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Local students experience CNN
Eight take part in leadership program
Forsyth group picture
Students from Forsyth County spent last week learning about journalism during the fifth annual Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience. - photo by Submitted
Eight Forsyth County students spent the last week getting a crash course in journalism from top CNN anchors and executives.

Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience invited 100 Georgia high school juniors and seniors to spend a week during its fifth annual program.

“They work with CNN talent, executives and other employees honing their leadership skills while at the same time developing a pitch to CNN’s executives,” CNN Student News anchor Carl Azuz said.

The students live on the Georgia Institute of Technology Campus, where they participate in discussions and workshops.

Adriana Booker, a rising senior at South Forsyth High, said many of her peers spend their summers recreationally, but she jumped at the chance to participate in the program.

“I was really interested because I want to pursue journalism as a career when I’m older,” she said. “Having the opportunity to be with CNN for a week is time well spent.”

Booker felt motivated by the week’s speeches, especially from Azuz, who worked his way up to an anchor position.

Hillary Hunnings, a rising junior at West Forsyth, said meeting all the professionals was exciting for her.

“It was so inspiring to hear their stories,” she said. “It’s also really inspirational to see how they all work together to create something unique and great. I think I can take that back to my broadcasting class.”

She learned about the program through her broadcasting teacher and immediately applied.

“I want to be a legal analyst when I grow up — on CNN, hopefully,” she said.

Though the media advice and discussions have been interesting to her, she said the leadership message was just as strong.

Hunnings recalled a game where groups of people had to work together to drag a cloth without spilling any of the beans on the top.

“It was so fascinating to see everyone working together,” Booker said. “Just like every person works together to make CNN happen.”

The students all mentioned that with the size of CNN’s workforce, collaboration was a top priority.

“I didn’t realize there were that many people who made up CNN,” said Tate Godwin, a rising senior at West Forsyth. “There’s so many more jobs than just an anchor and a cameraman.”

Godwin said being able to watch newscasts being filmed opened up his eyes to the possibilities in the broadcasting field, which he someday hopes to enter in the sports arena.

Charles Kim, a rising South Forsyth senior, said the leadership training will help him in his quest for a career in engineering.

Within groups, the students each worked on formulating a story to pitch to executives, such as Kim’s topic of homeland security.

Azuz said the pitches to CNN executives can be nerve-wracking, so making them helps push students “out of their comfort zones” as well as improving public communication skills.

The program also benefits the CNN employees, giving them a chance to learn more about the next generation.

“These are some of the brightest students in the state,” Azuz said. “It’s a great opportunity to work and get a sense of what they’re concerned about in the world, what gives them hope in the world and what they’re interested in.”