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From Minooka musical theater to reporting on Broadway

MINOOKA – A combination of humor, charisma and confidence was what helped Nate Garner win one of two spots to be a student reporter at the annual Jimmy Awards on June 26 in New York City, he said.

The Jimmy Awards is the National High School Musical Theater Awards. The program invites a group of student performers from participating professional theaters to go through a week long boot camp before competing onstage for the Best Performance Award by an Actress and Best Performance Award by an Actor. Winners receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Garner graduated from Minooka Community High School in May, and will be attending Webster University and majoring in musical theater. Garner also received an internship for his work at the Jimmy Awards at Broadway in Chicago with the marketing division.

“The experience was amazing. I got to work with and talk to Broadway professionals,” Garner said. “To be involved in the community for just a day or two was an experience I could never copy.”

This was the first year that the Jimmy Awards had high school student reporters attend and work at the event. Students had to create a video describing the unique way they would cover the Jimmy Awards through social media in order to win the opportunity to be a student reporter.

“I think I got chosen because they were looking for someone who was charismatic and also funny. A lot of kids took it really seriously, and I took a looser route, which worked in my favor,” Garner said.

Garner was involved in musical theater throughout high school. His recent role didn’t qualify him to be a nominee for a Jimmy Award, so when the opportunity came for him to be a reporter, he took it, even though he didn’t have any reporting experience.

“I already made videos with my friend; they were always goofy,” Garner said.

Garner’s video has about 72,000 views on the Jimmy Awards Facebook page.

About 10 videos were selected to be posted on the Jimmy Awards Facebook page. The two winners were chosen based on their submission content and the reach and engagement of their video on Facebook.

“The humor in it, and my super awesome friends and friends’ parents sharing it was what helped me get to 72,000 views,” Garner said about his video, which included clips from his choir trip to Canada.

In a Facebook message, family friend Molly Babyak of Shorewood said student reporters spent June 26 interviewing and observing the 74 student nominees from all over the country as they competed for the coveted Jimmy Award.

Garner and fellow winner Julia Fernandez broadcasted via social media before, during and after the Jimmy Awards, Babyak also wrote.

Babyak said the playbill at the awards ceremony said this year’s Jimmy’s were hosted by Tony Award winner Ben Platt and were made possible by a partnership between New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Nederlander Foundation and the Pittsburgh CLO. Awards were presented by the Broadway League and are a celebration of outstanding high school student achievement in theater arts.

Garner said that being a musical theater reporter may end up in his life somehow, although at the moment he doesn’t quite see it.

Watch Garner’s video application, on the Jimmy Awards Facebook page at

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