Every week for the ten-week duration of the project, eighteen students from Everett Middle School headed upstairs to a hidden nook in the farthest corner of the school’s library. This nook, charmingly christened the Writers’ Room, serves as an intimate place for students to write and create during class time, without the stresses of a normal classroom environment. Nautical decorations, like a browned treasure chest and aging maps stir the imagination, while the plush sofa and red paper lamps keep tensions low so students can focus on what’s really important—their writing.
Over the course of the semester, each student is expected to pick a topic, interview an expert, and then write an article for the school’s newspaper, The Straight-Up News. This professionally-designed and printed newspaper has been thriving at Everett Middle School for the last eleven years, due to the hard work of students and the support of San Francisco nonprofit 826 Valencia.
For the latest issue, Spring 2015, students worked one-on-one with 826 Valencia tutors on topics ranging from the political to the personal, made all the more exceptional due to the uniqueness and variety of the eighth grade perspective.
For most of these students, this is the first time their words will be published in print. Danelia Mendieta, who wrote about the abysmal state of the school’s lunches, says being a published author “feels cool because now everyone is going to read my opinion about my topic.” However Mendieta’s article does more than give her opinion, it also pushes students to act, explaining how they can impact which meals are served in the school’s cafeteria.
This theme of provoking action, even if only on a small scale, is apparent throughout this newspaper’s latest edition. One student breaks down how individuals can protect themselves from hackers. Another encourages her peers to be unafraid in adopting unique or risky fashion choices. And in a special feature, one young writer dares the media to stop over-sexualizing women.
With the future of journalism unclear, it is both inspiring and reassuring to see youth ready to provoke audiences with a variety of passionate and honest perspectives. Here’s to many more issues of the Straight-Up News! Pick up your copy today at the Pirate Supply Store.