Summer interns bring a fresh perspective

Three young journalists share their experiences at the Express and Weekly

Here's one more reason to Support Local Journalism: The Danville Express has a real office where we gather to work and produce the Danville Express and San Ramon Express as well as the Pleasanton Weekly. So we have opportunities for interns to learn about the changing world of journalism -- from gathering news, planning stories and selling ads to design and final production.

This year our three summer interns helped with tasks large and small and all went out on assignment to help us cover events including groundbreakings and fundraisers. As their final assignment, they interviewed and wrote about each other.

Meet Amelia

By Dena Behnam

Whether returning from sprinkling mozzarella cheese onto marinara-covered dough at Pavlo's Pizza in San Ramon or sterilizing tools and creating molds for retainers at Dr. Gary Greer's orthodontist office, Amelia Arvesen, a freshman at Las Positas College, opens the door to the Pleasanton Weekly's office still looking perfectly put-together and displaying a smiling countenance.

How she manages two jobs and an internship without losing her sanity remains baffling. But Amelia has a keen desire to write.

"Being able to perfectly trim sentences into something understandable is satisfying to me," she said. "I can always delete or erase." This has advantages over talking: "Sometimes I don't mean what I say and I can't take those words back."

Amelia began exploring her interest in writing during her senior year at California High, when she joined the school newspaper.

"When I considered making writing into a career, I wanted to be sure I still liked it," she said. "I wanted my name to be in the paper, so I made that happen by joining the class."

Since then, her interest in journalism has flourished.

"Without journalism, people would be more focused on their own little world instead of the whole-wide-world around them," she said.

With her enthusiasm toward writing and a little bit of luck, an intern position at a newspaper company was well on its way.

After Editor Jessica Lipsky walked into the school newspaper classroom last spring looking for an intern for the San Ramon and Danville Expresses, Amelia immediately contacted her.

"I didn't want to miss an opportunity to explore my interest," she said.

After e-mailing back and forth for some time and sending in a few writing samples, referred to in the business as "clips," Amelia did not hear from Jessica for a while. Suddenly, a few weeks before summer began, she received the awaited call.

"She asked me to come in and said they're really interested in hiring me," Amelia recalled. "So I came in on the last day of school and got the job. It was a great way to end the year."

Despite the long and tedious hours in the beginning of the internship of working on the annual Info resource guides for Pleasanton and the San Ramon Valley -- which Amelia recalls working on for an entire day -- she said she truly experienced the life of a professional journalist.

"I learn so much about different things that happen in the community. I like putting the pieces of a story together," she said.

Writing has been the most enjoyable part of the job for her. She specifically took pleasure in doing a ride-along in a police car shadowing a Danville officer.

"My favorite project was covering the ride-along story," she said. "It was exciting to witness something firsthand instead of reading about it in the paper. It was even more exciting to be the person to write about it for the paper."

When away from the hustle and bustle of her everyday life, Amelia can be found reading in her bedroom or dragging and dropping items into her online shopping cart.

But creating greeting cards to give to her friends and family keeps her grounded.

"It relaxes me when I have a million thoughts in my head because instead of thinking about those things, I focus on cutting a piece of paper perfectly," she said. "I think that buying greeting cards is overrated. I like to personalize each and every card to the recipient."

Although the summer is winding down, Amelia will continue to intern with the Expresses while in college.

"I'm not sure what I want to do as a career yet, but I know that having experience with writing for a publication will be beneficial to me," she said.

Meet Dena

By Priyanka Mody

Perhaps it was no surprise that Dena Behnam, a junior at Amador Valley High, found herself interning at the Pleasanton Weekly. A Pleasantonian all her life with a passion for journalism, Dena is the perfect fit for the local publication.

Growing up in the area, Dena was quite familiar with the Weekly and first became involved when Editor Jeb Bing asked her to help out with a video in the spring for its Support Local Journalism campaign.

Then in June, Dena began interning at the Weekly office, and after eight weeks, she says that the experience was definitely worthwhile. The exposure to a more diverse crowd allowed her social skills to improve.

"You go out and talk to all sorts of different people and interviewees," she said.

Dena, who is patient and competent, came to work with enthusiasm. She remembers sorting through recycled papers on her first day and responding to the humble task with, "I'm fine with whatever you want me to do."

However Managing Editor Dolores Fox Ciardelli knew that Dena was capable of much more and said, with a laugh, "You will be surprised at what we plan on giving you."

One of her most memorable stories featured a professional dirt-biker and motocross racer, Kacy Martinez, who recently participated and competed at the X-Games.

"It was almost like I got some insider coverage because she told me a few things that not many people were aware of," Dena said.

Furthermore, Martinez's experiences were unlike anything Dena had known before. The fascinating people and experiences that she encountered throughout her internship are exactly what piqued her interest in journalism initially.

