What’s your American Dream?

July 1, 2016

Two journalism classes work with KCPT to discover the new definition of success

Students in two journalism classes at Johnson County Community College partnered with public television station KCPT to gain real-world experience in writing, editing, video and promotions.

The project was called Re:Dream, a nationwide effort to examine the hopes and dreams of Americans everywhere. More specifically, Re:Dream seeks to analyze the opportunities and obstacles of the American Dream in the 21st century.

Advanced Reporting (JOUR 222) students worked with KCPT professionals to document the stories of students, staff and faculty at JCCC and ask what success meant to them. (The first story created by a JCCC journalism student is now on the KCPT site.)

Students from Promotional Writing (JOUR 225) also worked with KCPT and came up with the idea of staging their own Re:Dream roundtable discussion on the JCCC campus. They organized the event, came up with various tactics to promote it and visited classes to explain to students what the Re:Dream project entailed. They held the Re:Dream roundtable discussions in the Regnier Center on April 11.

‘Natural, flowing conversation’

Sixty or so individuals showed up at the roundtable to discuss the American Dream, view video packages professionally produced for Re:Dream and reflect upon factors such as race, socioeconomic status and family support.

Nathaniel Bozarth, associate producer and co-creator for the Re:Dream project, led students through thought-provoking questions from a podium bedecked in a miniature white-picket fence, a nod to the post-war ideal of a house in suburbs surrounded by just such a fence.

“What we would love is for you to have a conversation about opportunity, obstacles and the American Dream,” he said. “The goal is just to have a natural, flowing conversation…Is there an idea of one unified American Dream, and if so, what is that?”

Thinking it through

At a table comprised of three white students, two Asian students and one student who self-identified as “a fat brown guy,” a quiet consensus emerged. Race doesn’t matter as much as it used to, but it still matters more than it should.

“I jokingly call myself ‘a fat brown guy,’ but I honestly don’t think that’s ever stood in the way of opportunities that have come my way,” he said.

At another table, a student lobbied for free tuition for college to level the playing field. He was a child of privilege, he admitted, since his father was a doctor and money never kept him from school, but some of his friends weren’t so lucky, he said.

“They had no choice but to go to work. They wanted to go to college, but they couldn’t afford it, or their families needed them to work just to help support the family,” he said. “I think the American Dream should be about having that choice.”

Real-world experience

Mark Raduziner is professor and chair of the journalism department and instructor for Advanced Reporting. He said the project allowed his students to think differently about the 2016 version of the American Dream as they produced both print and video stories.

“They also had the opportunity to work with our truly diverse campus community and the talented professional staff from KCPT’s digital news website,” Raduziner said.

“This collaboration moves students into a world far grander than they ever imagined college journalism courses would lead them...and their own lives have become richer and more meaningful as a result,” he said.

For more information about journalism classes at JCCC, contact Raduziner at 913-469-8500 ext. 3131.