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Billings Central Catholic students take journalism from club to class



Billings, Montana – At Billings Central Catholic High School, a class that is growing in popularity early in the day introduces students to the passion of journalism.

“It started off honestly with five, six kids and we were publishing off of Microsoft’s Sway,” said Amelia Bergum, a BCC English teacher who also teaches the journalism class. “Starting this year, we had 28 students so it’s grown.”

Despite being the teacher, Bergum says the students actively participate in the lesson.

“They’re the ones running the show, they’re the ones training each other, it’s impressive,” Bergum said.

Central started a student-led journalism program around four years ago. After two years as a student organization, it changed into a course that could be taken for graduation credit.

The group that is now a class publishes the BC Chronicle, a student newspaper that is available only online.

Although a core group of students has been working with the paper for all four years, Hank Jagodzinski, a student at BCC, is credited by the group with starting the endeavor at the school. Jagodzinski, the chief editor of the BC Chronicle, asserts that he was aware of the importance of student news organizations even before he started high school.

“We had a student newspaper in middle school and I originally wanted to start a student newspaper in fifth grade, because I thought that would be really, really cool,” said Jagodzinski, who is now a senior.

The publication is released every two weeks or so, and the students give each other assignments like photoshooting, social media advertising, and copy editing.

“I have reported on a number of stories over my time here. One that I’m really proud of is when I wrote a story about our school’s Superfund site,” Jagodzinski said. “Another story that I’m working on reporting right now is about the City Street Tree policy, and I’m talking with a couple people who work for the City of Billings on that effort and the Urban Forestry grant as well that the city recently received.”

Olivia Jensen, a senior, is the chief image editor and also co-manages the paper’s Instagram account.

“My favorite part about doing it is that it really helps people engage, right? When you look at a news story, you’re not just necessarily reading the article or reading the headline, you’re looking at the photo and how that relates or draws you into the article,” Jensen said. “That’s what I’m really interested in is how can the photos that we take impact said articles, whether that’s a positive or a negative opinion of the article.”

Despite being given parts, the students end up paying more than one. Jensen handles social media account administration alongside photojournalist Jack Milroy. But Milroy says he’s become especially interested in following environmental stories.

“Up at Lake Elmo when they drained it, I did a story on that,” Milroy said. “More of the community-based stories—that’s kind of what I like to report on.”

Despite their intense dedication to their journalism coursework, Jensen, Milroy, and Jagodzinski want to concentrate in political science, social work, or medicine in college. They understand, though, that their journalism and news literacy will come in extremely handy.

“Even if I’m not a student journalist myself, I know I’ll be following and appreciating journalists who work in that space,” Jagodzinski said.

Bergum says that as these students get ready to graduate, they will need to recruit new students and keep the excitement going to carry on the heritage of student news at Billings Central Catholic High School.

“Youth have such a different view of events than us as adults. Their world is so raw and so to get their journalistic fair, it’s special and I think it’s a gift,” Bergum said.

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