Caesar Rodney student has the write stuff for journalism camp

Caesar Rodney High School sophomore Nonthawan Nirotkonsuk enjoys her Tuesday afternoon in language arts teacher Staci Johnson’s class. Nonthawan was one of 42 students chosen nationally to participate in an all-expenses paid trip to “JCamp” a nationally recognized six-day journalism program in Detroit.
Caesar Rodney School District/ Dave Chambers

CAMDEN — If you could interview any person in history, who would it be and why? What would you ask that person?

Nonthawan Nirotkonsuk thought long and hard about the question as she filled out her application for JCamp, a six-day intensive, multicultural journalism training program for high school students presented by the Asian American Journalists Association.

“At first I was thinking I should choose someone like Einstein, or someone of that nature,” Caesar Rodney Sophomore Nonthawan said.

But instead she chose someone who meant a lot to her growing up to help put the final touches on her application with hopes of being one of the students selected for the program.

“I ended up writing about my grandmother in Thailand,” Nonthawan said. “I poured my hurt into it.”

The question that she would have asked was a simple one, did you eat dinner yet?

“In Thailand we don’t exactly say I love you— we show our love by hidden actions, or words and I wanted to convey that to her,” Nonthawan said. “Since she passed away and living across the country, I kind of felt that I left that relationship with a granddaughter and grandmother.”

Nonthawan’s unique answer and YouTube video she created to answer another of the application’s question must have been just what JCamp was looking for, as she and 41 other students across the country were chosen to participate in an all-expenses paid trip to the journalism program in Detroit this summer.

JCamp is nationally recognized, as students work with professors and industry leaders to write, produce, and critique both written and broadcast work.

Nonthawan Nirotkonsuk is the only student from Delaware who will be attending the journalism program in Detroit.
Caesar Rodney School District/ Dave Chambers

Nonthawan said she was excited when she found out she was the only student in Delaware to be selected for the program.

“I felt really proud,” Nonthawan said. “But I really wanted to see my parents’ reactions when they found out I got accepted. My family is immigrants from Thailand, so they don’t understand the education system in America.”

She said it took them awhile to understand the significance of the program.

“When I first told them they were just like O.K. and kind of kept doing what they were doing, but once I explained to them how big of a deal JCamp was they understood,” Nonthawan said. “Now they’re just as excited as I am.”

JCamp 2018 will be hosted by the Wayne State University Department of Communication, part of the School of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts, in Detroit, Michigan, from July 30 to Aug. 4.

“I’m going to be nervous being away from my family, but I’m going to be excited about it as well because I get to see what it’s like being on my own,” Nonthawan said. “I get to feel what it’s like to be independent.”

Students will learn from professional journalists and get hands-on training in writing, reporting, photography, television and radio broadcasting, online media and data journalism.

Since 2001, AAJA has impacted more than 650 students with a significant number going on to pursue journalism in college.

But Nonthawan, who doesn’t necessarily have a passion for journalism, hopes to explore the different opportunities the camp has to offer to find her niche.

“I just started getting into journalism,” Nonthawan said. “It’s not really a passion of mine right now. It’s more like a field that I want to explore to see if I fit well in.”

“That’s what I like about JCamp,” she added. “It opens opportunities for those people who want to pursue this as a career and for people like me who want to explore everything first.”

Staci Johnson, a sophomore English teacher at Caesar Rodney High school believes Nonthawan has a passion for journalism, but just doesn’t know it yet.

“I wrote her letter of recommendation for the program,” Ms. Johnson said. “She’s an excellent writer and she takes constructive criticism well, which is not something all students are willing to do.

“She has a presence on the camera that I don’t think she know she has and it’s not just the writing, but it’s the speaking that’s really going to benefit her in whatever avenue of journalism she decides to pursue.”

Nonthawan said she has an idea of what she would like to explore while at JCamp.

“Digital media and broadcasting really interest me and since I know two languages I kind of want do something with that as well,” Nonthawan said. “I plan to learn as much as I can. I’m just imaging myself in the situation, such as connecting with strangers and building relationships with other people in those six days.”

Ms. Johnson thinks Nonthawan will benefit greatly from the program.

“She’s willing to learn and wants to learn,” Ms. Johnson said. “I think that’s a quality they were probably looking for at JCamp. She’s not just a great student, but she’s an overall great kid. She wants to make the people around her proud and her family proud. She wrote about her grandparents back home that she really didn’t know that well, as she wants to use where she came from and learn from it.”

Nonthawan plans to continue to use her family as motivation moving forward with any career she decides to pursue.

“My parents are being parents worried about my safety and if I’m going to wake up on time while I’m there, but I’m just happy to make them proud,” Nothawan said.

“I want to prove to my parents that success can not only be found in the medical field but anywhere,” Nothawan said. “I just want to make my family proud with anything that I do even if it happens to be in journalism. Success can be found anywhere as long as you’re a hard worker and have passion for what you’re doing.”

Arshon Howard is a freelancer writer from Dover.

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