Allbritton Journalism Institute Announces New Class of Reporting Fellows Ahead of 2024 Election

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Marking one year since its founding, AJI welcomes its new cohort of fellows who will train under AJI faculty and report for NOTUS, covering national politics and the inner workings of Washington.

May 20, 2024 — The Allbritton Journalism Institute (AJI) announced today 10 new fellows who will join its two-year training program designed to foster a new generation of highly skilled reporters, from a wide variety of backgrounds, through unmatched mentorship and on-the-ground training. The new class, AJI’s second since the institute’s launch in May 2023, was selected from a competitive pool of more than 300 applicants. The cohort of early-career reporters will undergo training from some of the country’s most distinguished political reporters while also working within an active newsroom to cover politics, policy and government alongside NOTUS’ nationally recognized staff. Bringing together unique backgrounds and professional and personal experiences, the 2024 class reflects AJI’s and NOTUS’ commitment to elevating underrepresented voices and advancing democracy through quality journalism.

The fellowship begins in the classroom with a full-time boot camp led by AJI’s distinguished faculty, which includes National Magazine Award winner Tim Alberta and Pulitzer Prize winners Josh Dawsey and Wesley Lowery. Classwork and lectures continue as the fellows then begin working in a live newsroom alongside experienced NOTUS staff reporters and editors, facilitating a teaching-hospital model that allows fellows to learn by doing at the highest level.

Since the launch of AJI’s digital news publication, NOTUS, in January 2024, AJI fellows have written and contributed to conversation-driving stories about government and politics, including a piece by fellow Tinashe Chingarande about how former presidential candidate Dean Phillips kept offending his Black colleagues in Congress, a piece by reporter Oriana González and fellow Katherine Swartz about the GOP’s anti-abortion messaging and reporting from fellow Claire Heddles about the dysfunction in the Florida Democratic Party.

“In 2023, we set out to create a top-caliber training ground for the next generation of journalists, and I’m incredibly proud to see what our first class of fellows has already done,” said Robert Allbritton, founder and president of AJI. “The 2024-2026 cohort gives me great hope for the future of the profession and the role that a nonpartisan press can play in our democracy.”

“We are thrilled to welcome the new AJI fellows, and we’re eager to see how their talents will build upon the incredible body of work being produced by last year’s inaugural class,” said Tim Grieve, editor in chief of NOTUS and executive director of AJI. “Central to our program is the team’s dedication to active mentorship. In a consequential election year, the learning opportunities available to AJI fellows will help arm them with the knowledge necessary to cover the most important stories in Washington and around the country. I can’t wait to see what the new fellows bring to the table and look forward to introducing our readers to their work soon.”

“The new class of fellows will make an outstanding addition to our newsroom,” said Richard Just, director of admissions at AJI and managing editor for longform at NOTUS. “After receiving hundreds of highly qualified applicants, we are excited to welcome this year’s fellows, whose unique perspectives will bring great value to our newsroom and NOTUS readers nationwide.”

Meet the 2024-2026 fellows:

Mark Alfred

Mark was born and raised in San Diego. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he majored in political science and minored in labor studies. As the university news editor of the Daily Nexus student newspaper, he covered local unionization efforts, student housing shortages and campus leadership — reporting that was awarded Best News Series statewide by the California College Media Association in 2023 and 2024. Mark also has been a contributing writer for Noozhawk and an intern at the Pacific Coast Business Times and The Daily Beast.


Torrence Banks

Torrence grew up in Nashville. He received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, where he majored in English and minored in journalism, and received his graduate degree from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. He has worked with the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism on multiple projects — including an investigation into historical newspaper coverage of lynchings and racial torture and stories about the risks and rewards of youth tackle football. His reporting has also appeared in the Miami Herald, Afro-American Newspapers and Capital News Service. He will intern this summer at U.S. News & World Report.


Amelia Benavides-Colón

Amelia grew up in Detroit. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in global studies. At WSU, she was editor in chief of The South End, the student newspaper. She has interned at The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and Crain’s Detroit Business, and she has contributed to the Detroit-based publications Outlier Media and El Central, as well as Eater Detroit and Planet Detroit. At each internship, Amelia contributed stories reflecting the experiences of minority communities, covering topics such as social determinants of health and problems with a municipal ID program. This summer, she will intern at The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Shifra Dayak

Shifra was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. She recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a dual bachelor’s degree in journalism and environmental science and policy. She spent almost four years working for The Diamondback, the student newspaper, where she covered an ex-mayor’s arrest, fraud in student government elections, campus protests amid violence in Palestine and Israel, and more. She has also reported for Capital News Service, the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, The Frederick News-Post and Stars and Stripes. She will intern this summer with the Connecticut Mirror.


Helen Huiskes

Helen was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois, majoring in English writing and minoring in international relations. She spent three years as editor in chief of The Wheaton Record, the student newspaper, where she covered breaking news, faculty cuts and campus debates over race. She also redesigned the paper’s digital format after a pandemic shift to mostly online publishing. Helen has interned at the Portland-based alt-weekly Willamette Week and The Chronicle of Higher Education in D.C., and her work has appeared in Christianity Today.


Violet Jira

Violet was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Cleveland, Mississippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta. She recently received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, where she majored in journalism and philosophy and minored in English. She was editor in chief of The Daily Mississippian, where she oversaw reporting on a gubernatorial race, local housing issues and AI’s impact on higher education. She wrote a range of stories for the paper, including in-depth pieces on Mississippi’s Medical Cannabis Program rollout. She has also covered Starkville, Mississippi, as an intern for The Commercial Dispatch.


Emily Kennard

Emily grew up in Arkansas. She recently graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with degrees in political science and journalism. At UCA, she served as editor in chief of The Echo, the weekly student newspaper, where she reported on topics including COVID-19 policies, compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the arrests and trials of students protesting for transgender rights and allegations of discrimination on two athletics teams. She also wrote an undergraduate thesis about national security reporting. In 2023, she was a money-in-politics reporting intern with OpenSecrets.


Samuel Larreal

Samuel was born and raised in Venezuela and immigrated to the United States, fleeing political turmoil during his freshman year of college. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and multimedia communications, with a concentration in political science, from Florida International University. His reporting on migrant communities for Caplin News, one of FIU’s student newspapers, has been republished by local public media outlets WLRN and WUSF. He has also worked as a bilingual fact-checker at the Miami Herald, a local news intern at NBC4 Washington and Telemundo 44, and a 2024 election correspondent at Teen Vogue.


Margaret Manto

Margaret is a writer and scientist from Charlottesville, Virginia. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently a biologist at the Charlottesville-based start-up company AgroSpheres, where she researches genomics interventions for sustainable agriculture. She has written about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign for C-VILLE Weekly and local protests for Charlottesville Tomorrow.


Alecia Taylor

Alecia was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. She recently received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Howard University, where she was an investigative reporter for The Hilltop, the student newspaper, and an editor for HUNewsService.com. She has interned at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun and The Chronicle of Higher Education, covering topics such as the overturn of Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, student loans and the dismantling of DEI in higher education. Her work has also appeared in The Kansas City Defender and Essence magazine.

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Professional journalists interested in working with AJI should contact Tim Grieve at tim@aji.org. Individuals and institutions who wish to support the institute’s work should contact Brad Bosserman at brad@prometheanco.com. AJI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. 

The Allbritton Journalism Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, marital status or military status in its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship or grant programs, other school-administered programs, employment, recruitment, compensation, or any of its other activities or operations. AJI admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, marital status or military status to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school.

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