimately spent the remainder of my time at UMass assisting McBride’s cohort of high school and college students. As graduation approached, I knew I needed to stay involved. I joined New England Public Radio’s Media Lab team and endeavored to carry the lessons I learned to a larger platform.

If you’re searching for a chance to make a difference, if you’re searching for underrepresented voices, if you’re searching for unique, genuine, heartfelt work, check out Nick McBride’s Community Journalism class, NEPR’s Media Lab, and the stories from Springfield and Holyoke they share.

 Andrea Comerford, Class of 2012  Professor McBride and Community Journalism truly changed my life. I was lucky enough to have met Professor McBride as a freshman so I could be a part of the Community Journalism Project for the next 6 semesters of my college career. Before joining the course, I had never been exposed first-hand to the hardships faced by those in low-income communities. This project really helped me understand the neglect that low-income communities face when it comes to representation in the media. In the beginning, I was enraged, disappointed and crushed to witness the systematic oppression that the Springfield students, and students in all low-income areas, face on a day-to-day basis.  However, as time went on, I could feel nothing but hope. These students taught me more than I could ever teach them through their resilience, determination and never-ending positive attitudes. To see the change in students’ morale over the course of a few months, from having their voices heard in today’s society was moving. The work completed through the project was so rewarding. It was an amazing feeling to know that your work had meaning.  I currently work in the publishing industry, and this course has motivated me utilize my privilege and voice (as small as it may be at a giant corporation) to demand attention, time and money for books written by diverse authors that feature diverse characters, after seeing the impact representation can have. Seeing yourself represented in literature has never been an obstacle I have had to face, but Community Journalism has opened my eyes and made me notice that this is a true issue in today’s media that has to be addressed.  Professor McBride and his son, Carlos, are true stars that deserve to be recognized every year for their important work. It was such a privilege to work with them. I hope that the Community Journalism project continues to grow and flourish.

Andrea Comerford, Class of 2012

Professor McBride and Community Journalism truly changed my life. I was lucky enough to have met Professor McBride as a freshman so I could be a part of the Community Journalism Project for the next 6 semesters of my college career. Before joining the course, I had never been exposed first-hand to the hardships faced by those in low-income communities. This project really helped me understand the neglect that low-income communities face when it comes to representation in the media. In the beginning, I was enraged, disappointed and crushed to witness the systematic oppression that the Springfield students, and students in all low-income areas, face on a day-to-day basis.

However, as time went on, I could feel nothing but hope. These students taught me more than I could ever teach them through their resilience, determination and never-ending positive attitudes. To see the change in students’ morale over the course of a few months, from having their voices heard in today’s society was moving. The work completed through the project was so rewarding. It was an amazing feeling to know that your work had meaning.

I currently work in the publishing industry, and this course has motivated me utilize my privilege and voice (as small as it may be at a giant corporation) to demand attention, time and money for books written by diverse authors that feature diverse characters, after seeing the impact representation can have. Seeing yourself represented in literature has never been an obstacle I have had to face, but Community Journalism has opened my eyes and made me notice that this is a true issue in today’s media that has to be addressed.

Professor McBride and his son, Carlos, are true stars that deserve to be recognized every year for their important work. It was such a privilege to work with them. I hope that the Community Journalism project continues to grow and flourish.

 Chelsea Field, Class of 2015   Pictured: Chelsea Field and former Commerce student Fynta SIdime who now attends Hampshire College   Community Journalism is more than just a class, it’s an experience that forever touches your heart and changes lives.  CJP throws you into a hands-on and collaborative experience mentoring high school students in writing. Victory shines from the darkness of a nearly empty auditorium as students practice their spoken-word pieces on a dimly lit stage. Victory grows out of classroom desk graffiti as a struggling student finally lifts their head to write a few more sentences. There is an end goal of producing student stories in their own words, but the true success lies in sustained weekly efforts to support this journey.  Professor McBride was the professor at UMass who taught me the most, ironically by saying the least. His quiet wisdom comes from assigned readings (yes, read everything and then ask for more!) and more importantly, his actions. Under his patience and thoughtfulness, I became a better mentor, a better listener, and a better person.  This space and the people I met in it are very close to my heart, always. CJP continues to guide me in my personal and professional life. I cannot recommend it enough to UMass students of any area of study, but especially to UMass journalism students. It will change “why” and “how” you write forever.

