I’ve done a couple stories lately on high school dropouts. Kids who drop out are considered “at risk.” At risk of using drugs, joining gangs, or getting pregnant.
When I was their age I was pretty far removed from any of those temptations. I lived a pretty sheltered life. I went to Catholic school. Sure, I was exposed to drinking, but hardly any drugs, and sex wasn’t on my mind yet. OK, maybe it was on my mind, but I didn’t have a boyfriend.
I was involved in lots of extracurricular activities, took Advanced Placement classes and brought home As and Bs on my report card. During my junior year my mom took me to see colleges where I wanted to apply.
I was so lucky to have parents who believed in me and were involved in my life. I know that now and thank them every chance I get.
As a reporter, how do you relate to someone who has such a completely different reality?
Most of us are born with empathy. You can’t really do this job fully without trying to understand where the subject of your story is coming from. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes. We all share some common human needs and experiences. So that gives you a place to start.
I approach the person with compassion, as I would my own brother or sister. Or I try to ask myself, how would I feel if a reporter called me up to talk about the most intimate details of my life?
And I try to give them the opportunity to talk about their future hopes and how they plan to achieve them.
And often, especially with kids, they just want to be heard. So I listen.