South Elgin student hopes to inspire through documentaries
Anna Lee Ackermann wants to inspire others to do good things -- adopt babies in need, advocate for animal rights, fight against global warming -- so what better way than to shine a light on those who already are doing that?
"I would love to be in the film industry and make documentaries to tell people's stories and inspire people," the Bartlett teen said. "I also want to help others see different cultures. There is just so much in this world to see, but there isn't just enough time to see everything."
An honors junior at South Elgin High School, Anna Lee, 16, is hard at work planting the seeds of a promising future in media.
She placed first in the broadcast news category at the Illinois High School Association's journalism competition this year at Eastern Illinois University and won three awards at the Northern Illinois School Press Association's contest.
A member of South Elgin High's Broadcast Education and Communication Networks Academy, or BEACON, she is an editor-in-chief for her school newspaper, The Doppler, and will be a videographer for South Elgin football games next year. She also helps with video production at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.
Her goal is to study filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago.
"I really do have a heart for film. I think giving the visual side of things has a way of bringing across a point that sometimes words just can't on paper," she said. "I love to get unique shots and angles, and capturing the essence of people. When they smile, how they smile, that wrinkle on their nose."
South Elgin Principal James Edwards said Anna Lee excels as a student leader.
"She's been very, very vocal and very much leadership-oriented as a member of the principal's advisory committee," he said. "She's very organized. She's got (an attitude of), 'Here is the issue. Here are the possible solutions.' And she articulates those really cleanly."
Anna Lee stands out because she's multitalented, said Kari Botkin, the student newspaper adviser at South Elgin.
|Listen to an award-winning broadcast: Click here to listen to the radio news broadcast that won Standout Anna Lee Ackermann first place in the IHSA State Journalism competition.|
"She's a really strong writer, and she's also really good at (Adobe) InDesign and layout, which she picked up really fast," she said. "She's solid across the board."
She has a phenomenal work ethic and goes "above and beyond" for her news stories, Botkin said -- such as when she contacted radio personality Kathy Hart of 101.9 FM for a story about radio, and when she got a comment from a Parkland College representative for a story about a new law requiring all Illinois public colleges and universities to give students college credit for an Advanced Placement score of 3 or better.
"She's great about covering all angles, including going beyond the school. Much more than other students," Botkin said.
Newspaper class is by far her favorite, Anna Lee said. "It's just such a blast. I love being able to write stories that people are really interested in.
"I love print. It's underappreciated. No one really takes the time to read. I feel like they just see a blob of words. They don't understand all the work that goes into interviewing people and copy editing, and putting all the finishing touches in it," she said.
For the ISHA competition, Anna Lee produced a 1-minute, 15-second radio clip of a staged news conference about Special Olympics.
IHSA competition judge Kelly Runyon, news director for WEIU at Eastern Illinois, said Anna Lee's work stood out among tough competition. She focused on volunteerism, an unusual angle among the other entries, Runyon said.
"She kind of peppered her sound bites throughout the piece, which made it move quicker," she said. "I just remember her energy, her vocal delivery and her writing."
Anna Lee's parents, Dina and Tom Ackermann, adopted her and her younger sister, Mia, from China. The whole family is active at Willow Creek Community Church, where Anna Lee is the co-leader of a sixth-grade girls group. She also went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last year.
"Church has allowed me to strengthen my relationship with God, and I want to be the best person I can be to pour out into these sixth-grade girls."
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