Scripps family expands opportunities for Indigenous youth in broadcast media and journalism


For more than a decade, Northern Arizona University’s Indigenous Youth Media Workshop has taught Native American high school students the ins and outs of broadcast media and journalism. Now, thanks to a $616,000 grant from the Scripps Family Impact Fund (SFIF), the workshop is growing in 2024 for an even greater impact.

The program, rooted in empowering Indigenous high school students to be a positive change in their communities, started in 2012 in memory of Andy Harvey, NAU journalism alumnus and multimedia reporter, through seed money from the Arizona Broadcasters Association. It’s an important piece of NAU’s efforts to promote and support Indigenous students and communities as the university becomes the nation’s leading university serving Indigenous people.

indigenous_media_students sit at desk“My goal was to host a workshop for Indigenous students, but the impact over the years is why I continue to stay involved,” said Paul Helford, professor in the School of Communication. “The generous gift from SFIF means we can now grow the workshop, guarantee that it will continue and use it as a foundation for building additional donations and funding opportunities.”

The workshop takes place for a week each summer on NAU’s Flagstaff Mountain Campus. Helford and fellow communication professor Rachel Cox are the driving force behind the workshop and curriculum, ensuring students are taught the tools and skills of multimedia broadcast journalism and the essentials for crafting engaging multimedia news stories through an Indigenous-focused lens.

The workshop teaches elemental composition by filming with their smartphones, enabling students to be media makers in their community and leverage storytelling with equipment readily available to them. The students then advance to using professional video journalism equipment throughout the week, building on the curriculum from the day before, and gaining confidence in interviewing and research skills while building camaraderie with their peers. The workshop culminates in a live broadcast show showcasing their hard work and experience that is produced in the School of Communication’s Media Innovation Center.

One theme woven throughout the week is the integration of Indigenous traditions and mentors. Helford and Cox work with Indigenous industry experts and workshop alums to come and share their experiences, career opportunities and trades. Students also are introduced to NAU and college life. By visiting places on campus like the Native American Cultural Center, they experience spaces welcoming to Indigenous students.

Thanks to SFIF, the workshop will expand in 2024 to impact more students. In 2023, 115 students applied for the workshop, and only 25 were accepted. Now, the program will increase to 30 students and expand from six to 11 days. This allows for additional studio prep and production days. High school students can apply for the next workshop beginning in February 2024.

Since its inception, the workshop has impacted the lives of 200 Native American students. To continue this momentum and support future Indigenous broadcast media and journalism students, visit the NAU Foundation website.

NAU Communications