Making the cut: Two Robins Elementary sixth graders chosen as local Junior Journalists

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th ABW/PA
It's not every day that members of the 13 WMAZ news team, cover a sporting event at Robins Elementary.

But, that is just what happened during a kickball game May 3.

However, the most valuable players of this game weren't named for their contributions on the field, but instead for being chosen as one of 13 junior journalists from 430 applicants from throughout Middle Georgia.

Becka Bence, 12, and Ashley Toellner, 12, said they both noticed the 13 WMAZ team walking toward the playing field followed by teachers and other school faculty.

Ashley ran to her mother, who followed the news team to the field, exchanging a hug and a few tears as her Mom handed her their cell phone where her father, Tech. Sgt. Jeff Toellner, waited to congratulate her.

"I wanted him to be here. I got to tell him and he got to hear the whole thing over the phone," Ashley said.

Sergeant Toellner, a member the 78th Air Base Wing anti-terrorism office, was TDY in Ohio.

However, Frank Malloy, an eyewitness news anchor, told her to put down the phone because he had a big announcement.

As he announced Becka as a Junior Journalist, her peers including Ashley cheered, something the entire sixth grade had been planning in case one of school's finalists were selected.

"They've been watching the other kids who've made it and they weren't cheering for their classmates," said Wendy Bence, Becka's mother. "They said 'we have a plan if they come here we are going to cheer for everyone who makes it.'"

All Becka could say after the announcement was "Oh, my gosh," followed by a sharp squeal that pierced through all the excitement of her peers.

It only took a second for the newly-named Junior Journalist to be whisked off for her first interview, but her classmates wondered if Ashley's name would be called too.

After a few suspense-filled minutes, Mr. Malloy gathered the students back around and said that Robins Elementary was an extra-special school, because it was the home of two Junior Journalists.

When Ashley's name was called the fifth and sixth graders again erupted in excitement.

Ashley shared Becka's "Oh, my gosh" sentiment when asked what she was thinking when Mr. Malloy finally called her name.

Robins Elementary was the only school to have two students selected as Junior Journalists, said Kari Corbett, 13 WMAZ senior producer and Junior Journalists' coordinator.

According to their mothers, Mrs. Bence and Amy Toellner, the girls have had butterflies in their tummies all week as they waited to hear if they had been selected for the team.

One of the girls' teachers, Nancy Hardin, said "we have really sweated this out."

The pair of sixth graders was thrilled to make the cut together and couldn't wait to get their first assignment. The pair will spend the next two years helping shoot and write stories for 13 WMAZ's five o'clock news cast with a story airing about every six weeks, Ms. Corbett said.

Ashley said she aspires to be a journalist one day and can't wait to start writing and reporting stories as a Junior Journalist.

"She wants to be just like Nancy Grace, a lawyer and a journalist, and being that Nancy is from Macon she feels all the more connected to her," said Mrs. Toellner.

Becka said she is keeping her options open when it comes to career choices.

"I love writing and I get in a total zone when I am writing and I love being behind the camera," said Becka. "It's one of my many possible career choices to become a reporter or journalist."

Becka said the first person she wanted to tell about her selection was her Dad, Col. Chris Bence, commander of the 19th Air Refueling Group, who is presently deployed in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

But her mom, Wendy, had already gotten word by e-mail with the subject head "hot" to make sure Colonel Bence would be able to call home and congratulate Becka on her selection.

Both Ms. Hardin and the girls other teacher, Brenda Craw agreed the girls were outstanding students and they were going to make great Junior Journalists.

Ms. Hardin wasn't surprised the two were chosen as Junior Journalists because, "they are both gifted students and very talented. They are also good writers and speakers too."