Staff of FGHS' new student newspaper discuss real issues
Junior starts "The Advocate" to shine light on lesser known groups
When Ruby Van Dyk told her parents and teachers she wanted to start a newspaper at Forest Grove High School, they gave her a raised brow and a look that said, I dont know if you want to do that.
But she did want to do that.
On March 3, the first published post of the FGHS monthly online newspaper appeared. Since then, The Advocate has been turning out content on a variety of student issues everything from flaky friends to the absence of birth control in the School Based Health Center.
Once she made it clear she was serious about bringing a newspaper back to the high school, Van Dyks parents, teachers and FGHS administrators jumped on board and the rest started falling into place.
FGHS language arts teacher Dawn Nelson agreed to serve as the students advisor and 25 students showed up to an initial informational meeting, with about 20 now on staff.
Nelson has been very supportive, Van Dyk said, and FGHS Principal Karen ONeill even went the extra mile to help her find statistics she needed for one of her articles.
While it has brought some late nights and stressful days, Van Dyk is even more dedicated to The Advocate than she was a few months ago: I wouldnt trade it for the world. Im really, really liking this.
A FGHS junior, Van Dyk decided to drop out of the track-and-field team so she would have enough time to serve as the newspapers editor in chief.
As a freshman, Van Dyk was surprised to learn the school didnt have a newspaper. I really wanted to feel like our school had a voice, she said. People are really doing some cool and interesting things and I feel like the athletes are the only ones who get recognized.
Voices from the shadows
Van Dyk is hoping the paper will advocate for those in the shadows, including minority groups and members of small, unknown clubs.
Sergio Bucio, a FGHS junior and the co-editor of the papers diversity section, credits Van Dyk with inspiring him to join that effort.
She makes everything better and shes always there to help you, said Bucio, whose work on the paper helped him realize writing is one of his strengths. Ruby saw something in me and it was very cool.
Bucio is hoping to shine a light on the schools many different clubs, cultures and social groups. So far, the papers diversity section has posted stories on the power of words, the struggles of LGBTQIA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Asexual and Ally) individuals, the schools leadership team members and the Adelante Mujeres Chicas program.
Bucio was particularly struck by a study he found while researching his piece on the power of words that showed striking similarities in brain scans of those who have been verbally abused and those who have been hit in the head. Verbal abuse is real and we should really acknowledge it, Bucio said. People are verbally attacked and they think its normal.
Bucio plans to use his position on the newspaper staff and as senior class president next school year to work on creating a positive environment in the school by reaching out to all communities.
As a Hispanic, Bucio feels theres often a divide at FGHS between Latino and white students. He suspects this mostly stems from a high percentage of the Hispanic students growing up and going to school in Cornelius and then folding into the high school as freshmen. You hang out with who you grew up with, he said.
But hes striving to combine cultures in more activities and is hoping to start out by recruiting more Latino students to the newspaper staff.
Staff, topics both diverse
The staff is already pretty diverse with Hispanic students, LGBTQ kids, athletes and brainiacs all coming together to write, edit and post stories online.
Staff writer Stevie Walker is particularly interested in climate change and environmental issues. I hope the paper will get people more aware of social problems, she said. I want to get it out to everyone so people know whats happening out there.
After a few bumps early on spelling errors, students not meeting deadlines The Advocate staff members have been hitting their stride. Theyve covered a variety of topics, from abortion to college campus sexual assault risks to reviews on Oregon colleges and music albums.
The staff has received some negative comments accusing them of being too liberal.
It takes a lot in high school to voice your opinion. Kids are mean, Van Dyk said. We want it to be well liked but sometimes you have to say things not everyone is going to hug you for.
Still, most of the feedback theyve received from peers, parents and administrators has been positive.
Were happy people are reading it, Van Dyk said. A lot of the adults Ive talked to are excited we have a paper again.
Newspapers rocky road
The FGHS student newspaper under several different names and leadership teams has had a rough road over the past six years or so. In 2010, when it was called The Viking Log, the paper published a comment that implied a particular male student was gay. The students parents complained and copies of the newspaper were removed from classrooms. Administrators fired the advisor from her role (but not from her position as a language arts teacher).
After that, administrators censored some of the papers content and threatened to stop the presses on the operation altogether.
Current Principal ONeill, who was not principal in 2010, said the newspaper class was cut a few years ago during the economic downturn, the same year 17 teachers were cut from the high schools staff. Several staff members tried to run it as an after-school club with little success, she said.
In the years after The Viking Log, students started an underground newspaper called Viking Log Underground and later The Forest. Neither survived.
But Van Dyks hope are high for The Advocate.
I dont want this to be the kind of thing where I graduate and it crumbles, she said. I want to keep it going and recruit younger kids.
Shes considering turning The Advocate into a print product next year as part of her senior project in between gigs as the papers editor, the Forest Grove School Boards Student Representative and as the founded of the schools Young Feminists Club.
I enjoy being able to produce something that has an impact on others, Van Dyk said. I feel like a lot of what teens do is for themselves and feel like this is something bigger.