They’ve done on-the-ground reporting to produce a podcast and video. Saga Leslie and Skye Neulight of Thacher School have won our monthly award.

Thacher
From Left to Right: Jake Jacobsen, Daisy Lawrence, Skye Neulight, Saga Leslie and Nelson Graves

By Savannah Jenkins

In a verdant valley in sun-splashed Southern California, two students of The Thacher School who are leading by example and broadening their horizons have won News-Decoder’s “Decoders in the Spotlight” award this month.

As Student Ambassadors at the boarding school north of Los Angeles, Saga Leslie and Skye Neulight are responsible for managing student contributions to News-Decoder as the school tackles the theme of “Truth and Fiction” along with students from School Year Abroad France.

Showing the way, Leslie and Neulight have produced an episode in News-Decoder’s “The Kids Are Alright” podcast, soon to be released, and co-produced a video on how the U.S. agricultural system needs to change to ensure food security.

The two third-year high school students, both interested in debate, current affairs and horseback riding, said their work on the podcast was especially rewarding.

“Looking back, I was completely blindsided by the degree to which the process of creating this podcast changed my outlook on the meat industry,” Leslie said.

“Overall, I believe putting together this podcast expanded what I thought I knew about animal farming by exploring multiple sides of the issue, and, in doing so, helped me move away from the media-popularized depiction of the meat industry and towards a more well-informed perspective.”

Eagerness to learn, maturity and discipline

An important aspect of News-Decoder’s mission is to help young people see different, often conflicting, sides to complex issues. The podcast helped both Leslie and Neulight draw that lesson.

Working with two other Thacher students earlier this year, the pair researched and interviewed local Ventura County officials and farmers over a two-month period to learn how the farming can become more sustainable.

More recently, Leslie and Neulight continued investigating environmental issues in their episode of the “The Kids Are Alright” podcast — produced with News-Decoder partner Podium.me.

They again turned their sights to farming in the fertile but increasingly dry Ojai Valley, doing on-the-ground reporting on a topic they are passionate about, the environment.

Their curiosity and open-mindedness have been contagious. Another Thacher student, Lily Annenberg, recently reported on efforts to end poaching in Kenya.

News-Decoder Founder Nelson Graves visited the ranch-style campus at Thacher earlier this year and met students including Leslie, Neulight and Daisy Lawrence — who received the “Decoder in the Spotlight” award in February — to discuss ways to contribute to the not-for-profit’s work this year.

This month’s winners have displayed the eagerness to learn, maturity and discipline that embody what it means to be a Student Ambassador at News-Decoder.


Savannah Jenkins is News-Decoder’s Communications Manager. She initially joined News-Decoder in 2018 to help expand its network of schools to more countries and to support its partners. In 2019, she worked for IMG Models then volunteered with Lighthouse Relief in Lesbos, Greece, to provide emergency response to refugees. Jenkins has returned to News-Decoder to help its profile on partners’ campuses and to help Student Ambassadors fulfill their leadership responsibilities. She aims to earn a masters degree and would eventually like to to report on human rights and humanitarian action.

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