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Leadership Unplugged
High school students experience life at CNN
CNN kids main
Forsyth County high school students, from left, Laura Ilardi, Shobana Ramasamy, Erika Keil, Katie Kuhlhurst, Courtney Emery, Evea Kaldas and Brad Higgins took part in a CNN program last week. - photo by Submitted
This past week, seven Forsyth County high school students learned about media literacy, broadcast journalism and personal leadership from CNN professionals in a weeklong program.

More than 100 students from around the state attended the program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where they took part in workshops and discussion groups. They also met CNN executives, reporters and anchors.

Students selected to participate in the free program had to complete an extensive application and interview process and submit a recommendation from one of their teachers.

The seven Forsyth students had various reasons for wanting to take part and will take different things away from the experience.

What interested some, like South Forsyth High School senior Courtney Emery, was the opportunity to test the waters of broadcast journalism.

“It gave me a lot to think about,” Emery said. “I’ve seen now how determined all these people are to have gotten where they are.”

West Forsyth senior Evea Kaldas also gained insight into the field.

“I have a broader understanding of the type of people I can find in a broadcast environment,” Kaldas said. “It’s taught me that there’s more to being a reporter than being a talking head.”

Fellow West Forsyth student Brad Higgins said the conference was a great learning experience.

“I felt like I wanted to get the experience of seeing what really goes on in the media world, so I can better understand it,” said Higgins, a junior.
West Forsyth senior Laura Ilardi said she heard about the program in her English class.

“I’ve always been interested in writing and media, and I thought this was a great opportunity to get some insight,” Ilardi said.

Katie Kuhlhorst was drawn by her interest in broadcast journalism.

“I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said the South Forsyth senior.

Erika Keil, also a senior at South, said she was interested in the program because she’s “big into politics, and I like watching the political analysts.”

West Forsyth junior Shobana Ramasamy said those who assisted with the program were “helpful and informative ... I’ll have a lot of memories to take home from this.”

Sponsors for the fourth annual program, called Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience, included Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and 21st Century Leaders.

Bob Watson, the executive director of 21st Century Leaders, said the idea is to “take business professional expertise and retool it at an appropriate level for high school students.”

Donna Krache, executive producer of CNN Student News, said staff members in her department enjoy creating the program’s curriculum.

“It’s all about teaching kids to be good news consumers,” Krache said.

E-mail Frank Reddy at