Quote by quote

The quote.

It’s one of the most powerful storytelling tools.

We teach our ThreeSixty Journalism high school students that quotes serve a number of functions in a story: They connect the reader to the subjects of the story. They show the source’s character and personality. They tap into the story’s emotional depths. They help move the story forward in a dynamic, engaging way.

Part of our students’ jobs as high school journalists is to compel their sources to give great quotes for their story. Recently, a couple of sources have gone above and beyond—commenting not only on the story, but also on the talent and promise of our high school journalists.

Take, for example, Dr. Yohuru Williams, the new dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. One of our students, Minneapolis South senior Zekriah “Zach” Chaudhry, interviewed Williams in September for a wide-ranging story about the new dean and his role at St. Thomas.

Williams joined us for lunch afterward, and as we sat at the tables at St. Thomas’ buffet-style cafeteria, I asked him, “Have you been interviewed by a high school student before?”

“Yes,” Williams replied, smiling, “but Zach is no high school student.”

Chaudhry left a lasting impression on the new dean, who said the young budding journalist asked him some difficult and compelling questions.

Another example: Katelyn Vue, a senior at North St. Paul High School, interviewed new Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo in November. The story centered on Arradondo’s vision for the police department and his roots as a hometown kid.

The interview dynamic went something like this:

Katelyn asks a question.

“That’s a really good question, Katelyn.”

Katelyn asks another question.

“Wow, great question.”

And then, after answering the final question (“What do you want your legacy as police chief to be?”), Arradondo had this to say: “You have been a wonderful journalist. I think the sky is yours, the stars are yours. Keep aiming high. I get asked to participate in inter- views quite frequently from our local media, and both our written press and our electronic press, and I will tell you, Katelyn, the questions you’ve asked me today have been, in my time as chief, the most thoughtful … questions I’ve been asked, truly. You’re wonderful. Thank you so much.”

Chief “Rondo,” as he’s commonly called, is right: The sky is the limit for our students. They are talented, they are ambitious and they are driven.

Quotes like Arradondo’s and Williams’ remind me that there’s a bigger story being told here: the story of a program empowering diverse young storytellers who want to tell the stories of their lives and communities.

It’s a story that is still being written by our many students, staff and supporters—quote by quote.