Journalism & Media Academy offers high school students ‘real life’ experiences

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Fri., Feb. 7, 2014
The application deadline for the Journalism & Media Academy is Feb. 28, 2014. Photos contributed by Vivian Elba. - Contributed Photo

State-of-the-art technology, one of the largest green screens in New England and the ability to build a work portfolio while earning class credit: these may sound like the qualities of a reputable college-level communications program, but they’re not. These are just some of the attributes of the Journalism & Media Academy (JMA), based in Hartford.

The JMA is a regional choice high school located on Tower Avenue in Hartford that serves students in the 36 towns that make up the Greater Hartford area. The school is housed in a brand-new facility that just opened its doors last August. In addition to the traditional academic studies such as science, math, science and social studies, the JMA offers a curriculum focused on journalism and media studies. The JMA exposes students to journalism in traditional and digital forms, television, radio, film production, web broadcasting, digital arts, web design and social media. 

“The Journalism and Media Academy is a safe, engaging and respectful learning community where students can prepare for their futures,” said Principal Leonard Epps. “This is a place where they get to have control over their message, really master their message, and they design their future.”

Epps said there are currently 200 students enrolled in the school that has a capacity of 400. The application deadline for the 2014-2015 school year is Feb. 28. Prospective students and their parents can find an application at

A lottery process is used to determine acceptance into the school. There is no cost to attend the school, and transportation is provided.  Since the JMA does not offer an interscholastic sports program, Epps said students are allowed to participate in sports with their hometown.

JMA’s main campus features television and radio studios, digital media labs, science labs, traditional classrooms and more than 300 Apple computers. There is also a cafeteria, gym and workout facility.

The JMA has partnered with the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) for training and mentoring opportunities. Seniors at the JMA spend their final year of high school at the Learning Lab which is located on the fourth and fifth floor at CPBN’s facilities, which are a five-minute car ride from JMA’s main campus.

Paul Pfeffer, the manager of education at CPBN in the Learning Lab, said the partnership with the JMA is the first of its kind in the country. “We are groundbreaking in all the steps that we take in order to make this partnership work in that we built a school inside or our corporate headquarters,” said Pfeffer. “That hasn’t happened anywhere else in the country.”

Pfeffer said more than $1 million of technology was invested into the Learning Lab. The lab features state-of-the-art television and radio facilities. Students have the opportunity to work on “real world” projects at the Learning Lab such as producing pieces for the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab.

“The students by basis of having to create media really learn how to create themselves,” said Pfeffer. “They learn how to present themselves. They learn how to, in the purest sense, market themselves, and through that really define their future so that when they are ready for that next step after JMA they are confident, they are knowledgeable and they are ready. So it’s real life skills that are the component that media training gives you.”

Phillip Allard spent many years working in the field of journalism with such roles as a columnist covering the New York Yankees and a freelancer for ESPN before becoming an English teacher at JMA. Allard said he likes to infuse stories of his work experience in his teachings when appropriate. He’s been with the JMA for the past five years, with the previous four at Weaver High School before JMA became a magnet school. He said the students have a great opportunity to not only satisfy the traditional academic requirements of high school but to also learn specialized skills.

“You get exposed to cutting-edge journalism and media from professionals in the field as well as from teachers who have been professionals in the field, so I think that’s a very unique combination and something that I’m not sure you’re going to get anywhere else in the state or in New England,” said Allard. 

Two open houses are scheduled at the JMA prior to the Feb. 28 application deadline. The first is slated for Thursday, Feb. 13, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., with the second scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon. 

For more information call 860-695-7564, visit or email



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