Q & A with Student Winner of the Young Reporters Competition

National Wildlife Federation’s Young Reporters for the Environment USA program recently reported the results of its inaugural environmental journalism competition. First place winners proceeded to the international Young Reporters competition for another round of judging. International results are announced publicly today, on World Environment Day. We are delighted to share that Zachary Korff, whose piece won the video prize and special distinction in our national contest, also claimed the first place video award in the international competition in his age category (11-14).

Zachary Korff. Photo by Rosalyn Cooperman Korff.
Zachary Korff. Photo by Rosalyn Cooperman Korff.
I asked Zachary, a student at Irving Middle School in Springfield, Virginia, a few questions about his project and his growing interest in environmental journalism. Here’s what he had to say:

How did you decide to participate in the Young Reporters for the Environment program?

My science teacher introduced it as a fun project we could do if there was something we were concerned about in the environment. I thought it sounded like a good mental exercise and decided to take on the challenge.

Your video, “A Tale of Two Trails,” focuses on two mountain biking trails in your community and how riding in wet conditions damages them. How did you choose this topic?

I have a strong connection to those trails. I’ve been on them a lot, and it’s sad to see them go to ruin when people could prevent it. I wanted to educate people about the issue and help solve the problem.

In the time since you made your video and began sharing it with your community, have you seen any progress toward a solution to this issue?

The video has gotten a lot of views, and a lot of people have said they like it and will share it. I’m pretty sure it’s made a bit of a difference already. My dad says he’s heard that slightly fewer people are using the trails when they are wet.

The Young Reporters competition invites students to report on  environmental issues in writing, photography, or video. Why does the video format appeal to you? Did you have previous experience making videos?

I chose the video format because I thought it would be the best way to express what I had to say. With video, you can show something happening and at the same time you can describe it in words. I like to write and I know it’s an important way to communicate, but I felt I wouldn’t be able to express myself as well that way, and I didn’t think a photo would work as well either. I hadn’t made a video like this before, but I had used some similar technology. I felt comfortable with the techniques and learned as I went.

Mountain biking trail sign. Photo by Zachary Korff.
Sign on mountain biking trail. Photo by Zachary Korff.
Are you interested in doing more environmental reporting? Are there any other issues that you’d like to investigate?

Yes, but I’m not sure what yet. There are lots of things I’m concerned about, but I’m looking for something that I have experience with and that’s just as important to me personally as this topic was. I think I can better express myself when I really know and care about something, so I need to find a really good topic that strikes a chord with me.

What has been the most interesting or exciting outcome of having your video chosen as a winner in both the U.S. and international Young Reporters competitions?

All the feedback has been really interesting. It’s exciting that people like the video and are willing to share it with others. The certificate is nice, but I really made this video for the environment. The best part is that the video is accessible in other places, so people can learn from it and spread the word. The goal is to help the trails.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

I’d like to thank National Wildlife Federation and everyone who’s made this possible! I hope it will encourage other kids to do things like this.

We congratulate Zachary on his hard work, his commitment to helping the environment, and his winning video. View his video, “A Tale of Two Trails,” here.
The international winners were chosen from among entries from 20 countries. Click here to view the complete list of international competition results.

The Young Reporters for the Environment USA program encourages students to start thinking about projects now in preparation for next year’s competition!