A Glimpse at the Green Institute Experience


Wasim Ahmad

Photo by Wasim Ahmad

Meghan Reilly, Student Editor

Living away from home for the first time is one of the most intimidating and invigorating experience a teen can ever encounter, even if it’s just for a week. This summer, I faced it head-on when I was chosen to partake in Stony Brook University’s Greene Institute for high school journalists.

I knew no one, and I definitely didn’t know what to anticipate. Everyone came from very different areas of Long Island, meaning that everyone had very different stories to share. At first, collaborating with these people was actually a lot more difficult than the work itself.

It was difficult to relate with others at first, especially those who attended school closer to New York City. They seemed to have so much more autonomy over their daily lives than I did—making me admittedly jealous—and I strove to prove that even though I wasn’t as independent as some of the others, I could still pull through on my own.

During the meeting on the first day, Cathrine Duffy—one of our supervisors—used the term “journalism boot-camp” to describe the Greene Institute. I laughed it off with the rest of the group and didn’t take it too seriously.

Not until the second day, at least.

Journalism is an extremely stressful job where “time flies when you’re having fun” does not apply. Time flies when you’re desperately trying to gather information, fact-check every little anecdote, interview a bunch of grumpy adults and ornery kids and try not to have a mental breakdown all at the same time.

Then, before you know it, your entire article is due in two hours and you haven’t even written a lede that doesn’t sound like a bunch of hot air.

For an anxious person like me, you’d think this would be my worst nightmare. But, for some odd reason, I fell even deeper in love with it.

Perhaps it was because we were essentially gifted with a crew of amazing mentors. Not only did I further improve my writing skills, but I also brushed up on my photography and gained a deeper knowledge of reporting and videography.

Broadcast journalism isn’t really my niche, though. Like I said, I’m a very neurotic person. As a result, the second we started rolling, I’d burst into laughter out of sheer nervousness, making everyone around me follow suit or get pretty ticked off.

To say that it’s a blessing I can write is an understatement.

What made this year so special, though, is that two students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were also selected to become members of the Greene Team. After the tragedy that took place at their school, the media became a powerful tool for them to advocate for gun control.

Even though they live over a thousand miles away, I found that I had a lot more in common with them than some of the other Greene Team members that live on Long Island. By the end of the week, I actually felt like I knew them better than some of the people I know here in Westhampton Beach.

They also inspired me to use my voice, too. I’ve never endorsed nor spoken up about gun control more than I have now. Before I met them, what happened at MSD seemed more than surreal. Most people feel that way when massacres like these transpire. We render them as “faraway” and “out of our control.”

That couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Even though there were a few times where I doubted my abilities as a young journalist, getting sleep was nearly impossible and the air conditioning in the dorms was obsolete, the good always managed to shine through.

On the first night, an ice cream social was hosted to get us out of our muggy dorms. There, we got to know each other, and after that we returned to my dorm to spend time together before curfew.

This little get-together was quick to become a tradition, and was undoubtedly what brought us all together throughout the week. We’d talk about the program, how much we missed our parents’ home cooking and what our lives are like back in our hometowns. Everyone came from very diverse backgrounds, and it made me realize that life is more than different outside of the fishbowl we call Westhampton Beach.

As time passed, I almost felt like I’d known these people my entire life. I had a lot more in common with them than I did with most people back in WHB. They opened my eyes and gave me a new, brighter perspective on the future.

The last day was one of the hardest, but we were finally able to show our families what we’d accomplished over the past seven days.

Since the program was located at Stony Brook University, we had plenty of opportunities to come up with material for the stories we wrote and content we filmed. Additionally, we had to write an article and create a video at a Long Island Ducks game.

Finally, our hard work had paid off. We overcame what we thought had been the impossible, and in that time we had flourished into even greater journalists. Among many others, I was offered a possible internship. For me, it was located at The Southampton Press.

Though saying goodbye was something I never thought I’d have to do, it felt like more of a “see you later.” And to this day, I still remain in contact with the majority of my fellow “Greenies.”