Chelsea Field, Class of 2015

Pictured: Chelsea Field and former Commerce student Fynta SIdime who now attends Hampshire College

Community Journalism is more than just a class, it’s an experience that forever touches your heart and changes lives.

CJP throws you into a hands-on and collaborative experience mentoring high school students in writing. Victory shines from the darkness of a nearly empty auditorium as students practice their spoken-word pieces on a dimly lit stage. Victory grows out of classroom desk graffiti as a struggling student finally lifts their head to write a few more sentences. There is an end goal of producing student stories in their own words, but the true success lies in sustained weekly efforts to support this journey.

Professor McBride was the professor at UMass who taught me the most, ironically by saying the least. His quiet wisdom comes from assigned readings (yes, read everything and then ask for more!) and more importantly, his actions. Under his patience and thoughtfulness, I became a better mentor, a better listener, and a better person.

This space and the people I met in it are very close to my heart, always. CJP continues to guide me in my personal and professional life. I cannot recommend it enough to UMass students of any area of study, but especially to UMass journalism students. It will change “why” and “how” you write forever.

   Herry Sung, Class of 2016  I remember picking Community Journalism out of a list of classes simply because it fulfilled academic ’requirements’. I didn’t realize how deeply the experiences I would gain from this class would affect me and how many lessons beyond college courses I would learn.   I think I can recall with some clarity the first day of class, when Nick McBride walked into that room, as calm and cool as could be. As he explained what this class would be like, I remember not really understanding what it would be like.   The first day was tough and every day after that was even more so as we worked to welcome perspectives and experiences different from our privileged college student daily lives. It was refreshing to have to work to find common ground or even just a point to connect on with strangers from an entirely different place.   This became more than a class to me. It became a defining consistency in college that, to me, felt indefinitely more valuable than anything I could learn from iclicker questions or online quizzes. I learned more than how to ask the right question or how to edit stories from this class. I learned how to interact with people, which has become so much more important to my life than anything else I learned in college. I learned how to care genuinely.   This class helped me see beyond ‘technical’ writing. It showed me that a story could be one that doesn’t even have to be written. I remember a couple of students telling me about their lives, simply to talk, not for me to pull my pen out and jot notes- but to stop and actually listen and take in what was being said.  I could go on and on about this class and Professor McBride and the impact they’ve had on my life. I learned how to really listen and that alone has gotten me through so much in life.

Herry Sung, Class of 2016

I remember picking Community Journalism out of a list of classes simply because it fulfilled academic ’requirements’. I didn’t realize how deeply the experiences I would gain from this class would affect me and how many lessons beyond college courses I would learn.

I think I can recall with some clarity the first day of class, when Nick McBride walked into that room, as calm and cool as could be. As he explained what this class would be like, I remember not really understanding what it would be like.

The first day was tough and every day after that was even more so as we worked to welcome perspectives and experiences different from our privileged college student daily lives. It was refreshing to have to work to find common ground or even just a point to connect on with strangers from an entirely different place.

This became more than a class to me. It became a defining consistency in college that, to me, felt indefinitely more valuable than anything I could learn from iclicker questions or online quizzes. I learned more than how to ask the right question or how to edit stories from this class. I learned how to interact with people, which has become so much more important to my life than anything else I learned in college. I learned how to care genuinely.

This class helped me see beyond ‘technical’ writing. It showed me that a story could be one that doesn’t even have to be written. I remember a couple of students telling me about their lives, simply to talk, not for me to pull my pen out and jot notes- but to stop and actually listen and take in what was being said.

