Middle-school students get inside look at news

Heritage Middle School Students interacting virtually with Mid Hudson News.

NEW WINDSOR – Heritage Middle School students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program spent time with Mid Hudson News reporter Todd Bender on Thursday.  AVID is for seventh-graders, designed to prepare them to be ready for both college and career planning.

Bender joined two classes remotely, to explain aspects of being a reporter.  The first class, taught by Liza Coopersmith, was handled by student-teacher Julia Hardt.  After hearing some anecdotal background, kids learned about what is needed to write the news.  “In school, English and Social Studies were my favorites while I spent considerable time avoiding math and science – that was a mistake,” he said.  “You need to be able to write, but math and science will help you understand topics that you may have to cover – like the dreaded government budgets.”


The students asked questions, including one about day-to-day work hours and workload.  “Being a reporter is a career that, if you love it, it doesn’t seem like work, no matter how many hours you put in. With the right boss, it’s even easier.  There are days where I will work 19 hours and still can’t believe I get paid for doing a job that I love.”  Students also learned that there is no “typical” day. Bender reports on many topics on his beat, including crimes.  “It’s never the same day twice,” Bender told the kids.  “I could be in the office writing about a court case and all of a sudden I have to leave to report on a violent crime – the job certainly keeps you moving.”

Todd Bender.

The second class, taught by Zeeba Pavri, listened to similar anecdotes from the reporter, a New Windsor native. They learned that Heritage was home to one of the best sleigh-riding hills in the Hudson Valley. “Epiphany Hill was the best place to go sledding – until they built the Patriot Ridge development,” he proclaimed.  Much like the first session, Bender told the students of his love of government and politics which evolved into being elected to the Dutchess County Legislature for two terms. After office, he served as Legislative Aide for the Town of Pawling. He then left government to return to writing. “I have always enjoyed writing and decided that it was time to focus on it.  I still consider it one of the best decisions I have ever made.”


One student asked what he would be if he was not a reporter.  The response of “Professional Food-Taster as long as no vegetables were involved,” drew smiles from several students and a disapproving headshake from teacher Aileen Toback, who was also participating in the meeting.  Toback, Lead Science Teacher at Heritage said “Our students found the reporter very engaging. Not only was he funny, but emphasized the importance of finding something in life you’re passionate about doing.  Mr. Bender was able to convey to the students the importance of developing writing skills along with the ability to ask good questions as the keys to being a successful journalist.”

All of the students were challenged by Bender to write a brief essay describing either their reaction to his participation in the program or their feelings on the hybrid model of learning created by the COVID pandemic.  The students will receive extra credit in their class and the essays will be published in the “Student Journalist” section of Mid Hudson News.

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