Sparking light-bulb moments

Before the field trip, she spoke about how she couldn’t wait to go to WCCO. Now that we were finally there, on the final day of ThreeSixty Journalism summer camp in late July, this particular student couldn’t completely contain her excitement.

She sat in the front row, leaning in, knee bobbing up and down, gaze locked on WCCO anchor Jason DeRusha, who spoke to our students from the floor of the studio.

I couldn’t help but smirk. This is journalism camp, after all, but I hadn’t anticipated this level of excitement, enthusiasm.

Ultimately, I hope all of our students manifest the excitement they feel during camp in the form of “light-bulb moments”—those specific instances when students realize, “Yes. Yes. I can do this.”

And if they find their light-bulb moment during camp, they’ll already be ahead. My light-bulb moment crept up on me when I was a 21-yearold University of St. Thomas student, sitting in a journalism classroom and watching KARE 11 reporter Boyd Huppert’s story about Rob Thompson, also known as “The Jazz Man,” a University of Minnesota bus driver who greeted his student riders with a friendly smile and jazz music through the speakers.

“I could tell that story,” I told myself. I just needed the training. But I could do that. I began to see a path forward, developing before me. If those moments of realization overtake our students during summer camp, then I feel I’ve done my job. We want students to recognize that yes, they can do this—whatever “this” may be for them.

And I believe it happens.

A light-bulb moment might happen in the classroom, when a student grasps the difference between a weak lede and a strong one, or connects with a guest speaker who has a strikingly similar background.

Light-bulb moments might happen during our college essay week, when students realize their voices are important and their stories do, absolutely, matter.

Several light-bulb moments might happen on campus, when students begin to picture themselves at the University of St. Thomas—or any other college—next year, or in the years to come.

They might take place later that day, after students have mustered the courage to approach a stranger and interview that stranger about his or her summer plans. (The looks of gratification on their faces when this is over, and the new-found confidence that some of them leave with that day, is priceless.)

They may happen during the editing process, when a student has realized that yes, against all odds, I really did write a story in just a few days.

They may also be found on a field trip to a local newspaper or TV station, when the veil is lifted and students can picture themselves working in that office, telling those stories, someday.

I want all of the students we work with to fall in love with journalism. I know not all of them will choose this path. At the very least, then, I hope every single student leaves ThreeSixty seeing a path—or several paths—forward, developing in front of them.

It’s these light-bulb moments, in ThreeSixty and beyond, that help these kids ultimately make this community, this world, a whole lot brighter.