I could go on and on about this class and Professor McBride and the impact they’ve had on my life. I learned how to really listen and that alone has gotten me through so much in life.

 Allyson Morin, Class of 2018  Opening myself to a mentoring role in community journalism demanded that I open my heart and mind to the reality that my truths are the product of my own limited experience as an individual.  All of us are unfinished. We are unfinished in the truths yet to learn, the perspectives left to consider, the people left to meet and the world unexplored. We grow, change, age, and experience every moment of the day. Some moments are bigger than other moments. Many of my big moments happened in community journalism. UMass students who choose community journalism operate in the role of teacher and mentor, but honestly, these strong, smart, resilient kids at the High School of Commerce taught me more than I could ever offer them. I left this class--after three consecutive semesters--fundamentally different than I entered.   Journalism is vital to a free society. It keeps systems of power in check, gives a voice to the voiceless, and informs us of the world inside and outside of our bubbles. However, so many stories are left untold by our media. Voices are underrepresented and misrepresented. News reports of Springfield paint the city as a single-note place of violence and fail to articulate the complex beauty of its resilience.   Community journalism and its partner, NEPR Media Lab, tell the stories of young people operating within broken systems with unapologetic rawness and honesty. If it were up to me, this course would be a graduation requirement to any student in the UMass Journalism program. Without this course I think you are missing the point. You are depriving your personal education of the ways real journalistic work within real communities can impact and shape real lives. The lessons learned here cannot be learned out of a textbook within the privileged bubble of Amherst, Massachusetts. It simply cannot.  Once upon a time when I was a different Allyson, I hesitated whether I should continue this class when I realized it was “only” an elective. A friend told me it had the potential to be the single most important thing I did in my college career. Guess what? It was.

Allyson Morin, Class of 2018

Opening myself to a mentoring role in community journalism demanded that I open my heart and mind to the reality that my truths are the product of my own limited experience as an individual.

All of us are unfinished. We are unfinished in the truths yet to learn, the perspectives left to consider, the people left to meet and the world unexplored. We grow, change, age, and experience every moment of the day. Some moments are bigger than other moments. Many of my big moments happened in community journalism. UMass students who choose community journalism operate in the role of teacher and mentor, but honestly, these strong, smart, resilient kids at the High School of Commerce taught me more than I could ever offer them. I left this class--after three consecutive semesters--fundamentally different than I entered.


Journalism is vital to a free society. It keeps systems of power in check, gives a voice to the voiceless, and informs us of the world inside and outside of our bubbles. However, so many stories are left untold by our media. Voices are underrepresented and misrepresented. News reports of Springfield paint the city as a single-note place of violence and fail to articulate the complex beauty of its resilience.


Community journalism and its partner, NEPR Media Lab, tell the stories of young people operating within broken systems with unapologetic rawness and honesty. If it were up to me, this course would be a graduation requirement to any student in the UMass Journalism program. Without this course I think you are missing the point. You are depriving your personal education of the ways real journalistic work within real communities can impact and shape real lives. The lessons learned here cannot be learned out of a textbook within the privileged bubble of Amherst, Massachusetts. It simply cannot.

Once upon a time when I was a different Allyson, I hesitated whether I should continue this
class when I realized it was “only” an elective. A friend told me it had the potential to be the
single most important thing I did in my college career. Guess what? It was.

