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Journalism Career Starts Early for Sandburg Student

It was a chance of a lifetime and Ashley Williams seized it. Last August she competed for one of the 15 "Kid Reporter" slots offered by Time for Kids. She was chosen from 500 applicants and began a year-long job as a reporter for them last August. Time For Kids is an eight-page magazine published by Time, Inc. They offer this contest for students between the ages of 9 and 13 every year.

Williams has already interviewed and written about baseball player Cal Ripken; children's author Eric Carle; Washington Wizards player Jerry Stackhouse; North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan; and President George W. Bush. Pretty impressive for a student who just turned 12 in June. Williams has enjoyed all the assignments so far, and was only nervous when she visited the president.

Williams found out about the contest by accident. She was looking up something on the Time for Kids web site, and saw the notice about the contest.

"I clicked on it and read about it, I thought it sounded interesting, so I asked my mother if it was okay to enter," said Williams. For her winning essay, she interviewed school superintendent Daniel Domenech about the budget cuts. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Take a moment and imagine this: You are in a school. You are in first grade, and it is 90 degrees outside. Maybe it is even 90 degrees in your classroom, containing 35 students, five to a table. And such a small classroom to hold seven tables. You wish often that they had not removed the 25-student cap for first-graders.

"You are studying math and (despite the teases), you have always liked math. Now you are in first grade, where the math books might be the same ones that your parents used.

"You were really looking forward to that planetarium visit, because you have always been fascinated with stars and constellations, but they just had to get rid of it. School is a complete bummer.

"Could this happen? Or will this situation always stay imagined? If you go to one of Fairfax County Public Schools, in Fairfax County, Virginia, there is a chance."

Donna Pasteur, principal of Carl Sandburg Middle School, said, "We're very proud of her. She is a model of excellence. With writing being so essential to one's success, she's on her way."

Williams enjoys writing, and said, "I want to be a journalist when I grow up." She also likes soccer, computers and spending time with her family and friends. Her dream interviews would be with Mia Hamm or Caroline B. Cooney. While Williams can suggest topics, it's not guaranteed that Time for Kids will give her the requested assignment, so she may have to wait until she's older to conduct her dream interviews.

Williams said that she won't apply again for the position, because she's already done it, but said, "I really encourage it."

To view Williams' articles, go to www.timeforkids. A search for Ashley Williams will show her bio and articles written by her.