2021 New Voices Student Leaders Institute

white logo saying SPLC and Student Press Law Center on a bright blue background

July 19 – 22, 2021. Online.

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•  About the Institute
Meet the 2021 Participants
Meet the 2021 Facilitators, Coaches and Guests
Last Year’s Institute

About the Institute

The New Voices Student Leaders Institute is a free, four-day program for students to develop their leadership and organizing skills, expand their role as leaders within the New Voices movement, and identify a strategy that could be instrumental in your state’s New Voices efforts. 

Participants in the all-online program will be joined by SPLC staff, New Voices advocates, and special guests to learn their unique capacity as change agents, deepen their understanding of civics, advocacy and press freedom, and expand their ability to act as organizers and messengers for causes that matter to them. By the end of the Institute, Student Leaders will identify the pressing organizing needs in their state  and the unique ways in which students can respond, as well as possess the tools necessary to combat these challenges. Student leaders will also receive regular feedback and check ins from New Voices advocates and SPLC staff, as well as bonus surprises throughout the year.

New in 2021: Beginning advocates welcome! The Institute will include two tracks, one for experienced New Voices advocates who want to take their leadership and organizing skills to the next level, and one for new advocates who want to be a big part of New Voices but want a crash course in organizing and advocacy. All student advocates will work together to protect and restore student press freedom nationwide. 

Meet the 2021 Participants


SHEEVAM PATELSenior, A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts

My name is Sheevam Patel! I’m from West Palm Beach in Florida and I feel strongly about New Voices because I am a student journalist. I’ve been one for two years and journalism has been one of the best activities I’ve ever participated in. Beyond that, I love being a leader and advocate in other clubs at my school and across the community. New Voices gives me the opportunity to become a better and more effective advocate, and I am so excited for that!


NAKIA HARMONSenior, McIntosh High School

My name is Nakia Harmon, and I am the Opinions Editor of the McIntosh Trail. I am one out of five siblings which is where my knack for expressing my own opinions and defending and/or conceding with the opinions of others derived from. This will be my second year serving as a Key Club officer for McIntosh High School. I feel strongly about New Voices because I believe that my voice as well as the voices of my fellow student journalists serve as the vessels for events, groundbreaking moments in history, and human interest stories that need to be shared with the rest of the world and will be hindered from doing so if New Voices legislation is not passed in every state in the United States. I plan on becoming the editor-in-chief of a publication one or starting my own publication where I will serve as its editor-in-chief.


LOUISA STUHECSenior, Washtenaw International High School

My name is Louisa Stuhec (she/her), and I am a rising senior at Washtenaw International High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Passionate about journalism as a medium by which to ignite critical dialogues and empower diverse perspectives, I founded my school’s newspaper and have been growing it for the past three years. My personal work, which centers around Gen Z and social justice issues, has been awarded a national gold medal in journalism from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as first place in profile feature writing from Youth Journalism International. I have also dabbled in podcasting, with pieces on environmental activism and educational inequity. The mission of the New Voices movement resonates deeply with me. All too often student voices are silenced — especially when it comes to global politics, even though our generation is just as affected as any other. I believe the ideals of young people are fundamental for advancing real change and justice.


SRUTHI RAMESHSenior, Liberty High School

Hi! I’m Sruthi Ramesh, and I am a rising Senior at Liberty High School in Lake St. Louis, Missouri. I am very passionate about Journalism and Advocacy, and believe that learning is the only way that we as a society can progress. I think that New Voices is an amazing way for Student Journalists to speak up about their rights and preserve the voices of young journalists across the country. 

MERRY SCHLARMANSenior, Kirkwood High School

My name is Merry Schlarman, and I’m from Kirkwood, Missouri. While I’m really interested in writing and advocacy, I also have strong ties to art and music. Currently, I am the design editor for my High School’s Publication, The Kirkwood Call, and I create a lot of visuals that show up on our magazines and website. I feel that New Voices is a great opportunity to grow my own skills and connections, and to actually make an impact in and outside of my community!

New Jersey

ADRIANA RODRIGUEZJunior, Lyndhust High School

Hello everyone, I am Adriana Rodriguez and I am from Lyndhurst New Jersey. I am an upcoming junior at LHS and I am excited to be a part of New Voices. After learning about the Student Leaders Institute and their mission, I wanted the opportunity to be a part of it. To be around people with similar goals and aspirations, New Voices became the perfect place to learn more about journalism. 

SASHA RTISHCHEVSenior, Governor Livingston High School

My name is Sasha Rtishchev and I am from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. I have been a staff writer for my newspaper since my sophomore year, and am currently one of the Editors-in-Chiefs. New Voices is important to me because I believe that journalism is an avenue where students whose voices are not always listened to can be heard. No administration should have the right to take away the power of the written word from anybody. That is why we must fight for positive political change within my state, and all across the nation, to ensure that all students’ can have their stories and experiences heard. 