 Ethan Bakuli, Class of 2019  I’m a homegrown product of Western Mass, the son of Kenyan immigrants who settled in the Valley in the 1980s and have been here ever since. Before I got into UMass, I never thought seriously about journalism or staying in the area. I think it’s common for a lot of kids who grow up here to want to leave as soon as you can, to the point that the people who stay feel like they’ve been left behind alongside their aspirations. Most of my family and friends have moved away over the years, so it felt odd to plan my future knowing I had to spend four more years in my hometown. The concern was: how could I continue to impact our community? Make a difference in the 413?  Luckily I came across Professor McBride and his teaching philosophy at the beginning of my sophomore year. He wound up just giving me a shot to pursue journalism, seeing that I was thinking about a lot of issues locally and nationally but didn’t really have the means to do something about it. I didn’t want to go through my education without showing up and doing work for my community. Through trial and error, journalism became my means to earn my keep in the valley, largely through the opportunity to work at the High School of Commerce.  A lot of the labor that goes into maintaining our communities goes thankless, just as a lot of our communities’ students don’t have a platform to speak on their ambitions as well as their struggles. These days people talk a lot about the need to ‘restore trust in journalism’ in the wake of ‘fake news’ accusations; I think that begins with us reporters recognizing who we’re writing about and for. The communities that need accountable and accurate journalism are being underserved; they need people who are willing to think in both the short and long term about what their reportage can provide for them. What kind of journalism can we write for the people who may not have the means to leave their hometown, but still deserve better?  I’m glad I got to work with Community Journalism. I hope to continue working alongside the students and McBride to keep that pipeline from the university to Springfield alive. Often, people come and go out of this area with a narrow perception of what the Valley has to offer. I believe Community Journalism is a step toward reminding us that they are people and stories everywhere, and wherever we go it should be our responsibility to uplift those around us.

Ethan Bakuli, Class of 2019

I’m a homegrown product of Western Mass, the son of Kenyan immigrants who settled in the Valley in the 1980s and have been here ever since. Before I got into UMass, I never thought seriously about journalism or staying in the area. I think it’s common for a lot of kids who grow up here to want to leave as soon as you can, to the point that the people who stay feel like they’ve been left behind alongside their aspirations. Most of my family and friends have moved away over the years, so it felt odd to plan my future knowing I had to spend four more years in my hometown. The concern was: how could I continue to impact our community? Make a difference in the 413?

Luckily I came across Professor McBride and his teaching philosophy at the beginning of my sophomore year. He wound up just giving me a shot to pursue journalism, seeing that I was thinking about a lot of issues locally and nationally but didn’t really have the means to do something about it. I didn’t want to go through my education without showing up and doing work for my community. Through trial and error, journalism became my means to earn my keep in the valley, largely through the opportunity to work at the High School of Commerce.

A lot of the labor that goes into maintaining our communities goes thankless, just as a lot of our communities’ students don’t have a platform to speak on their ambitions as well as their struggles. These days people talk a lot about the need to ‘restore trust in journalism’ in the wake of ‘fake news’ accusations; I think that begins with us reporters recognizing who we’re writing about and for. The communities that need accountable and accurate journalism are being underserved; they need people who are willing to think in both the short and long term about what their reportage can provide for them. What kind of journalism can we write for the people who may not have the means to leave their hometown, but still deserve better?

I’m glad I got to work with Community Journalism. I hope to continue working alongside the students and McBride to keep that pipeline from the university to Springfield alive. Often, people come and go out of this area with a narrow perception of what the Valley has to offer. I believe Community Journalism is a step toward reminding us that they are people and stories everywhere, and wherever we go it should be our responsibility to uplift those around us.

 Michaela Chesin, Class of 2020  I entered McBride’s Community Journalism class in the Fall of my sophomore year. At that point, it was very difficult to decipher why exactly I did what I did. What were all the stories for the student paper adding up to? Why exactly did I spend the hours memorizing AP style or understanding the nuances of becoming a “professional journalist?” Why did I want to do this work?  Community Journalism shakes up the traditional academic model. It brings up questions you never knew you had. Every class I walked away from the High School of Commerce with valuable lessons about the strong forces media play in the lives of young people, the false narratives that can infiltrate news systems and the stories that are often not told but truly deserve to be.  The course is a foundation of work that moves us all forward to teach and learn at a higher capacity, with more rigorous thought and understanding.  The work in Springfield helped me realize that journalism is much more than words to get a story out there. It’s understanding complex systems that hurt complex people. It’s listening and learning from the voices that need to be heard and shed light within a community.  I am so thankful for my experiences in the Community Journalism course and the meaning I am able to take from those experiences. I carry them with me.

