Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Jacqueline Hart Apopka, Fla.
Mia Mastandrea is preparing to fight for her First Amendment rights.
Mastandrea attends St. Viator, a private Catholic high school that is very restrictive in the content of its school newspaper. Returning in the fall, she will have the daunting job of opinion editor for the paper, ironically named The Viator Voice.
Mastandrea, 17, started working on the paper her sophomore year, having struggles from the beginning. A story she wrote about the dress code was rejected for publication.
“The first story I wrote was on a student’s opinion of the new dress code at my school. The administration turned me down for criticizing something that affects us every day,” Mastandrea said.
Consequently, she was not able to apply for an editor position for the following school year because she was one short of a published story.
“It’s come to the point where I’ll come up with ideas for the paper and my adviser will just shake his head no,” Mastandrea says with a forged laugh.
St. Viator, located in Arlington Heights, cannot understand Mastandrea’s deeper motivation for seeking the truth in journalism. Having had her mother die when she was young, Mastandrea found it a sign from the gods when she found out her mother was on the newspaper when she was in high school.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I didn’t see that much in myself, but I’ve always loved to write,” Mastandrea said, “when my Dad told me about my mother, I just knew I wanted to join the paper.”
Journalism has also made an impact in her life. When asked, she admits she was a slacker in her freshman and sophomore year of high school.
“I attended a camp last summer and realized I need to get my act together or else I wouldn’t be able to do what I loved.”
Coming back with new determination, Mastandrea is going into her senior year with hopes of making a dent in the school’s strict rules. Who knows; she may be the force needed to let all students in the future get the freedom needed to report the news.
“I want to push the rules,” Mastandrea said.