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SIMPLY JESSICA: Scholastic Kids news reporter talks about his job

Maxwell Surprenant was one of eight kid reporters from Scholastic News Kids Press who were invited to the White House to talk to former first lady Michelle Obama about her Let’s Move Campaign.

The 13-year-old Surprenant had traveled from a small town in Massachusetts called Needham. The seventh grader with an interest in politics couldn’t wait until it was his turn to ask Obama his two questions about her Let’s Move Campaign.

Surprenant looked around the room. He could hear the butterflies in his stomach singing a loud tune. He wondered could the other reporters sitting next to him hear the insects as they danced around inside his body.

The butterflies that were turning flips in his stomach were excited for the teen boy who was about to ask his dream question inside the White House of the United States.

The young reporter glanced at his notebook, put his pen down, then asked his presidential question: “What advice do you have for girls and boys who dream of becoming president of the United States?”

The first lady answered. “You need to get a good education, work hard and be curious about the world.”

Surprenant could still feel the butterflies as he listened to the first lady talk about how President Obama read a book about the ocean because he cared about the ocean and the environment. He wanted to learn more about global warming, she added.

“It was an incredible experience to be able to cover that story for Scholastic News Kids Press,” Surprenant said. “I truly treasure it.”

Scholastic Kids News Press Corps allows students ages 10-14 years old to write news for kids by kids. The 39 young reporters are able to cover current events, breaking news, entertainment stories and sports events from their hometowns and on the national stage.

The stories appear online at the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps website and in issues of Scholastic classroom magazines. You can learn about the website at www.scholastic.com/kidspress.

Surprenant has been working as a kid reporter for two years.

He is grateful for the occasional butterflies that appear in his stomach because of the exciting people that he meets and the exciting places that he is able to visit as he covers stories for his readers.

“I get to tell kids what is going on in the world,” he added. ”I tell them stories about interesting people that I’ve met.

“I learn so much as a kid reporter about the world. I get to share that knowledge with other kids. I’m having a ball working as a reporter with Scholastic.”

Scholastic News Kids Press selects reporters once a year for a one-year term. Surprenant was asked to stay for a second term.

Surprenant has always read Scholastic books and their magazines. He often follows their blog. One day he saw an ad about a need for kid reporters. He thought it was so appealing to work as a kid reporter, so he filled out the application along with sample articles and an essay about why he wanted to be a kid reporter.

Surprenant has an editor he pitches ideas to.

The seventh grader has covered a presidential campaign.

Scholastic News kids reporter Max Surprenant covers the white House Science Fair in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Scholastic News)

He met Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He has watched the debates of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He was able to have a personal experience with the candidates as he learned the presidential process.

“I think this will be beneficial to me when I’m older,” Surprenant said.” I had the opportunity to meet reporters from around the world. The different reporters were awesome. They gave me the best tips on writing. It was so awesome to learn and take their advice.”

Surprenant isn’t sure what his future holds. The only thing that he knows for sure is that he wants to do something with writing and reporting. He loves science. He is contemplating being a doctor.

He also enjoys sports reporting and political news.

“I had a lot of fun covering the presidential event,” he added. “I think that would be a cool job in the future to be able write about it and see how it changes over the years. I’m lucky that I live near Boston. It’s a great place to cover sports.”

Surprenant attends St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, an all-boys Catholic secondary school that instructs students from the seventh through the 12th grades.

He also writes for his school newspaper, The Dart.

Surprenant’s first article was about Peter H. Reynolds.

“He is a writer and illustrator that has written a ton of children books,” he said. “He was so much fun to write about.”

Surprenant is an only child. He often travels to his reporting events with his mother, Joy, a fellow book lover. Max and Joy have started their own book club.

The most rewarding thing about working with Scholastic News Kids Press for Surprenant is that he gets to highlight people who are making a difference in their communities and in the world.

Surprenant has been to the White House five times. He has covered the White House Science Fair and the White House Film Festival.

In fact, he won honorable mention for a student short film in 2015 that allowed him to visit the White House. He did a film about his family organization that stresses the importance of giving back.

