Photo of Mirudulaa Suginathan

Student gains knowledge, confidence to help stop misinformation’s spread

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Mirudulaa Suginathan Yamini
2021
Gwen Ifill Middle School Student of the Year
Central Middle School
Quincy, Massachusetts

Photo of Mirudulaa SuginathanMirudulaa Suginathan Yamini, 13, always had assumed that misinformation did not affect her. Then last year, when she was in seventh grade, she learned firsthand how it could fool her and just how fast and how far it can spread.

“I read a really interesting post and sent it to so many of my friends. But when I was reading it for the 10th time or so, I realized it wasn’t real news. It was fake,” she told NLP.

She immediately tried to stop the falsehood in its tracks. “I had to tell all the friends I’d sent the post to stop spreading it and why it’s not credible and not reliable,” Mirudulaa said. “But it was already too late. They sent it to their friends and so on.”

That’s when she realized just how hard it is to stop the spread — and potential harm — of misinformation. “I didn’t have any of the tools to see if it was real, or even learn about how to see if it’s real,” she said.

It was a hard lesson. “I felt very upset that now, I just told my friends things that are not true. And I was kind of really disappointed in me.”

But she would soon learn how to avoid being fooled next time.

When she entered eighth grade, school librarian Helen Mastico introduced Mirudulaa and her classmates to NLP’s Checkology® as part of a media class. Mirudulaa learned how to discern credible information from rumor, conspiracy theories and manipulated content. Now, she never shares information that she has not verified as reliable. And if someone sends her content that she recognizes as misinformation, she lets them know and advises them to explore  Checkology.

When nominating Mirudulaa for the student of the year award, Mastico, wrote that “Mirudulaa is an intelligent, dedicated, and conscientious student. Her tenacity at getting to the root of an issue is impressive, and I believe she deserves the award in recognition of that drive. Like a good journalist, she is thorough and attentive to detail, whilst retaining a compassionate attitude and a good idea of the bigger picture.”

The award commemorates Ifill, the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, on PBS NewsHour. She will receive a $500 gift certificate and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill.

Mirudulaa, the first middle school student to receive the award, said she feels empowered by her news literacy lessons.  “After using Checkology I feel a lot more informed and confident because I can actually see which is fake and which is not fake. Checkology helps you improve, realize and change your ways.”

She tries to regularly share her Checkology knowledge with her fellow students, and even beyond the classroom.  “I showed my parents many of the tools I saw in Checkology. Even they felt it was a big impact on their life. They changed. They stopped viewing some of the websites that they thought they could rely on,” Mirudulaa said. And, she added, they were even more proud of her than before.

Watch this video to hear Mirudulaa discuss the importance of news literacy in her own words.

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