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SDSU student journalists empower indigenous community in Maui through unique project

SDSU student journalists travel to Maui to cover aftermath of fire
Posted at 7:07 PM, Dec 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-17 22:08:10-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A group of San Diego State University students recently embarked on a unique journey to Maui, turning their typical vacation into a mission to empower indigenous communities through journalism.

The initiative, known as "STARTERS" (Students Traveling Across Regions to Empower, Represent, and Serve), was led by student journalist Brittany Cruz-Fejeran and funded in part by the Asian and Pacific Islanders American Journalists Association, as well as the university.

"Being a part of an indigenous community and knowing the struggles of that, I saw that there is a lot of mistrust within the media, within indigenous populations," Cruz-Fejeran said. "I really want to regain that trust. We got to know the people and the culture before we interviewed them."

The four students spent nearly a week in Lahaina, documenting stories of people in the aftermath of the deadly wildfire in August.

"To go somewhere that none of us have been and do our journalism work, was such an experience," said Sumaia Wegner, one of four journalists.

During their six-day stay, the group frequently checked in with their mentors, navigating journalistic ethical questions as they delved into the lives of those affected by the fire.

"We're learning along the way and it was such a challenging trip, in that there was so much that we had to acknowledge that we don't know," student journalist Petrina Tran said.

They plan to publish their stories in The Daily Aztec, the independent student newspaper at SDSU where all four of them work. They hope the work inspires other students to seek out similar opportunities in the future.

"Interviewing all of these people and learning their individual stories, who they lost and what they lost, it really elevated me from being a student journalist to being you know, a journalist," Hannah Ly said.