Thursday, March 1, 2012

National History Day and the Juggling Student

Is a high school student juggling three volleyballs in a history classroom news? In Canton, South Dakota, it just might be.

One of the wonders of my job is also its curse: quirky subject matter. When you’re a journalist in a town of 3,000, story ideas sometimes require some creativity. And sometimes people surprise you.

The fail-safe factor amid the “poultry persons of the year” and city commission stories is interesting people.

Today I got to interview two high school students working on a project for a National History Day program. Their subject was Baseball’s Reaction to WWII. While this topic genuinely interested me, the kids were far more interesting.

One was a quiet, soft-spoken introvert, the other a red-headed jokester. They were a duo worthy of their own crime series, with hearts of gold. Their description of everything from their creative process to the nerd factor of chess reminded me of a Watson and Holmes-type banter that had me laughing for half the interview.

But possibly the best part of the interview was the random third-wheel student who came in five minutes into the interview and sat down directly behind me.

I was conducting the interview in a classroom, so other students were to be expected. But this guy sat right behind me and picked up my voice recorder like it was an alien life form. The boys explained there was an interview in progress, so the kid sat back down, all ears. He just sat there, fascinated, for the entire interview. He even threw in his two cents every now and then.

At the conclusion of the interview, I told the guys I needed a picture for the article.

“Can I be in it?” asked the random student behind me.

“Well,” I said, “if you can come up with a legitimate reason as to why you are in the photo, sure.”

One of the guys threw out “moral support” as a good excuse. Another suggested he pretend to be one of them. We finally got the picture taken, with only the original two students.

“Why can’t I get my picture in the paper?” the third-wheel-student inquired.

“You have to do something interesting,” I told him.

I have to admit, I did not expect and immediate response, but probably should have. Within seconds he was in the corner of the classroom juggling three volleyballs. All I could do was laugh and produce my camera.

I now have a picture of two high school students working on a history project for a national history program...and a student juggling three volleyballs that may very well end up in the paper. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me why I love life.