He also is co-founder and creative director of Catching Joy.

“I wanted to highlight the good work that our organization, Catching Joy does,” Surprenant said. “We want to spread the joy of giving.”

His favorite book is “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio.

“It has a great message about kindness and compassion,” Surprenant said. “I really value that as it goes hand in hand with our organization … and it’s something that I practice in my everyday life. You can be good at anything but the most important thing is to be kind and be a good person.”

Surprenant is a well-mannered polite teen boy who hopes to develop his talent to use it to help others. He has been taught this way of thinking by his parents. His mother, Joy spends a great deal of her time teaching Max to practice this in his daily life.

“My husband and I tell Max to use talents to help others,” Joy said. “You always remember who was nice to you and who had kind words to say to you. It truly makes a difference in life.”

Surprenant’s favorite food is Chinese.

His favorite color is blue.

His favorite actor is Matt Damon. He loves all his films.

“Matt is an awesome actor,” Surprenant said.

“Matt is a fantastic writer that wrote Good Will Hunting,” his mother, Joy, said. “He is a hometown Boston boy that made it big in Hollywood.”

Joy grew up in Ohio and her husband grew up in Boston.

Surprenant believes there is a story in everyone.

He finds it challenging to always find a unique fun angle to write the story from. He is always working on his reporting skills.

Scholastic News kid reporter Max Surprenant covers the U.S. Open tennis tournament last September in New York. (Photo courtesy of Scholastic News.

Surprenant loves being a multimedia kid reporter. He loves the video component to the stories because it allows him to learn about editing and filmmaking. But, he also loves to write the articles and take the pictures. Photography has become one of his new hobbies.

It is another thing that he does with his mom.

“My mom teaches me a lot about taking pictures,” he said.

“The joke is that we don’t know if there is room for the two of us,” Joy said. “We both like to get the pictures. My husband laughs because we both stop to take pictures.”

“I love writing and incorporating the video into the story,” he said. “The video adds a nice touch and it makes the article that much more special for the viewer.”

Joy talks about her son editing his Scholastic news stories.

“It started off with Scholastic editing and putting his videos together,” Joy said. “But now Max edits them and puts them together. Not all reporters do that, Max is one of the few that does.”

One of the reasons that Surprenant has been given so much leeway is his writing talent and his ability to find his own stories.

Surprenant visited Los Angeles in February to interview Luc Besson about his movie “Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets.”

He was given the assignment through Luc Besson’s company. A representative from Besson’s company reached out to the teen reporter because she felt that it was a PG science fiction movie that would be perfect for a Scholastic kid reporter to cover.

“Candace thought it would be great to have Scholastic cover it,” Joy said. “She felt there is something different when a kid reporter is covering it because the kid brings an excitement to it.”

The kid reporter also loves baseball.

“My favorite sport is baseball,” Surprenant said. “I play it all year round. I’m a catcher. I’ll be playing for my school. It doesn’t feel like I’m that busy because I love everything that I do.”

Surprenant also loves to sing. He has taken a year off from Boston Children’s Chorus because it was going to be really hard with school and sports to be able to drive every week and make the commitment.

“I had done it for four years,” he added. “I stay connected with my friends and teachers. I plan to come back to it in the future.”

Joy is grateful for all the hard work and time that his Scholastic News Kids Press editor Suzanne McCabe has put into her teen son.

“Suzanne is such a great editor,” Joy said. “She really has helped him develop his writing and reporting skills. She gives him feedback about all his revisions. She even sometimes gives positive feedback. “Scholastic has opened up a lot of opportunities for him and has been receptive when he has found stories to write about. He pitches them and she looks it over and encourages him to find the kid angle to it.

We are really thankful that Scholastic cares about all the other things that he is involved with. They care about how he does in school and his editor always asks how his baseball game went.”

Surprenant also is passionate about poetry. In March, he won honorable mention for poetry in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for 2017.

Surprenant’s articles can be seen at http://kpcnotebook.scholastic.com/user/219

Be yourself! I’m Simply Jessica JcAden. You can reach me at jess.gosnell@gmail.com.