Meet Skye, the 12-Year-Old Reporter Covering Georgia’s Runoff Election
The young journalist has scored interviews with GA Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and others as a reporter for Scholastic Kids Press
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Updated, Dec. 8
Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock was re-elected to the U.S. Senate with 51% of the Georgia vote, besting his GOP challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock became the state’s first Black U.S. Senator after winning a special election in 2020, and now becomes Georgia’s first Black U.S. Senator elected to a full six-year term. Skye Oduaran covered the race and published a Dec. 7 story with Scholastic Kids Press.
Skye Oduaran was reading a Scholastic Magazine in fifth grade when she noticed a section inviting youth to apply for positions as kid reporters with the magazine. It intrigued her, so she sent in an application.
Fast forward six months and the Atlanta 12-year-old now has zig-zagged across her state, scoring interviews with a sitting governor and a U.S. senator, among others, as a reporter for Scholastic Kids Press. She met former President Barack Obama on the campaign trail and is now angling for an interview. In November, she reported from the White House — the first time a youth with press credentials had ever done so, Secret Service members told her.
Many of the budding journalist’s stories focus on education, schools and other youth-centered topics.
“I like to write articles to bring awareness to issues that impact kids,” said Oduaran, who attends Kennedy Road Middle School.
It doesn’t hurt that Oduaran lives in Georgia, a state that has been at the white hot center of American politics for the past several years and will now host a runoff Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race. In-person early voting has been exceptionally strong in the contest between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, with more than a million voters already casting their ballot. Oduaran has been out speaking to many of them. State law in Georgia requires winning candidates to surpass 50% of the vote, but on Nov. 8, neither Warnock nor Walker hit that threshold.
While Republicans in January will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats maintained control of the Senate. A Warnock win would give the party additional breathing room in that chamber, breaking a 50-50 split that afforded West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin extensive nay-saying power over the last two years.
Knowing the 12-year-old reporter would be busy on voting day, The 74 caught up with Oduaran a few days prior. Her mom, Erica Oduaran, sat next to the young journalist as we spoke over Zoom about the inspiration behind her work, her advice to the national press corps and her plans to return to the White House someday — only not as a reporter.
This conversation has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
The 74: You have been all over the state reporting. How has that been?
Skye Oduaran: It’s been very exciting. I’ve met a lot of candidates who are running for different positions. It’s been very fun. I’ve learned a lot about how politics works in the state and how candidates become elected to their positions.
When you think about these last weeks and months, what are some of the moments that stand out most?
Well, I met [former President] Barack Obama at a campaign rally in College Park, Georgia. I enjoyed that. And I’m thinking about reaching out to his campaign to see if I can get an interview with him.
I’ve also met Stacey Abrams on the campaign trail when she was campaigning to become governor. And I had an opportunity to exchange a question with Brian Kemp at his Kemp for Farmers campaign rally.
Also, Sen. Raphael Warnock, I had an interview with him. And I asked him about what he plans to do with education in the state of Georgia and how that can help other states.
There aren’t many 11-year-olds who can say that.
I just turned 12.
Happy birthday. When was your birthday?
The day after Election Day. Happy belated. Well, there aren’t many 12-year-olds who have done all those things. When you’re in those interviews, what’s going through your head? How do you come up with your questions?
How I come up with questions is I think about how these candidates can impact education and things that impact kids around the state and in the country. And once I know how it can impact kids, I come up with questions that suit that perspective.
You have a unique perspective as someone who’s still in K-12 education. How does that inform your reporting?
I would say, for instance, last week on Monday, I went to the White House to report on the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey. According to the Secret Service, that was the first time that they had a kid with press credentials coming to report an event. Apparently, before that, they only had adults.
First of all, congratulations on that. But second, how is your coverage different because you’re a young person?
It is different because it’s writing from a perspective that impacts kids. Scholastic Kids Press is where you report by kids, for kids. And when a kid writes, they are addressing what a lot of other kids think of because they are in the same age group and they have the same perspective.
I like to write articles to bring awareness to issues that impact kids so that they can change what is going on.
Now we’re just a few days away from the runoff. Based on the conversations you’ve had in the election cycle, what’s on the minds of Georgia voters right now?
I’d say a lot of Georgia voters that I talked to, they talk about how the election is very close, for the reason of the polls being very close.
A lot of voters told me that instead of voting for the party line, they want to choose who they think is best for the state. So not choosing based on party, but they are looking at the candidates and what they stand for.
Fast forward to Tuesday, what’s your plan for coverage on voting day?
My plan is to go to different polling stations and ask voters questions. For instance, I’m going to be asking them … [if they] voted with the party line or across party lines. And asking them why did they feel the election was important, and why they decided to vote.
Today, I’m going to go to a campaign rally with Barack Obama again. I intend to meet him and ask him for an interview later. So I’m going to use information from that to also put it into my article.
My article is going to include what voters say at the polling stations, the Obama event, the trial when Sen. Raphael Warnock sued the state of Georgia [over early voting restrictions] and also early voting on Saturday, [Nov.] 26.
How does your reporting work dovetail with school attendance? Do you get excused absences or are you doing all this outside school time?
