Hailey Rose Gattuso watches as Wayne Gretzky steps onto the red carpet at the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions. Immediately, Gretzky is surrounded by dozens of reporters. Questions prepared, Hailey heads over for a chance to talk to the world-famous former hockey player.
At 17, Hailey is at least half the age of most of the reporters around her – as well as the only female!
“I was intimidated by all of the men pushing and shoving, but I ... jumped in and asked him my question. He made eye contact and answered,” Hailey said.
Hailey, of Williamsville, is a Live! Starring...You! reporter whose experiences go far beyond her years. Having conducted interviews with several pro football and hockey hall of famers, skating and gymnastics Olympians, ESPN broadcasting legend Chris Berman, and members of the Buffalo Bills, Sabres and Washington Capitals, Hailey has an impressive head start to her planed journalism career.
Live! Starring...You! is a national student media program based out of Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore. The majority of the reporters and editors are Mount St. Mary students, though there are also reporters from colleges in Buffalo, New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Rebecca Wojcinski, a Mount St. Mary sophomore from Lockport, has done interviews with the pop-rock band Allstar Weekend, YouTube star Tiffany Alvord and University of Michigan basketball coach John Beilein. Her older sister, Jessica, a Mount St. Mary graduate and current student at Nazareth College in Rochester, was involved in the program before Rebecca.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be involved with Live! Starring...You!,” Rebecca said. “I was hearing about these opportunities since I was in elementary school.”
The student reporters’ stories, videos and photos are published on LiveStarringYou.com and also shared on the organization’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which has 2.2 million views.
LSY started with a children’s book written by Tim O’Shei, author of 60 nonfiction children’s books and veteran journalist who teaches at Mount St. Mary Academy and Buffalo State College.
“As a children’s author, I do a lot of school visits,” O’Shei said. “In every school, I ask kids about their goals, and usually about 80 or 90 percent of the kids want to be something famous: a rock star, an athlete, the president and so on.”
With that in mind, in 2009 O’Shei published a children’s book about fame. It was called “Live! Starring...You!” To promote the book, O’Shei ran writing workshops where kids could interview entertainers from movies such as “High School Musical” and shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Glee.”
The concept of youth reporters interviewing entertainers caught on, and it grew into the current program at Mount St. Mary’s.
Senior Francesca Harvey of Tonawanda has been involved since her freshman year.
Her highlights include interviews with Disney Channel star Ross Lynch and learning dances from “Dancing With the Stars” choreographers.
“Now that I am applying for college, I am able to put together a portfolio and film reel,” Francesca said. “LSY has given me the self-confidence to express who I truly am.”
Sophomore Emma Smith from Grand Island has interviewed the Buffalo Bills and the children’s pop-rock band the Wiggles.
“As time goes on, I get more and more knowledge on my writing and thinking skills, all thanks to LSY,” Emma said.
Most of LSY’s 400-some interviews have gone smoothly. There are exceptions, though. Moments before Hailey’s interview with Gretzky, she was snubbed by television actor Tony Danza.
“Those moments are rare,” O’Shei said, “but they teach students how to handle the realities of being a journalist, one of which is realizing not everybody wants to talk to you. In Hailey’s case, she bounced back quickly.”
Hailey added, “I’ve learned how to be confident in high-pressure settings and how to adjust to situations that change very quickly.”
LSY’s student reporters have worked closely with nonprofit organizations such as Goo Goo Doll Robby Takac’s Music Is Art and Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman’s P.U.N.T. Foundation.
“LSY has helped with everything from their interviews to general volunteering to help out at events we hold throughout the year,” Takac said. “They run a tent annually at the Kids Village in the MIA Festival. We’ve also done some writing exercises with students and have met some students that have continued to be involved in MIA after their involvement in the LSY program.”
Moorman said he’s grateful that LSY reporters have helped share his foundation’s work on behalf of pediatric cancer patients.
“I have been impressed with the level of professionalism exemplified in LSY reporters,” he said, “and am always grateful for the chance to educate the public about the many ways we serve and are inspired by the pediatric patients assisted by P.U.N.T. Foundation.”
O’Shei’s goals for Live! Starring...You! in the future?
“Soon I’d like to formalize a relationship with a college as a way of broadening what we do at MSM,” he said.
For more information on the program, visit www.LiveStarringYou.com and connect with LSY on Twitter and Instagram (@LiveStarringYou) as well as Facebook and YouTube.
Rebecca Brandel is a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy.