The Miami Youth Academy houses up to 28 boys from 14 to 18 years old, who are sent there by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In April 2020, their world was upended when the first case of COVID-19 was identified at the facility. Since then four students and six staff members, including the facility administrator, have been infected.
The students are documenting this period in stories for their student newspaper Titan Tribune, which they produce in a journalism class run by Exchange for Change, a local nonprofit group that teaches writing classes in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. Retired newspaper reporter Henry Unger has taught the class for nearly two years in collaboration with the academy and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. This exclusive interview was published in July 2020 in issue 8.
Ahead of the interview, the students learned about how to interview a news source, prepare questions and take detailed notes. They also learned techniques like how to politely slow the person down if he talks too rapidly. After the interview, they wrote up their notes and put together a draft that was then edited. “The entire reporting process helps journalism students — teenagers and adults alike — develop more self-confidence to do future interviews and stories,” said Unger. “Journalism is a trade like carpentry. The more you do it, the better you get.”
By D. M. and T. H.
Facility Administrator Mr. Ainsworth Miller said he received a “wake-up call” when he was infected by the COVID-19 virus recently.
“It’s always scary to almost die,” he said in an interview. “I didn’t take it seriously at first.”
Mr. Miller said he was quarantined at home for almost a month before he returned to MYA (Miami Youth Academy) recently.
“It’s hard to isolate yourself from your own family, to be home but not being able to see them,” he said. “But it’s for the best.”
Neither his wife nor his son got infected.
After Mr. Miller got the virus, he said he was nervous. Seeing lots of COVID-19 news stories made him even more anxious.
“You cannot control the virus,” he said. “A couple of times the symptoms came at the same time. I had no taste or smell.”
Mr. Miller said it was hard not being able to go to work, although he did do some work from home.
Now that he’s back to work, he said he will do his best to keep the virus out of here. He will remind the staff to wear masks, keep their distance, wash their hands and follow the other CDC guidelines.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.