Youth News Team: Would you pass the U.S. naturalization test?

    If the government requires all immigrants seeking citizenship to take this test, how would everyday people native to the United States do? We predicted people would not do well, because high school is typically the only time people learn about civic topics.

    As part of the Youth News Team partnership hosted by PSTV (the Philadelphia School District’s education channel) and WHYY, a team of five students from Saul High School in Philadelphia produced a set of video news reports on topics of interest to them during the week of the Democratic National Convention. NewsWorks presents those videos here with the students’ reflections on their experiences.

    When we agreed to be a part of the 2016 DNC Youth News Team camp, the both of us had no idea what to expect. This great opportunity provided by PSTV and WHYY during this historical Democratic National Convention has motivated us both politically, particularly because we both turned 18 during the camp. This experience not only has motivated us both to vote in our first election, but has given us both memories that will last a lifetime.

    The news story we put together focused on the topic of immigration. During our research we came across a sample of the naturalization test used by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. Despite us both having taken and successfully passed the 11th grade U.S. government class at W.B. Saul High School this past year, we scored an 80 percent on the online naturalization test. We felt we should have done better, considering we had just learned all of this information.

    This got us thinking: If the government requires all immigrants seeking citizenship to take this test, how would everyday people native to the United States do? We predicted people would not do well, because high school is typically the only time people learn about civic topics.

    The highlight of putting together our news segment was conducting street interviews. We selected five questions from the naturalization test to ask our interviewees.

    Our first interviews were done at the Philly Feast street festival in Old City, Philadelphia. Despite it being the hottest day of the year so far, we met a number of fun characters willing to participate in our civics quiz. The standout interviews were Matt Muto, an actor at the Betsy Ross House who had a hard time breaking the 1700s character he was hired to portray.

    Additionally, we ran into and interviewed a Saul alumna, Summer Tarboro, who was excited to help out and brought us to laughter as she realized she should have studied harder during Mr. O’Dywer’s class.

    The following day, we went over to Independence Mall to continue our street interview. With only one interview to go, we came across Gary George Watson, a retired photographer from The Daily Mail. After he answered our questions, he shared with us the most impressive stories, with photographic proof, about his experiences with people such as Muhammad Ali, Bill Gates, and Michael Jackson.

    Perhaps the most meaningful part of our experience, and the interview that legitimized our news piece, was meeting Federal Judge Marjorie Rendell. We got to interview Rendell in her office, which was on the 21st floor of the James A. Byrne Courthouse. During our interview we learned about her passion for civics and how she and her husband, former Gov. Ed Rendell, founded the Rendell Center, whose mission is to educate and excite middle school students about the government, civic history, and how the court systems works. When we finished interviewing her, we both were very empowered and excited to complete our news piece.

    Sisters Catrina and Carmela Marcellino are students at Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, a magnet high school focused on agricultural sciences in Roxborough. Saul is the largest agricultural farm school in the United States.

    Youth News Team is a student reporting program hosted by PSTV and WHYY with partners including the Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention, KYW Newsradio, and the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement. The program is intended to provide Philadelphia students a unique opportunity to cover the 2016 Democratic Convention, the issues that affect their neighborhoods, and and how those issues relate to national political debate.

    The program is funded by The Philadelphia Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through a grant to WHYY.

    To provide mentorship, student teams were matched with local media partners including NBC10, Philadelphia Magazine, KYW, and WHYY to provide professional perspective and feedback.

    Five student teams were selected from an overall pool of 17 high school team applications and 41 middle school individual applications.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.