Michaela Chesin, Class of 2020

I entered McBride’s Community Journalism class in the Fall of my sophomore year. At that point, it was very difficult to decipher why exactly I did what I did. What were all the stories for the student paper adding up to? Why exactly did I spend the hours memorizing AP style or understanding the nuances of becoming a “professional journalist?” Why did I want to do this work?

Community Journalism shakes up the traditional academic model. It brings up questions you never knew you had. Every class I walked away from the High School of Commerce with valuable lessons about the strong forces media play in the lives of young people, the false narratives that can infiltrate news systems and the stories that are often not told but truly deserve to be.

The course is a foundation of work that moves us all forward to teach and learn at a higher capacity, with more rigorous thought and understanding.

The work in Springfield helped me realize that journalism is much more than words to get a story out there. It’s understanding complex systems that hurt complex people. It’s listening and learning from the voices that need to be heard and shed light within a community.

I am so thankful for my experiences in the Community Journalism course and the meaning I am able to take from those experiences. I carry them with me.

 Devin Thompson, Class of 201  I joined Community Journalism during my sophomore year at UMass, after taking classes with Professor McBride my first year. I felt connected to him – because, well, he saw through the bullshit. He told it like it was and more importantly, gave us the platform to speak our truths. I had never experienced that before in an educational setting and I wanted more of it. When I chose to major in Journalism, my intent was to “give voice to the voiceless.” I’ve found, especially in today’s news cycle, that mainstream media goes against the very foundation I thought Journalism was laid upon. They marginalize the voiceless with their words and turn the camera away when those same people are begging to be heard.  Community Journalism gave me the hope that I needed to believe journalism could still be used for good, that true journalism still had a home in our culture. I’m sure others felt the same way – but I often felt as though the students of Commerce High were mentoring me while I was there to mentor them. I was a first-generation college student fighting for my chance, too. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone either and talked through our pain and bled out on the paper. There simply isn’t a person on Earth who doesn’t struggle with something – internally or externally. But it was rare, and beautiful, to be in a community where struggle is shared amongst the young people. The pain was so raw and real – they knew they were being stiffed by society, they knew poverty, violence, ignorance, misrepresentation was all being perpetrated on them by an unforgiving system. They took the things that work to make people feel powerless, acknowledged them, and fought back by standing together, by dancing and laughing and joking together. By growing together.  If you want to truly understand a community, look at the young people. Here you will find the purist representation of what the area stands for – despite the way the media portrays them. Young people absorb. They aren’t yet so caught up in digging themselves out of the hole that they become blind to what is happening around them. They still believe in their voice – and that’s the greatest gift a person can have. Community Journalism nurtures that voice before the forces silence them with an overwhelming pile of injustice. Being apart of this class meant being apart of change. Change our country needs desperately and change I know that kids in these communities can bring. Keep writing, keep mentoring, keep fighting. Knowledge is power and power is change.

Devin Thompson, Class of 201

I joined Community Journalism during my sophomore year at UMass, after taking classes with Professor McBride my first year. I felt connected to him – because, well, he saw through the bullshit. He told it like it was and more importantly, gave us the platform to speak our truths. I had never experienced that before in an educational setting and I wanted more of it. When I chose to major in Journalism, my intent was to “give voice to the voiceless.” I’ve found, especially in today’s news cycle, that mainstream media goes against the very foundation I thought Journalism was laid upon. They marginalize the voiceless with their words and turn the camera away when those same people are begging to be heard.

Community Journalism gave me the hope that I needed to believe journalism could still be used for good, that true journalism still had a home in our culture. I’m sure others felt the same way – but I often felt as though the students of Commerce High were mentoring me while I was there to mentor them. I was a first-generation college student fighting for my chance, too. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone either and talked through our pain and bled out on the paper. There simply isn’t a person on Earth who doesn’t struggle with something – internally or externally. But it was rare, and beautiful, to be in a community where struggle is shared amongst the young people. The pain was so raw and real – they knew they were being stiffed by society, they knew poverty, violence, ignorance, misrepresentation was all being perpetrated on them by an unforgiving system. They took the things that work to make people feel powerless, acknowledged them, and fought back by standing together, by dancing and laughing and joking together. By growing together.

