Student Lands Writing Role For Sports Illustrated

NEWBURGH – Sam Ouhaj’s face lights up as soon as he starts talking sports. He is a 17-year-old senior at Newburgh Free Academy main campus and rattles off names of players and stats faster than most can keep up with. He claims to have only started following sports 5-6 years ago, but already has in-depth knowledge of most sports and their key players.

“My good friend knew a lot and when I tried to contribute to conversations I felt embarrassed because I didn’t know as much,” explained Sam. Now, he confidently admits he knows more than his friend.

Sam’s knowledge and passion for sports has paid off. He recently corresponded with a sports writer via Twitter after seeing a posting for a freelance writing position. The gig is unique, as he’ll be writing about the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that he has only ever seen on television.

To get the job, he had to write an article, which he hadn’t done before and submit his resume. Thanks to Mrs. Cortsunis requiring Sam and the rest of his class to write a resume the year before, there were few changes to be made. Sam knew he needed a good topic and decided on a slightly controversial one – moving on from a beloved quarter back. Sam gathered his facts, rechecked the stats and got to work. He described that he had just gotten home from school and work and just started typing.

As a result, he got the job writing for Sports Illustrated: Bengal Maven. He has already written three articles with another on the way.

Sam began following sports as a way to bond with his Mom’s boyfriend, Flip (Philippe). They were watching a football game with a controversial call that Sam didn’t understand because he didn’t follow the game yet. Eventually, Sam and Flip began watching the games together and Sam became intrigued and began learning on his own. When Sam began talking about his passion for sports, his excitement was clear. He quickly spouted off players and their stats, years, injuries. He began being impressed by predictions that people can make and now can make his own predictions. He used technical jargon that only seasoned sports fans would follow. He talked about magical seasons and heartbreak and mentioned that he hopes he can see the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team, win a Superbowl before he goes off to college.
He credits several people for his early success.

Sam gives credit to English teacher, Mrs. Moredecai Moore, who inspired him to go for his dreams and passions. “She taught me a different perspective on how to see the world and how to push forward to achieve things, see the world, and go after what I want,” says Sam. He mentioned that Mrs. Mordecai-Moore reminds him that “every opportunity that you don’t take is a missed opportunity. Try to take everything day by day, but also try to take every opportunity that I can to expand and become a better person.”

Sam also credits Mr. Guy Du Quesnay, his video production teacher. Sam studied with video production 1 and 2 with Mr. Du Quesnay and is currently working independently for credit. Sam currently hosts Game Clock, a sports recap show that he hosts with John Matthews. Sam is the first student to host back to back seasons. Sam writes, edits, films, and produces the Game Clock episodes.

Sam also recognized NECSD teachers, faculty, staff and says with pride that Newburgh has made him who he is. “I’m so grateful to live here. There’s not one school district I would rather be a part of. We truly are special. Newburgh illuminated makes me so proud. There’s always going to be bad everywhere you go, but there is also a lot of good. I would much rather see praise for what we do right instead of so much focus on our mistakes,” says Sam about his hometown. Sam’s goal is to give back to Newburgh when he is older. He talked about his history with the area started when his family coming over from Italy and eventually settling in Newburgh. His family still owns a plumbing company that has been passed down from his great-grandfather, which is shared as a point of pride for Sam.

Prior to attending Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus, Sam attended Fostertown Elementary School, South Middle School for 6th and 7th grade, and Heritage middle School for 8th grade. He still goes back to Ms. Brand’s class at Fostertown to volunteer his time. He works at the Powleton Club and Camp Chadwick during the summer.

Sam is currently the Executive President of Newburgh Free Academy’s Student Council and gave a speech to incoming freshmen this August to welcome them. He started with Student Council in 9th grade as the Vice President for the class of 2020. Sam also volunteers for the Blood Drives, is a head volunteer for Lap4Life, is part of Youth in Government (his group won the policy competition last year), is part of Key Club and is planning the 3rd Annual International Night, and planned the first colorful 5K walk/run last year. Sam is also part of the boys Varsity Golf Team (making it to counties last year, is a Scholar Athlete, and is part of the National, Science, and Italian Honor Societies. Sam is enrolled in all Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors level courses.

As Sam prepares for graduation and his next step, he has been researching sports announcers where they attended college, and their major. Sam’s ultimate goal is to be sports broadcaster on Fox Sports or CBS Sports. He wants to be on television, doing play-by-play analysis and eventually having his only daily talk show. You can follow the start of his career and his posts for Sports Illustrated: Bengals Maven on Twitter @ouhaj_sam.

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