New York

MUSAYEROH BAHSenior, Curtis High School

I’m Musayeroh Bah, a rising senior at Curtis High School in Staten Island, New York City. I’m the editor-in-chief of my school’s student-run newspaper (The Curtis Log), a student representative for my school’s School Leadership Team, and a member of the robotics team. As a student journalist for 3 years, I know how important it is to have a school newspaper run by students for their school community. It gives students a platform that they can trust when they feel unheard. By passing legislation to ensure first amendment rights for student journalism, school newspapers can continue to maintain that essential platform without the looming threat of disciplinary action from those who would try to suppress their input when deemed too “inconvenient.”

NAFISA HAQUESenior, Midwood High School

My name is Nafisa, I am a very extroverted 16-year-old from Brooklyn, and I feel very strongly about New Voices because it combines my two passions, politics and journalism, in a very new way! 

MICHELLE SANDYSenior, Townsend Harris High School

Michelle Sandy is a 17-year-old high school student in Queens, New York. In her free time, she writes anything she can, though her primary focus is journalistic writing. She is very passionate about journalism and hopes that others are able to experience freedoms of the press, regardless of whether or not it is at the student level or the professional level.

JULIET ZUCKERSenior, Mamaroneck High School

Hello, my name is Juliet Zucker and I am 16 years old. I am from Larchmont, NY, a small town in Westchester. I go to Mamaroneck High School and will be a senior in the 2021-2022 school year. I feel strongly about New Voices because I have an interest in journalism, politics, and law, and feel I could learn how to take action on subjects that mean a lot to me. I play the flute, I play tennis, I enjoy listening to music, I like writing and reading in my free time, and I love cooking. I hope to be a member of the Institute because I would be a dedicated member, learner, and contributor to create a more welcoming environment for student journalists. 

North Carolina

EMMY BENTONJunior, First Flight High School

Hi! My name is Emmy Benton and I am a rising junior at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, NC. I have a deep interest in journalism and I’ve been involved in it for the past two years. I feel strongly about New Voices because I think student journalists should be free to write what they deem important, without fear of censorship. I think New Voices will be able to ensure that this can happen, and helping it come to fruition is something I’m proud to be a part of. Outside of school I enjoy dancing, trying new recipes, and spending time with friends and family. 

EMILY CHAMBLISSSenior, West Henderson High School

My name is Emily Chambliss and I am a rising senior at West Henderson High School in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I am the Web Editor-in-Chief of my school’s newspaper and the 2021 student Vice President of Electronic Communication and Online for the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association. I have loved to write as long as I can remember, and I have really enjoyed writing for my school’s newspaper for the past few years. Journalism and freedom of the press are vital pieces of our democracy, and student journalists are our country’s future. We deserve to exercise our right to press freedom as students, and the New Voices movement is pushing giant steps in that direction. It is incredible to even be given the opportunity to potentially work with all kinds of student journalists from across the country. 


JUI BHATIASophomore, Conestoga High School

I am Jui Bhatia, a freshman at Conestoga High School in Pennsylvania. I feel strongly about New Voices because every journalist should be able to tell the stories of their community without facing censorship. I believe that as student journalists we have a right to connect, support and help our communities, but this is only possible if student journalists have better protection and rights.

MACKENZIE HYDEJunior, Tyrone Area High School

Hello! My name is MacKenzie Hyde and I live in the small town of Tyrone Pennsylvania. I am a rising junior at Tyrone High School and writing is my passion. Over the past couple of years, I realized the importance of journalism and how it can play a role in our everyday lives. As an editor for my school newspaper, The Eagle Eye, I want to use what I learn from this experience to help guide my school and community for a better tomorrow.

BEN SHAPIROSophomore, Conestoga High School

My name is Ben Shapiro, I am an upcoming sophomore, and the Copy Editor for The Spoke, Conestoga High School’s student-run newspaper. I have a passion for journalism and love New Voice’s mission to protect student free speech rights. The Spoke has faced many attempts at censorship by my school’s administration, but we have a legacy of fighting back and keeping control over our paper, website, and content. I am excited to continue fighting for student free speech rights everywhere, and working with all of you to become a better journalist in every way. 

SHREYA VAIDHYANATHANSophomore, Conestoga High School

My name is Shreya Vaidhyanathan and I am Webmaster for the Spoke, my high school’s publication. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania my whole life, and I hope to leave a lasting impact on the world with my writing. With a strong passion for journalism, it’s important to me that student writers are uplifted, and New Voices fights for just that. 