If you want to truly understand a community, look at the young people. Here you will find the purist representation of what the area stands for – despite the way the media portrays them. Young people absorb. They aren’t yet so caught up in digging themselves out of the hole that they become blind to what is happening around them. They still believe in their voice – and that’s the greatest gift a person can have. Community Journalism nurtures that voice before the forces silence them with an overwhelming pile of injustice. Being apart of this class meant being apart of change. Change our country needs desperately and change I know that kids in these communities can bring. Keep writing, keep mentoring, keep fighting. Knowledge is power and power is change.

 Brian Canova, Class of 2013  The Community Journalism course gave me the opportunity to spend time teaching, mentoring and learning from high school journalism students, and at the same time it provided an intimate vantage point to learn about the city of Springfield socially, culturally and economically.  It’s difficult to encapsulate the totality of the course briefly. We got to teach high school students journalism, the course of study most of us had chosen as undergrads. That alone was exciting. We also got to mentor youngsters - who weren’t actually that much younger than us - and encourage them to pursue their own educations, partially by providing them a glimpse of the fun and cool university lives we were living. At the same time the students also taught us about their lives, their families and their city, and the associated trials, tribulations, and triumphs.  Springfield had its struggles, and it frustrated me to see the way that larger systems threatened to adversely affect the futures of these bright students. In the years since I’ve stayed connected with some of the students on social media and gotten to see them graduate college, start families, and become leaders in their community. It’s great to see what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Brian Canova, Class of 2013

The Community Journalism course gave me the opportunity to spend time teaching, mentoring and learning from high school journalism students, and at the same time it provided an intimate vantage point to learn about the city of Springfield socially, culturally and economically.

It’s difficult to encapsulate the totality of the course briefly. We got to teach high school students journalism, the course of study most of us had chosen as undergrads. That alone was exciting. We also got to mentor youngsters - who weren’t actually that much younger than us - and encourage them to pursue their own educations, partially by providing them a glimpse of the fun and cool university lives we were living. At the same time the students also taught us about their lives, their families and their city, and the associated trials, tribulations, and triumphs.

Springfield had its struggles, and it frustrated me to see the way that larger systems threatened to adversely affect the futures of these bright students. In the years since I’ve stayed connected with some of the students on social media and gotten to see them graduate college, start families, and become leaders in their community. It’s great to see what they’ve been able to accomplish.

 Rachel Roberts, Class of 2012  I’ll never forget the first day I stepped foot in Springfield’s High School of Commerce. The student population was more diverse than any school I’d ever been to, and over the course of a year and a half, I learned just as much if not more than the students I was mentoring myself.  Community Journalism emphasized the importance of identifying broken systems, and asking ourselves and others affected how we can collectively improve said systems from the inside out. We challenged and encouraged one another to find our own voices through various storytelling mediums that helped us explore and better understand ourselves as well as the complex and often bureaucratic world around us. Of all the fantastic journalism courses offered at UMass, Community Journalism had the greatest social and cultural impact on my college career, the lessons of which I have continued to practice in my current profession as a criminal defense investigator.  Six years after trekking to Washington D.C. with Commerce students, I was thrilled to learn that a former student just graduated summa cum laude from Westfield State! At the end of the day, that is what Community Journalism is all about – staying connected, learning from one another and serving as leaders to better ourselves and our communities.

Rachel Roberts, Class of 2012

I’ll never forget the first day I stepped foot in Springfield’s High School of Commerce. The student population was more diverse than any school I’d ever been to, and over the course of a year and a half, I learned just as much if not more than the students I was mentoring myself.

