Middle school students interview Eric LeGrand and Kim Jones at Write on Sports Camp

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MONTCLAIR, NJ — The annual “Write On Sports” Oranges summer journalism camp for middle school students was held from July 5 through 15 at Montclair State University, and continued to facilitate literacy and love of writing for West Orange students from Edison, Liberty and Roosevelt middle schools.

Thirty-four students participated in the Oranges Write on Sports camp this year. Byron Yake, West Orange resident and former Associated Press news bureau chief, founded the program in 2005 and it has continued to grow in popularity.

In the course of two weeks, students hone their writing skills by penning sports stories. A guest journalist and guest athlete visit the camp and model an interview. Then, the students get the opportunity to ask their own questions and create a blog post based on the responses they get.

After WFAN radio host and NFL Network host Kim Jones interviewed former Rutgers football player and current analyst Eric LeGrand on July 8 in an MSU lecture hall, participants in the West Orange and Newark camps got to ask their own questions. LeGrand discussed his plans for the future, including a documentary to show people how everyday tasks have changed for him since he became paralyzed. Jones talked about being a woman in an often male-dominated sports world.

“Respect the time of the people you interview and know your subject,” Jones told students as she asked LeGrand about graduating from Rutgers University in 2014 and giving the commencement speech.

“For me, getting my diploma was about commitment, not only for me but for my family,” LeGrand said in response.

Jones asked LeGrand how he felt about having the responsibility of being a “face” for spinal cord injury, like Christopher Reeve had been. Reeve, who had suffered a devastating spinal cord injury after a fall from a horse, and his wife, Dana, founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation dedicated to “advancing quality of life and discovering cures for spinal cord injury in the here and now.” Reeve died in 2005 and his wife died as well in 2006.

“Whatever I’m doing, broadcast or therapy, as long I lay my head my pillow knowing I’ve given it the best that I’ve got, I’m happy,” LeGrand said. “I feel great about motivating others … there are so many people out there that can’t ‘pull themselves up’ and you feel 10,000 times better picking someone up than putting someone down.”

Other guests during the two-week program included Duane Morgan, a former West Orange High School basketball player who played in Argentina last season; Morgan was interviewed by Brian Costello of the NY Post. And Lance Wigfall, the head track coach at East Orange Campus High School, was interviewed by WGBO News Director and SportsJam host Doug Doyle.

The students also attended a New Jersey Jackals game at Yogi Berra Stadium. They interviewed three Jackals pitchers before the game started and completed a spot story afterward.

The main writing project for the students is a print feature story. Each student completes a feature story on a topic of his or her choice; the stories are then compiled into a magazine, which the children get to name.

The camp is not solely writing though. Students also get to complete a two- to three-minute video about a sports topic of their choosing. Topics included gender inequality in men’s and women’s soccer and the Mets’ signing of Jose Reyes. Since the program’s inception, more than 900 students have completed the camp.

In addition to the camp, after school writing workshops are also held. Edison Middle School sponsored a Write on Sports workshop earlier this year taught by EMS teachers Jennifer Blume and Arturo Rodriguez. Blume, along with EMS teacher Kathy Jackson, is also part of the Write on Sports teaching team this summer.

There is no cost to students accepted into the program, which also includes lunch.

This story and photos were provided by Cynthia Cumming, the West Orange School District’s spokeswoman, and Evan Easterling, a Class of 2015 West Orange High School graduate and former Write on Sports student and current intern. Easterling is currently a sophomore journalism student at Temple University.