My reporting works very well with school. My skills from reporting improve my academic performance and my learning in school — particularly in areas such as social studies, [English language arts] and math — help my understanding of numbers, politics, economics and how to best communicate these to others.
I conduct my reporting before and after school, as well as on weekends. There was only one occasion where I had to use an excused absence to conduct my reporting. My mother picked me up early so that I could cover a campaign event with Gov. Brian Kemp in Moultrie, Georgia that required several hours of driving to get there. On the same day, I also covered the campaign event of Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in Jonesboro, Georgia. These were the only events that necessitated an excused absence from school.
For the runoff election on Tuesday, I will be in school. In Georgia, schools are open on election days. I intend to go to the polls before school on Tuesday to interview voters and then return to the polls to continue reporting after school finishes.
To rewind a little bit on your own story, how did you initially get interested in journalism?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. And one day in fifth grade, I was reading a Scholastic Magazine to complete an assignment and I saw that there was a section that said that they were looking for kids to apply to become Scholastic reporters. The articles inside of the newspaper were all written by kids who were my age.
I said that next year, I should try to apply for the position to report on events because I wanted to bring awareness to issues that I believe are important.
That was about six months ago.
And now, boom, you’re reporting on the runoff, talking to senators all that. How does that feel?
It feels amazing. And it’s also fun.
[At Scholastic Kids Press], I could report on anything I want, so once I started as a reporter, I went straight to the gubernatorial election and I started to work on my articles.
You’ve not wasted any time.
Erica Oduaran, Skye’s mother, chiming in: She got the position at the end of September. So essentially, the beginning of October is when she started being a kid reporter.
Skye, you really hit the ground running. It sounds like a key goal for you is interviewing former President Barack Obama. Obviously an interview with a former president is phenomenal as a journalist. But what made you set your sights on that particular goal?
Well, I have decided that I would like to interview Barack Obama someday. This is because he is doing a lot of good things for our country and I would like to bring awareness to that. I also want to interview Michelle Obama, because I see that she is also doing a lot of things to help kids and families around the country.
Who in the world is your biggest role model?
Michelle Obama, because she encouraged kids staying fit and active. And she and her husband, they started the program Race to the Top (the White House education agenda that directed federal money toward more rigorous standards and testing, accountability and turning around low-performing schools) as well as a lot of other things that helped to improve education in our country.
Are there any teachers you’ve had who stand out to you for making a big impact on your path?
My parents. My mother and my father, they homeschooled my brother and my sister and me [through third grade].
They taught me everything. Mommy has a Ph.D. She is amazing at math and science and she makes it very interesting. My father also has a Ph.D and he is amazing at social studies, history and reading. And he also loves to teach them in amazing ways. So that’s why they’re my favorite teachers.
They cover all the subjects between them.
You’ve covered a lot of education issues. I read your piece on the teacher shortages. What drew you to those topics?
Well, at school, a lot of kids talk about how they see education as a very top priority. I’ve interviewed a lot of kids, too, and they say that education is most important to them.
So I decided that if I started writing about it, I can make education [politics] more accessible to them. A lot of the candidates want to make sure education’s more accessible for kids around the country, too, and so I decided to write about it.
What do you think adult journalists could better understand about how to cover youth issues?
I would say, for instance, I went to the White House last week on Monday. And a lot of the reporters were really only focused on getting the top story. There was a lot of pushing and shoving to get to the front where they could see the event, some even got on ladders, so that blocked the view of other reporters.
So is maybe what you’re saying they could be a little nicer?
Do you have any advice for other young folks who might be looking to get into journalism, but not know how?
I would say that they should be curious. They should observe the world around them. And they should have fun. And they should find issues that they think are important to them and see how they can use it to impact kids their age.
How is the kind of learning you do when you’re out in the field covering, for example, a campaign rally different from the kind of learning you do in the classroom?
I’ve learned that when you interview someone, you need to look them straight in the eyes. You must ask them the question very directly. You get straight down to the point of the question and you must enunciate it. I’ve also learned a lot about how journalism works and how you write your articles so that they attract the audience of who you are trying to get the attention of.
Taking those things in mind, what do you think should be different about the current education system?
I would suggest that there are teachers who are certified to teach their certain subjects, so students are engaged and are understanding the subject.
And also teachers could maybe do an activity with students to get students engaged and make sure that not only do they understand it, but they’re having fun with it.
For you, what’s next?
I’ve started my own school newspaper [the Kennedy Road Cougar Column] and I’d like to extend that to other schools in my school system. I also intend to stay in Scholastic until I’m 14 because you can stay in Scholastic until you are 14. I’ve heard of another reporting company for teenagers, so when I turn 15, I would like to do it. And on top of that, I would also like to start my own newspaper for Georgia.
I also intend to, after I graduate from high school, go to college. And I will go to law school afterwards and I will become a lawyer. And I will become a judge because you have to become a lawyer before becoming a judge. And then I’m going to run for president of the United States in 2048.
Yes. I’ve also started my campaign right now where I printed stickers that say for people to vote for me in 2048. My mother’s going to go get them right now so I can show them to you.
Long game for 2048. You’re getting an early start.
Twenty-six years. It’s really not that long.
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