Student Journalists Highlight 'Reality' Inside NYC High Schools

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The current editions of student publications are teeming with insight as to what the daily experience is for school-aged teens in the city. From hard lock downs and testing overhauls to waste surveys and feminist clubs, a recent survey of school newspapers and news sites highlighted how much of a role students are taking in their own learning and engagement.

Safety and Risks

In light of school shootings in other parts of the country, local school safety procedures came under the microscope at International High School at LaGuardia Community College and at Benjamin Banneker Academy.

Soft and hard lock downs are used “when there is a threat or intruder inside of the building,” writer Deborah Kubwayo explained in The Scholar Warriors Journal. “Teachers and staff are to turn off the lights and usher all students against a wall out of sight from window or doors and to pull in any students that might be in the halls. Students are to remain quiet and look from instructions from teacher.”

The International Insider stayed true to its name with a third of the stories in a recent 18-page edition focused on international news. However, school news wasn’t ignored. Gabriella Cianci covered a controversial decision by the principal of CSI High School for International Studies to ban cross dressing on Halloween, due to an incident at a previous school he worked in. Some students felt the rule was a human rights violation but Principal Joseph Canale told Cianci it was a matter of student welfare.

“We wouldn’t dress up as a blind person or a person with down [sic] syndrome,” he told the paper.

The Scholar Warriors Journal didn’t shy away from racy topics either. Johana Saimbeau’s page one story “Going for a ‘Home Run’?” informed students that is possible to get an STD from oral sex. “An unwanted doctor’s visit is not where you end up,” Saimbeau wrote.

Change is the New Normal

Midwood High School piloted a new approach to improve on its academic record, the Argus newpaper reported. Instead of making students who are most likely to cut classes walk from classroom to classroom, increasing the likelihood they won’t get to their destination, the students stay in one place and the teachers come to them.

Getting on board with the city’s trial of composting, Curtis High School’s environmental club held an event to show students how food waste and paper could be turned into fertilizer instead of landfill, The Curtis Log reported. In a similar vein, The Clinton News, the 101-year-old newspaper of Dewitt Clinton High School, covered the school’s first waste audit. According to Maribel Vitagliani’s front page story, 50 percent of the school’s waste is from food and 17 percent from paper. The Environmental Affairs Club initiated a paper recycling campaign as a result of the audit.

The school might waste less food if it had a bagel bar, like Midwood High School. As the only site for the city’s trial program for the breakfast addition, the school fed 150 more students a day during the two-week period, Argus reported.

“I usually never eat breakfast, but since the new bagels were added, I started going to second period with a bagel I made at the end of first period,” student Jacky Cham told the paper.

It’s a tactic that Bard High School Early College could learn from. The Bardvark reported that cafeteria numbers are so low that the school may lose it, a problem for the 150 students at the school who qualify for free lunch. On average the cafeteria serves fewer than 60 lunches a day, Iolanthe Brooks wrote.

An ingenious article by Vivian Yan in the BaccRag provided students ways to make school lunch more appealing at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education. Examples include “Mashing Sun Chips with your first or heavy binder until you can feel little crumbs. Put the crumbs between your sandwich for a nice and satisfying crunch” and “Squirt a lot of salad dressing into a section on your tray as a dip for carrots and cucumbers.”

After School Specials

Even late into the school year new clubs are popping up in the high schools. Bard started a feminist club called Students Taking Action for Gender Equality, according to The Bardvark. Table tennis and badminton will be added to PSAL offerings at Townsend Harris. McCourt News profiled the “Random Acts of Kindness” club at Frank McCourt High School. The goal of the new club, Afia Eama and Tamara Casco wrote, are “projects that can make people within the school just simply smile.”

Students at Stuyvesant High School devised a creative outlet for themselves with Project Ink. The goal: “Create an original novel by stringing together stories contributed by multiple Stuy students,” The Spectator reported.

The joy of literature isn’t lost at other schools either. The Classic found that 58 percent of Townsend Harris students read more than three hours a week for pleasure. And the book club at Queens Vocational and Technical High School has more members than it has books, the Voc Voice reported.

The Opinion Page

An opinion by Jake Christensen in The Survey protested rulings in Texas, New Mexico and Utah that allow computer language courses to meet foreign language requirements.

“Computer science is more than learning a programming language, and is more about math and science than language arts. This makes putting them in the same subject area very counterintuitive,” the Brooklyn Technical High School student wrote.

A French exchange student shed some light on the cultural difference between New Yorkers and Parisians in an article for the Horace Mann Record. Jean Clavero noticed “that kids here procrastinate more.” He also said his Parisian cafeteria is only open for lunch and the menu is “not very healthy (it can sometimes be pizza and fries).” While here, he experienced Passover. “While my host family thought their seder lasted so long, it was only two hours-- most dinners in France last until midnight.”