Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Recap of 2022 Emerging Journalist Fellowship Projects

Above image: Emerging Journalist Fellowship program participants

Since 2019, California Humanities Emerging Journalist Fellowship program has provided student journalists at California community colleges financial and professional support to develop new skills and conduct in-depth local reporting projects. To date, student fellows have produced podcasts distributed by NPR; Op-eds published by the Bakersfield Californian, Shasta Scout, and KQED; interactive data-driven websites; long-form investigative articles; photo essays; and more. As we look toward announcing a new round of Emerging Journalist Fellowships in 2023, we want to congratulate this year’s Emerging Journalist Fellows and share some of their work.

In 2022, California Humanities awarded $150,000 to 10 community colleges throughout the state. With mentoring from Joaquin Alvarado, former Executive Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and co-founder of Studiotobe, 40 student journalists reported on subjects and issues important to their campuses and communities through podcasts, websites, Op-eds, investigative journalism, and documentary photography and video. Whether reporting on the environmental impact of pollution in the American River, photographing unseen sides of South Los Angeles, or documenting the effect of the fentanyl epidemic on rural California communities, these original student-driven journalism projects bring underreported local stories and issues to statewide audiences.

Some of the stories produced in the 2022 Emerging Journalist Fellowship include:

Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty

This multimedia project by Skyline College journalism fellows cuts to the heart of one of Silicon Valley’s greatest paradoxes: in one of the wealthiest regions of the United States, many people go to bed hungry. The team tells the story of food insecurity in San Mateo County through video and text, profiling grocery store workers who struggle to purchase meals of their own during periods of inflation, and a resident who must choose between paying for food and bills. Turning knowledge into power, the student journalists also created a set of interactive maps that provide residents with guidance on where to find affordable grocery stores, restaurants, and food distribution centers.

Video still image courtesy of Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty.

Bends and Banks: Communities, Water, and the American River

This five-part multimedia series produced by journalism fellows at Sierra College examines water quality and environmental conditions at the American River, one of California’s most visited rivers. Through interviews with researchers, citizen scientists, and activists and a social media campaign publicizing real time water quality information, the series raises awareness of the myriad ways in which public health is impacted by the river’s various safety issues, from E. Coli to Mercury poisoning to trash dumping.

Photo courtesy of Bends and Banks: Communities, Water, and the American River project

Fentanyl Empire: The Inland Empire’s Latest Drug Crisis

In this three-part podcast series Riverside City College students ask health officials, political representatives, and residents directly impacted by the Fentanyl epidemic: How did the drug take hold in the region? What has its impact been on individuals and the community? And what are the solutions the Inland Empire has to offer? The podcast received first-place recognition for the Southern California Journalism Association of Community Colleges’ Webcast/Broadcast News Story.

Photo courtesy of Fentanyl Empire: The Inland Empire's Latest Drug Crisis
Photo courtesy of

A Deadly North State Epidemic: Fentanyl Poisoning Shatters Families, Destroys Lives

Shasta College Journalism Fellow Nima Nazari provided another look at the impact of Fentanyl on rural California. His article tells the very personal story of a Shasta County teenager’s fatal overdose and examines the regional and national growth of Fentanyl use and addiction.

Where Have the Students Gone?

At Bakersfield College, fellows reported on the dramatic decline of student enrollment at Kern County community colleges. Through examining national trends in education, data visualizations, a look at administrative decisions, and profiles of individual learners, the web-based project details how and why the pandemic hurt enrollment numbers at Bakersfield College and its sister schools—and efforts by administrators, faculty, and students to counter this trend.

Photo courtesy of Where Have the Students Gone?

The Sidewalk Project

This investigative documentary from student journalists at Chaffey College looks at pedestrian safety and ADA accessibility issues in three Inland Empire cities—Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and Fontana. The team reviewed sidewalks in each location and developed a Qualitative Assessment Score on the upkeep and ADA compliance status, cross-referencing these scores with financial data for each location.

Photo courtesy of The Sidewalk Project

OC Sidewalk Vendors Struggle with Costly, Confusing County, City Permits Meant to Help

In a joint video and text piece published with Fullerton College’s student paper and nonprofit news website Voice of OC, student journalists illustrate the challenges that sidewalk vendors face in Orange County. Although decriminalized since 2018, selling food on the street still runs the risk of law enforcement penalties, from fines to confiscated goods. Through interviews with individual vendors, politicians, and vendors’ advocates, this team’s reporting charts recent legislative attempts to give street food merchants a clearer route to permits—and to the daily earnings so many of them need to stay afloat in Orange County.

Photo by Mariah Winsborrow

The Knowledge Industry

This series from fellows at San Diego City College explores the impact of AB-927, a 2021 California state assembly bill that permanently authorized community colleges to create new bachelor’s degree programs. The reportage tracks the bill from many angles and formats, from a podcast about the legislation’s revolutionary potential in higher education to articles profiling the new majors that San Diego City College is generating, including cybersecurity and graphic design. An interactive map displays the range of new BA programs soon to be offered by community colleges under AB-927.

Graphic design by Philip Salata/City Times Media

Breaking the Monolith: Culture Defines South Central. Geography Limits It,It Takes Time’: Fentanyl Stops the Clock, Disabled Students Speak Out, El Salvador: ‘Never Going Back’

A quartet of pieces from Los Angeles City College students display human triumph and despair in Southern California. Sorina Szakacs reports from the front lines of disability struggles in education: blind students’ fight for academic accommodations from L.A. Community College District, a legal battle that went all the way to California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. With photographs, text, and video, Louis White paints a nuanced portrait of the lives and people of South Central L.A., pointing out the gaps between outsider stereotypes about the area’s roughness and the realities of its demographic diversity and architectural gems. Mixed-media pieces by John A. Johns relate the harrowing stories of two different women who fled gang violence in El Salvador for the United States—only to face deportation once they finally arrived here. Matthew Rodriguez brings the fentanyl crisis home by profiling the tragic overdose death of his sister.

Photo courtesy of Breaking the Monolith
Photo courtesy of Disabled Students Speak Out

We want to congratulate and thank all the 2022 Emerging Journalist Fellows and wish them well in their future endeavors.


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