By: Jen Russon
Garrett Shanley is a senior at Coral Springs Charter School, where his remarkable journey as a writer began four years ago when he joined the staff at his student newspaper, the Paw Print.
Now, 17-years-old, Shanley leaves an indelible mark by making inroads in journalism well outside his South Florida school.
The current vice-chair of the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA), Shanley, has also been a pupil of Azmat Khan during a summer writing course in investigative journalism at the New York Times.
Shanley said none of this, especially his meteoric rise from news editor, features editor, and editor-in-chief at the Paw Print, would have been possible without his advisor and mentor, Kimberly Pekala.
“She’s an incredibly strong and empathetic individual. Ms. Pekala has given me a moral compass with journalism, and I cannot thank her enough for that,” said Shanley.
Since Shanley’s tenth grade year, Pekala has been like an open book when it comes to teaching journalism.
Shanley said she makes him feel like he can talk to her about everything, from ethics to writing great copy.
He said it’s a mentorship that has come in handy in the last few hectic weeks.
“I helped plan the first-ever Fall Digital Workshop at the FSPA. We usually have in-person workshops for every district, but this year we obviously had to change plans because of COVID-19,” said Shanley.
Rolling with the punches, Shanley said the writing workshops were conducted remotely in October and went better than he expected.
“My next task is to help the other student chairs and recently elected student reps plan our spring convention,” he said.
The FSPA announces category details in December when prodigious students like Shanley showcase their work in writing, design, photography, art, broadcast, and multimedia journalism.
So far as plans go, following his graduation this spring, he looks forward to seeing where journalism takes him next.
“I thrive with versatility. In my four years on Paw Print staff, I have covered everything from politics, our basketball team, school events, album reviews, and feature stories. Interests change; journalism is the perfect avenue to ride those interests out in a productive way,” he said.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at the imprint www.swallowpublishing.com. She lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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