Dena currently is the design editor for her high school's yearbook. She recalled what appealed to her when, in middle school, she signed up to be a member of the yearbook staff.

"You did everything -- designing, talking to people, photography, writing," she said. "Right off the bat I fell in love with it."

However, writing for the Weekly was a much different endeavor than partaking in high school journalism. She feels that her maturity and work ethic have grown, and the way she had to approach people was much more formal.

"It's no longer just covering an event on the quad," Dena said. "You're talking about stories that are going on in a larger community."

Dena is also an active member of Pleasanton's Youth and Government group, a model legislature in association with YMCA.

"It's basically a kid-based California with a youth governor and everything," she said. She was the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Magazine within the Print Media portion of this body, which allowed her to incorporate her journalism skills.

Additionally, Dena helps out in her community by babysitting a few of her neighbors' children. In fact, she once overscheduled herself to the point where she had to cover an event for the Weekly while she was babysitting.

"I completely forgot about babysitting Dylan, so I ended up taking him to Relay For Life while I interviewed people," she laughed.

Luckily, everything worked out: Dylan found a classmate at the event, which helped ease her initial worries. The event itself also proved to be rewarding; after interviewing several organizers and those who were running in honor of their loved ones, she became inspired to participate next year.

"Everyone was very supportive and excited that the Weekly was covering the event," Dena said.

Throughout her journalism journey at the Weekly, Dena has developed a sense of appreciation for news in general.

"You can be anywhere and there's always something to talk about," Dena said. "News is prominent in any society and it's how people interact with each other."

As her internship concludes, Dena is certain that the Weekly will remain close in sight.

Meet Priyanka

By Amelia Arvesen

It's rare to find someone who is always smiling but for Priyanka Mody, it comes naturally.

Even during the long process of updating the Info resource guide at the Pleasanton Weekly, Priyanka seemed to always keep her positive attitude.

In the fall, Priyanka will be a senior at The Harker School, a small private school in San Jose. She is looking forward to taking charge of her school's newspaper, The Winged Post, as editor-in-chief.

"I never knew how passionate I would become about a certain group at school," she said.

Priyanka said she feels fortunate to have come across the opportunity to be an intern at the Weekly, especially after applying to many small papers and being turned down. The position has turned out to be a good fit, and she has enjoyed her numerous tasks, including reporting and taking photos.

The 17-year-old said she has learned a lot about journalism during her internship and has come to realize that people are only a phone call away. She now feels confident calling people she doesn't know and said that learning how to interact with others will be helpful in the future.

"Everyone has a story and it's up to you to find out what it is," Priyanka said, quoting her newspaper teacher.

After high school Priyanka hopes to pursue psychology, attend medical school and specifically become a child psychologist. If that doesn't work out, Priyanka said her dream job would be to own a successful restaurant and be the head chef.

When she's not keeping busy with extracurricular activities such as cross country track, she enjoys "wasting time" surfing through online recipe guides. Surprisingly, she spends more time on than Facebook.

On Sunday mornings, Priyanka puts her knowledge of all things epicurean to work at the Fremont Farmers Market.

"Nothing beats fresh, local produce -- a colorful array of yellows, reds, purples and greens," she said, adding that going to the market with her mother every week has become a tradition.

Priyanka said that she loves to cook and eat and believes that great conversations happen around food.

She also relishes playing the piano, traveling, running and flying planes. She is taking flying lessons at the Palo Alto Airport, which include ground training and practice in the air, using a 1966 Cessna 150.

While she didn't know what she was getting herself into at first with flying, Priyanka has since learned to appreciate the skill. She said she knows flying is a risk that not a lot of people are willing to take but feels she will be thankful later in life that she learned to fly.

Priyanka said she prefers to be on land, running and dancing, and is learning the Indian classical dance Bharatnatyam.

She also enjoys long runs with her cross-country teammates, who help her endure what she calls "the unbearable sport."

"Going on really long runs is mentally refreshing especially when you're stressed out about something external," she said.

A social butterfly on and off the sports field, Priyanka delights in being around family and friends. She said she's good at talking to people and understanding situations from different perspectives.

"I can't imagine a job that you can't be around people," she said, explaining that interning at the Weekly gave her plenty of practice and experience.

Priyanka said that she has learned how instant news is. Through her experience at the Weekly, she has learned that sometimes you have to be persistent because people don't always respond or give you the exact quotes you expect.

"You just keep trying and eventually you're going to end up with an article that reflects the amount of time you put in," she said.

Although she doesn't want to be a professional journalist or pilot, Priyanka said that she is just trying to find out who she is, while keeping a smile on.


Like this comment
Posted by hal. CDSI Research
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Dear Editor,

Applause for your sponsorship and for the performance of these young journalists.



Like this comment
Posted by JJ
a resident of Danville
on Aug 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

"She is taking flying lessons at the Palo Alto Airport, which include ground training and practice in the air, using a 1966 Cessna 150."


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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