Community Journalism emphasized the importance of identifying broken systems, and asking ourselves and others affected how we can collectively improve said systems from the inside out. We challenged and encouraged one another to find our own voices through various storytelling mediums that helped us explore and better understand ourselves as well as the complex and often bureaucratic world around us. Of all the fantastic journalism courses offered at UMass, Community Journalism had the greatest social and cultural impact on my college career, the lessons of which I have continued to practice in my current profession as a criminal defense investigator.

Six years after trekking to Washington D.C. with Commerce students, I was thrilled to learn that a former student just graduated summa cum laude from Westfield State! At the end of the day, that is what Community Journalism is all about – staying connected, learning from one another and serving as leaders to better ourselves and our communities.

 William Keve , Class of 2018  Community journalism was a class I looked forward to each week because I knew that there was never going to be a day that wasted my time or put a syllabus before a student. The combination of theory and practice in this class is unmatched in any other journalism course. That is one of many reasons so many students retake community journalism over and over again. If I could run the world, Community Journalism would be mandatory for all journalism students at some point in time at UMass. I don’t know how you can get the full experience of the department without taking it.  McBride’s commitment to student agency went beyond just the five college students. The students from the High School of Commerce could also reach any level of independence they wanted in the class, and some of them accomplished that through their reporting projects and personal narratives. As I worked with three Commerce students on a weekly basis, they were co-directors, writers and reporters alongside me.  My favorite moment from the class was working on a video project about a recent school walkout in protest of school shootings. Commerce students were understandably apprehensive to talk on camera about this, and anxious about operating the camera and conducting the interviews. But with some encouragement, we started shooting with Commerce students completely at the wheel. My friends and I from UMass just sat back and watched at one point. The students did a fantastic job, and it was one of the best stories I’ve seen produced from the class. It reminded me of my own high school journalism class which sparked my interested in reporting.  I hope the community journalism program keeps succeeding and takes the risks it needs to in order to grow even stronger. I hope it’s more thoroughly embraced by the department and the university, and I would love to see more than one trip per week to Springfield, even if the extra trips were voluntary for students. I know that many of them would show up.

William Keve , Class of 2018

Community journalism was a class I looked forward to each week because I knew that there was never going to be a day that wasted my time or put a syllabus before a student. The combination of theory and practice in this class is unmatched in any other journalism course. That is one of many reasons so many students retake community journalism over and over again. If I could run the world, Community Journalism would be mandatory for all journalism students at some point in time at UMass. I don’t know how you can get the full experience of the department without taking it.

McBride’s commitment to student agency went beyond just the five college students. The students from the High School of Commerce could also reach any level of independence they wanted in the class, and some of them accomplished that through their reporting projects and personal narratives. As I worked with three Commerce students on a weekly basis, they were co-directors, writers and reporters alongside me.

My favorite moment from the class was working on a video project about a recent school walkout in protest of school shootings. Commerce students were understandably apprehensive to talk on camera about this, and anxious about operating the camera and conducting the interviews. But with some encouragement, we started shooting with Commerce students completely at the wheel. My friends and I from UMass just sat back and watched at one point. The students did a fantastic job, and it was one of the best stories I’ve seen produced from the class. It reminded me of my own high school journalism class which sparked my interested in reporting.

I hope the community journalism program keeps succeeding and takes the risks it needs to in order to grow even stronger. I hope it’s more thoroughly embraced by the department and the university, and I would love to see more than one trip per week to Springfield, even if the extra trips were voluntary for students. I know that many of them would show up.

 Afnan Nehela, Class of 2018  I only started really understanding what Journalism was all about when I took the Community Journalism class. I remember being so unsure what to expect. Yet, I left that day with a different perspective on journalism. Journalism was no longer just a set of writing rules in a textbook, it was right in front of me—in the form of 30 incredibly tenacious high school students.  Professor McBride’s instruction and coaching helped me build robust relationships with these students— enough for me to motivate and push them to become writers, and storytellers of their own lives, talents, backgrounds.  Through their own journeys, each student that I worked with taught me something new about grit, strength and endurance.  My personal favorite moment from the class is when I sat with a student and asked him to tell me about his “hidden talents” that he doesn’t share with the world. I told him I wanted to write a feature story on him.His eyes lit up with sheer excitement as he listed and demonstrated all of his talents. I remember him telling me that no one has ever asked him that question, and that he has been dying to talk about what he loves to do and the inspirations that built that. That's journalism — getting the backstory that no one asked about.  This course has inspired me to unlearn in order to really learn. It broadened my perspective on vital social justice issues that I would have otherwise really understood. Partaking in this course also pushed me to always dig deeper than the surface story, to always ask those unasked questions.

