JCal: Connecting California students with journalism, newsrooms and their communities

JCal is an all-inclusive, free journalism program that immerses California high school students into the state’s news ecosystem. Students build connections with the journalists covering their communities, learn about the inner workings of newsrooms and gain many of the skills needed to succeed in professional and academic realms. Most importantly, they return home equipped with the knowledge and tools to tell the stories of their communities. Each cohort is carefully selected to reflect the diversity of California residents and serve communities that newsrooms may be overlooking. We encourage students of any ethnic background to apply.

JCal leaders will select about 25 students who will spend 5 days together in Sacramento. Based in the CalMatters newsroom, the students will learn from journalism and civics professionals from all over California. Students will also produce reporting projects focused on California’s Next Workforce, which will be ready to publish locally.

This innovative program is produced through a unique partnership between the Asian American Journalists Association and CalMatters. 

Application Information

In-Person Program Dates: June 17 to June 21, 2024
Note: Virtual pre-workshops will begin April leading up to JCal to best prep students and their reporting.

The 2024 JCal application cycle is closed.

High school aged students in California with a strong interest in journalism are encouraged to apply. Proof of vaccination is required to attend the program.

Students selected for the program have all costs covered including travel, housing and meals.

Mentor applications now open!

 We’re looking for journalists from all different backgrounds and beats who are dedicated to helping young journalists grow. 

As a mentor, you’ll help students develop their stories and coach them through the process. AAJA and CalMatters will provide mentors a stipend, travel and accommodations, meals during in-person programming and complimentary registration to #AAJA24 in Austin, Texas.

The mentor application cycle is closed.

JCal students visit the state Capitol in Sacramento on June 21, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters


This year’s JCal theme is California’s Next Workforce

California’s economy faces drastic changes prompted by artificial intelligence, climate, population shifts, globalization, and much more. One of the state’s biggest challenges is matching young people entering the workforce with the kinds of jobs that are needed in our fast changing economy.

This year’s JCal reporting projects will focus on solutions – the ways high schools, community colleges, local governments, philanthropies, employers, unions and others are collaborating on innovative training programs that give younger workers the skills they need for careers with livable wages.

Further Reading: 
This program will enable important storytelling that informs communities and encourages young journalists to reimagine their state’s future. Campers will attend workshops online before JCal and do some initial reporting on workforce issues in their local communities. Part of the workshop will be devoted to completing the stories with the help of mentors and fellow students. The resulting stories will be offered to local news outlets statewide. 

Frequently Asked Questions About JCaL

Any high school aged California student may apply. International students may apply, but only if they are enrolled in a California high school.

    • One letter of recommendation
    • Required Short Answer Responses:
        • What stories and/or audiences are the journalists in your area missing? (250 words or less)
        • If you were in charge of a news organization, what would its mission statement be? (250 words or less)
        • Tell us about your upbringing and lived experience in California. Which communities are you a part of and how has that shaped you and how you experience the world? (400 words or less)
    • Reporting Pitch: Each JCal student will work on a journalism project during their time in the program. The goal is for this piece of journalism to be published at the end of the JCal program. This year, the reporting theme is California’s Next Workforce. Applicants must lay out, in detail, the reporting they want to do on this topic: what is the story, who would you interview, what format this piece would take, etc.
    • Work Samples (optional)
    • Introduction Video (optional)

This program is free to apply and attend.

The program takes place at CalMatters’ Newsroom: 1303 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Lodging will be at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel at 1230 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814.

While JCamp also focuses on journalism and leadership, JCal is specifically tailored to meet the needs of communities in California. The experience and curriculum are curated so that students can build relationships with the news ecosystem in their hometown. The reporting projects for JCal have a cohesive theme, while JCamp students can report on anything.

Not in the same year. If selected, you may attend JCal one year and JCamp another year.

Personal chaperones may not attend JCal. JCal will be have one supervising adult mentor per six youth for the entirety of the program.

No, all students must spend the nights at the JCal accommodations. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided by us via catering to our office and also taking participants out to local restaurants. We will have 1 supervising adult mentor per 6 youth.

The JCal dates for 2024 are June 17 – 21. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting February 1 and close on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

There will be mandatory virtual pre-workshops starting in April for students to review journalism skills, learn more about the theme, and work on reporting tasks leading up to JCal. Some assignments during this time will include gathering interviews.

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