A two-week summer program has brought high school students from across Arkansas to the UofA to learn digital skills and promote diversity in state visitors. Through a partnership with Arkansas Tourism, Arkansas Soul will publish its work in a travel blog targeting minorities.

“They’re here just learning how to become better journalists,” said Niketa Reed, a clinical assistant professor in the UA journalism school and Arkansas Soul’s director. “They’re actually going to help us create some content.”

The students will learn photography, video and writing skills. They’ll also be trained to conduct interviews and observe their surroundings to find storytelling opportunities. After spending their first eight days in Northwest Arkansas, the group will travel to Eureka Springs, El Dorado and Little Rock.

“I thought that this was a really good opportunity not only to learn from the University of Arkansas professors, but also to surround myself with people who want to do the same thing I want to do,” said Ennia Hernandez, a Springdale student in the program. “I’m looking to get an education and a sense of community with people who are interested in the same things I am and also feel the same way I do about diversity.”

Many of the students were recruited from East Arkansas and the Delta region. The skills will give them an opportunity to invest in their communities long after the program ends.

“I’m from Blytheville, Arkansas,” said Aaliyah Davis, another Arkansas Soul student. “Blytheville … it’s a work in progress, but I do feel like stepping outside of Blytheville gives me more of an opportunity.”

Reed said people have a tendency to gravitate toward media that reflects themselves. Because of that, she said minorities need to see media images they relate to.

“I’m trying to encourage people of color to come out,” Reed said. “It’s fun, it’s cool … we want to see that these places actually have spaces for people of color to feel welcome and invited.”