Graduates urged to confront ‘elephant in the room’

Danese Kenon, managing editor of visuals at the Inquirer, with a stuffed elephant. In her keynote address, Kenon told students that there will be difficult situations ahead and that they should acknowledge and confront them head on. YONG KIM Inquirer staff

Students were beaming with pride as they strode to the podium to be acknowledged for their achievements during the Acel Moore High School Journalism Workshop awards luncheon. 

The event, held at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel on Saturday, April 9, capped a four-week program, which taught area students the fundamentals of print, photo and digital journalism. 

Inquirer staff volunteers, who served as mentors for 15 workshop participants from 11 city and suburban schools, introduced their students to the audience, recounting how participants were steadfast and diligent in crafting their narratives around a central theme.

“I have been so inspired by the work and dedication of our Acel Moore Workshop participants this year,” said Jameel Rush, the Inquirer’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and the masthead editor who oversees the annual program.

 “Not only are they gifted journalists, they have persevered through numerous challenges in order to grow as writers and cover timely and meaningful topics. Celebrating their accomplishments during our graduation and hearing from their mentors was the perfect end to a great program.” 

Joining Rush in greeting this year’s class were Gabriel Escobar, senior vice president and editor at the Inquirer, and Danese Kenon, managing editor of visuals.

Kenon, also the keynote speaker, delivered an inspirational speech, interspersed with light moments from her nearly two-decade journey as a visual educator.

During her presentation, Kenon, who started her career as a photographer at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y, had a stuffed elephant securely tucked under her arm.

“What comes to mind when you see this elephant?” she asked the audience of her prop. After several varied responses, one person said the animal evokes “the elephant in the room.”

That was essentially Kenon’s message. She told workshop graduates that there will be questions, issues, topics and obstacles that are obvious to everyone but uncomfortable to address.

She urged students to be the best versions of them and confront challenges head-on as they enter the workforce and start mapping out their careers.

Kenon, along with other luncheon speakers, recalled Acel Moore – the man and his legacy – who died Feb. 12, 2016, at age 75.

Moore, a native son from South Philly who in 1977 won journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize, established the workshop in 1985 as one of his lifelong commitments to create a path for students of color in the Philadelphia region to pursue careers in journalism.

 And indeed, over 37 years, hundreds of local students have used the program to launch successful careers in communications and other fields.           

During the ceremonies, four workshop participants were awarded $1,000 college scholarships for their work and overall excellence during the program. 

Honored were Harper Leary, most engaged student; Siani Elliott, best visual presentation; Milan Varia, best interview; and Grace Barlow, best overall story.

Oscar Miller

Workshop committee member

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