by Pete Mazzaccaro
If you’ve been reading the Local this week, you have come across work by this summer’s high school interns: Germantown Friends School’s Katharine Cusick and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Lauren Witonsky. Both Chestnut Hill residents were selected as the Anna Fisher Clark Memorial Interns.
Anna Fisher Clark, for whom the internship is named, was active in politics and community affairs. Her community activities included serving as volunteer director of Bird In Hand, the consignment shop that benefits physical improvements in Chestnut Hill. The internship is given by Mrs. Clark’s husband, Dr. Thomas Clark, M.D., and her children. Money for the internship is part of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund.
Both girls have worked four to five hours a day, every day. In addition to writing regular stories for the paper and its website, they teamed up to research strategies and content for an upcoming Local readership survey and study.
Cusick, who will turn 18 in October during her senior year at GFS, will be captain of both her lacrosse and field hockey teams in addition to serving as editor of the school’s student newspaper “The Earthquake.” She is also a member of GFS’ choir and a capella group.
Though she’s interested in studying cognitive science and astronomy in college, she said a real interest in writing inspired her to apply to the internship this year.
“I love writing as a medium to express myself and to bring attention to issues or community events that I care about,” she said. “I think it’s important for members of community to be informed about the world around them, whether it’s on a relatively small scale like Chestnut Hill or on a national or international level, and I really enjoy being a part of that communication. I like that journalism is (or can be) a conversation – informing people about an event, issue or development and sparking their curiosity, inspiring them to get involved.”
Witonsky, 17, an editor with the SCH yearbook and a member of the school’s fashion club, is a photography buff who wants to write for a fashion magazine someday. She has gotten a foot in the door by writing items for the University of Pennsylvania’s fashion blog WALK. Conducting interviews and writing stories about local shops inspired her to apply to the internship.
“I am a very curious person,” she said. “I feel as if journalism gives me the opportunity to connect with others that I would not otherwise have the chance to meet. I love hearing about people’s stories and then getting to share them with an audience through my writing.”
Witonsky said the internship managed to push her into territory she wasn’t used to.
“I’ve learned to expand my comfort zone in terms of what I’m familiar writing about,” she said. “I had the chance to write about fashion, which is what I am passionate about, but I also had the chance to interview a saxophone player, someone whom I would never have written about otherwise”
Cusick also said she faced a bit of adversity.
“In a school newspaper setting, most of the interviewing is pretty easy – teachers and administrators are accessible by email, and there aren’t many people who will deny an interview,” she said. “During my time at the Local, I encountered many people who just didn’t want to have anything to do with me or the paper. And I had to deal with that.”
All in all, Witonsky said she was very happy to have spent time this summer as an intern.
“The Local has been an ideal place to have my first internship,” she said. “It has been a hands-on experience, and I really feel that I have contributed to the newspaper. Seeing my article on the front page was an exciting milestone in my early writing career. I loved having the flexibility to write about topics of my choice, and then having the freedom to go out and conduct interviews, take photographs, and meet new people around Chestnut Hill.”
Cusick has also enjoyed the experience.
“My internship at the Local has been great,” she said. “The staff was very welcoming, and I’ve always been treated like a real reporter. The senior editors helped me out a lot when I was first starting pieces, but for the most part I felt I was held to the same standard as the staff writers in setting up and conducting interviews and putting together thoughtful, readable pieces.”