Afnan Nehela, Class of 2018

I only started really understanding what Journalism was all about when I took the Community Journalism class. I remember being so unsure what to expect. Yet, I left that day with a different perspective on journalism. Journalism was no longer just a set of writing rules in a textbook, it was right in front of me—in the form of 30 incredibly tenacious high school students.

Professor McBride’s instruction and coaching helped me build robust relationships with these students— enough for me to motivate and push them to become writers, and storytellers of their own lives, talents, backgrounds.

Through their own journeys, each student that I worked with taught me something new about grit, strength and endurance.

My personal favorite moment from the class is when I sat with a student and asked him to tell me about his “hidden talents” that he doesn’t share with the world. I told him I wanted to write a feature story on him.His eyes lit up with sheer excitement as he listed and demonstrated all of his talents. I remember him telling me that no one has ever asked him that question, and that he has been dying to talk about what he loves to do and the inspirations that built that. That's journalism — getting the backstory that no one asked about.

This course has inspired me to unlearn in order to really learn. It broadened my perspective on vital social justice issues that I would have otherwise really understood. Partaking in this course also pushed me to always dig deeper than the surface story, to always ask those unasked questions.

 Bethany Thomas, Class of 2016  The first time I began the Community Journalism class with Nick McBride (and I say first because there would ultimately be multiple semesters) Nick gave a speech. He told us this experience would change us, he told us to be open minded and ready to learn from the students we’d meet at the high school, he told us that we were not above them but instead everyone would grow through the class. He could not have been more correct.  I’ve always felt that a life worth living is one where giving back is the main focus. This class was designed to do that. Community Journalism is real life experience in an environment with diverse students whose voices need to be heard. The class conveys the true meaning of journalism to its students; give a voice to those unheard. I can say honestly that at the time I felt a void had been filled for me in my academic and personal life. It allowed me to create writing that mattered with high school students I felt privileged to have met.  I never could have imagined the impact I’d be able to have when I was just starting out walking into a classroom of high school students at Springfield High feeling slightly out of place and nervous about how much change I could create. Yet, by the end of the semester I was eager to come back. I’d connected with a couple students in particular who truly touched my heart. It’s rare that a class gives you the ability to gain actual life experience. I feel so thankful I was able to discover, create, and explore with Community Journalism.

Bethany Thomas, Class of 2016

The first time I began the Community Journalism class with Nick McBride (and I say first because there would ultimately be multiple semesters) Nick gave a speech. He told us this experience would change us, he told us to be open minded and ready to learn from the students we’d meet at the high school, he told us that we were not above them but instead everyone would grow through the class. He could not have been more correct.

I’ve always felt that a life worth living is one where giving back is the main focus. This class was designed to do that. Community Journalism is real life experience in an environment with diverse students whose voices need to be heard. The class conveys the true meaning of journalism to its students; give a voice to those unheard. I can say honestly that at the time I felt a void had been filled for me in my academic and personal life. It allowed me to create writing that mattered with high school students I felt privileged to have met.

I never could have imagined the impact I’d be able to have when I was just starting out walking into a classroom of high school students at Springfield High feeling slightly out of place and nervous about how much change I could create. Yet, by the end of the semester I was eager to come back. I’d connected with a couple students in particular who truly touched my heart. It’s rare that a class gives you the ability to gain actual life experience. I feel so thankful I was able to discover, create, and explore with Community Journalism.