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Seventh-grader has a nose for news

A Safety Harbor 12-year-old, who is a broadcaster for Radio Disney, is selected for a national magazine news team.

By LORRI HELFAND

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


SAFETY HARBOR -- Sara Huberty has interviewed her share of celebrities, from Tom Arnold to Devil Rays third baseman Russ Johnson to pop star Aaron Carter. But the 12-year-old broadcaster for Radio Disney says she is never intimidated.

"I love interviewing people and talking in front of people. All the lights are shining on you and you know that everybody is looking at you," she said.

The limelight is nothing new for Sara, a seventh-grader at Safety Harbor Middle School. She has performed in choral groups and school drama productions and modeled in local fashion shows. Since last year, she has been honing her reporting talents as a young broadcaster for WWMI-AM 1380, Tampa Bay's Radio Disney station.

Her dedication has paid off. Last month, out of 300 entries nationwide, she was selected to be a member of the magazine Time for Kids' first official 15-person news team. The magazine is produced by the same company that publishes Time magazine.

For the competition, contestants had to submit a 500-word essay explaining why they were top-notch reporters along with supporting transcripts or video clips. Sara compiled several transcripts from the radio show, a video report about the Florida panther and added her own local weather report.

"What impressed me about her report, and some others, is that she attacked a very serious issue," said Joel Schwartzberg, the editor of Timeforkids.com. "Not a comical one or pop culture. She chose something very serious and important to a lot of people and attacked it with intelligence and thoughtfulness. She went the extra mile to educate her audience and educate herself."

Time for Kids and its Internet counterpart are news magazines written and produced for children 5 to 12 years old. Time for Kids, published during the school year, is distributed to classrooms nationwide.

New kid reporters will cover subjects ranging from the Winter Olympics to the Harry Potter movie premiere. They'll also have an opportunity to pitch their own story ideas.

Although she began her reporting career a year ago, Sara said she has enjoyed writing since she was a youngster.

"In first grade I was one of the top writers. I could write stuff that actually made sense," she said. That year she put together her own tiny series of stories called Kelly the Crab Apple, about a rude little girl.

Over the years, she wrote more and more, and now she creates stories and writes in her journal practically every day. She also writes for her campus newspaper, the Tomahawk Talk.

Sara's sixth-grade teacher, Molly Hancock, noticed her talent. When she received a Time for Kids contest flier last spring, Hancock asked Sara to give it a try.

"Sara's real inquisitive and an excellent writer. She has a lot of poise too. So it seemed like something that would be right up her alley." Hancock said.

Sara's mother, Sue Huberty, said her daughter hasn't always been so confident.

"When she was younger, I'd go to her musical concert and she had a real hard time making eye contact," Huberty said.

Three years ago, Huberty entered Sara in a modeling class to combat her shyness. And that insecure little girl seemed to disappear. Not because of the tips on etiquette or runway modeling, her mother said, but because of her instructor's pep talks.

"I went from a follower to a leader because of that class," Sara said.

Sara's bedroom wall, which she calls "the wall of fame," is papered with autographed photos of pop stars she has interviewed and her portfolio is crammed full of backstage passes. But despite her numerous brushes with celebrities, Sara said she's never nervous.

"I understand that they're real people. They're just people that have special talents," she said.

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