CATHARINE LIJunior, Westwood High School

Hi, my name is Catharine Li and I’m a rising junior and the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Horizon news publication of Westwood High School in Austin, Texas. I’m awed by what the tenacity of student journalism programs can tell us about all that we’re capable of and what it truly means to be a storyteller: doggedly viewing the world with a critical eye, and telling powerful stories to amplify and empower so many. I remain eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been given to get involved in scholastic journalism and through this, learn to find my voice. Student journalists uphold the same standards for ethicality, honesty, accountability, and professionalism as their professional counterparts, but when unacceptable censorship and prior restraint or review prohibits this commitment to fulfilling inextinguishable roles in our respective campuses and greater communities, this is where New Voices legislation comes in. I hope to help advocate for this cause to support student journalists and their advisors under resolute protection from censorship. 


AUDREY CZARNECKIJunior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

I am a rising Junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. I wish to pursue a career in medical sciences and research while also being a writer. I have a passion for helping others and am serving in my county library’s Teen Advisory Board since eighth grade. I have been on my high school’s wrestling team for the past two years. I am passionate about civil liberties and freedom of speech, and I wish to contribute to society. 

MARISSA HAMLETTSenior, Colonial Forge High School

Hello! My name is Marissa Hamlett and I am a senior at Colonial Forge High School. Last year I worked with New Voices as an advocate for the state of Virginia and I am so excited to be a part of the team again! I feel strongly about New Voices because as a student journalist, I believe our voices need to be heard. It is such a crucial time for student journalists to be able to express their knowledge and opinions through writing without the fear of facing censorship.

RACHEL LEWISSenior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Hi! I’m Rachel Lewis, a rising senior from Northern Virginia and an incoming editor-in-chief for my school’s online news publication. I’ve loved to read books and write random stories since I was little, so I translated that passion for words into journalism at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I believe that journalists should be able to respectfully tell any story that’s important to their community, so I’m excited to work with New Voices advocates across the country to protect student press freedoms! Outside of school, you can find me reading, listening to podcasts and music, or participating in a variety of extracurriculars.

SARASI ROUTSophomore, John Champe High School & Academies of Loudon

Hi! I’m Sarasi Rout and I was born in a small town in India. I immigrated to the United States when I was about 5 and now I reside in Northern Virginia. I’m a rising sophomore at John Champe High School. I stumbled upon New Voices and immediately felt connected with their mission. Though I haven’t experienced it to its severity, my voice has been drowned out by others in too many situations. And it sucks. Our peers and classmates are more likely to read our school newspapers than other local media and they should be informed on everything that affects them. Administration has too much power over us and it must be stopped. New Voices is crucial to helping our words reach more people than ever before. 

Meet the Facilitators, Coaches and Guests for the 2021 Institute

Candace Perkins Bowen is a professor of journalism at Kent State University and the director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism there. She taught high school English and journalism and advised student media in Illinois and Fairfax County, Virginia, before coming to Kent State. 

Hillary Davis joined the SPLC in 2019, after six years lobbying state legislators with the  American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. She has advocated for and alongside youth on issues of student’s rights, the First Amendment, racial profiling, and criminal and juvenile  justice. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan and a BA  in sociology from California State University, Northridge. 

Michael Donoghue has been an award-winning news and sports writer for the Burlington Free Press for over 40 years.  He also has been an adjunct professor of journalism and mass communications at St. Michael’s College in Colchester since 1985. He has been an officer with the Vermont Press Association since 1979 and a former board member for the New England Press Association (1995-2001).  He has served continuously as State Chair of Project Sunshine in Vermont since it was started by the Society of Professional Journalists in 1990.

Mr. Donoghue is often credited as being a key driving force behind the improvement to Vermont’s Open Government (public records and meetings) legislation.  As president of the Vermont Press Association (VPA), he was a leader in the successful fight to allow for cameras in Vermont courtrooms in the mid 1980s.  He has made his own successful legal arguments to judges about keeping courtrooms open and not sealing court documents.

He and the Free Press have been honored for his work on a local, state, regional and national level.  He was selected in 2007 as the winner of the Yankee Quill Award, the top lifetime honor for print and electronic journalism in New England. He has been inducted into five Halls of Fame, including as a charter member for the New England Press Association’s Hall of Fame (2000) and as a charter member for  the Society of Professional Journalists/ National Freedom of Information Coalition Hall of Fame (2003). Mr. Donoghue is a frequent speaker on a wide range of First Amendment topics and in 1998 he was one of four American presenters selected for a Freedom of Information conference in Dublin, Ireland.  He is a former National President of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (2006-08). Mr. Donoghue has been invited to serve as a judge for state, regional, national and foreign press contests. Mr. Donoghue also has taught at the Vermont Police Academy, helped write “Covering Campus Crime” for the Student Press Law Center, and helped the VPA establish its first statewide high school journalism conference.

Hi everyone, my name is Sara Fajardo (she/her) and I am from Berkeley Heights, NJ. I recently graduated from Governor Livingston High School, where I was the Editor in Chief and Social Media Manager of our newspaper, The Highlander. Throughout High School I was a student leader for the Garden State Scholastic Press Association and worked with the SPLC on NJ New Voices. In the fall, I will be attending the University of Florida to study Journalism and Spanish.

Dan Furmansky is a facilitator, strategist, communications professional, and organizational  management consultant with a niche in coalition and movement building. He brings to the table  20+ years of knowledge and skills gleaned from successful stints as an executive director,  lobbyist, community organizer, campaign manager, board member, and funder. Over the past  two decades, his work has focused on addressing a broad range of human rights issues,  including LGBTQ rights, income inequality, democratic reforms, decriminalization, and  environmental justice. 

Hadar Harris, a human rights attorney and non-profit leader with a passion for working with  and on behalf of students, joined the SPLC on Sept. 6, 2017. She previously served as the  executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project. For 13 years, Harris was  executive director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University  Washington College of Law. Earlier in her career, Harris served as executive director of the  Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a bipartisan legislative service organization of the US  House of Representatives, under the leadership of the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA).  Following her graduation from law school, she worked in private practice at the law firm Littler  Mendelson. Harris holds a BA in Political Science from Brown University and a Juris Doctor  from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Steven A. Holmes, a veteran journalist with more than 40 years in the business, recently retired as Executive Director of Standards and Practices at CNN. He has also been national domestic policy editor at The Washington Post and reporter and editor at The New York Times where he was part of a team awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for reporting on race relations in America. He is the author of “Ron Brown: An Uncommon Life,” a biography of the former commerce secretary and Chairman of the Democratic Party who died while working in the Clinton Administration. He put himself through college by driving a New York City taxicab at night, and still insists that this was the second best job he’s ever had.

Pratika Katiyar is a recent graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and the former editor-in-chief of the student-run publication tjTODAY. In the fall, Pratika will be attending Northeastern University on a Dean’s scholarship. Over the past few years, she has lobbied tirelessly to get New Voices legislation passed in her home state of Virginia and across the nation. For her work, she has been featured in several news outlets, including Teen Vogue, NBC Washington, and ABC 7. 

Steve Listopad serves as president of the Society of Professional Journalists Arkansas Pro-Chapter and was named the Arkansas Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2021 by the Arkansas Press Association. He is currently a lecturer and media adviser, as well as the internship coordinator, at Henderson State University in Arkansas. He advises the student newspaper, yearbook, website and advertising agency. He and his students run the only local newspaper in Arkadelphia – The Oracle: Community Edition. Listopad has received honors from the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Journalism Education Association, and the Society of Collegiate Journalists for his work in creating the national New Voices USA legislative campaign to protect the rights of student journalists. He led the passage of laws in North Dakota in 2015 and 2017, and in Arkansas in 2019, as part of the campaign. Listopad has previously served as an assistant professor of journalism and a student media director at the University of Jamestown and Valley City State University in North Dakota. His converged student media center at UJ was a finalist in North Dakota’s annual professional entrepreneurial competition, InnovateND, and he was a Scripps Fellow for Entrepreneurial Journalism in 2015. Listopad was honored with College Media Association’s Distinguished Multimedia Adviser Award in 2010 and has received two CMA Presidential Citations. He continues to teach journalism abroad in the summers and has taught in China, France, Italy, and Norway. He is completing his PhD at North Dakota State University.

Neha Madhira, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, is a journalist, activist and feminist. A press censorship battle over Eagle Nation Online while a student at Prosper (Texas) High School was covered by The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News

The censorship experience inspired Madhira to advocate for student free press laws in her state and around the country. Madhira received the first Young Journalist award by the Women’s Media Center in 2018, gave a talk at TED Women about the importance of the New Voices legislation for student journalists and wrote an op-ed for CNN about student press freedom. She continued her work with the Student Press Law Center by serving as its first Nick Ferentino New Voices Fellow during the summer of 2019. Madhira is currently a breaking news reporter at The Daily Texan and an editorial board member of the WMC’s F-Bomb.

Jack Rintoul is a rising junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia majoring in Strategic Communications and Graphic Design. At college, Rintoul works for the University of Missouri School of Law as a communications intern assisting with their social media and other design and video needs. While in High School, Rintoul worked with the New Voices Missouri Campaign travelling to Jefferson City multiple times to cover the legislation and testify in support of the bill. 

Cade Spencer is an incoming freshman at Georgetown University where he plans to study Government. In high school, he was a leader of New Voices Texas and a dedicated student journalist. In the Summer of 2020, Cade was an attendee of the SPLC New Voices Student Leaders Institute as well.