Two years, nine months, and seven days ago, I finished preparations in the dark of night for recruitment for a new club. At orientation, I waited out in front of the G wing quad behind a table with a sign urging people to join the school newspaper, the Kennedy Clarion.
A few weeks later, still mostly in the dark on how to write or publish a newspaper, I finished my first article. With the help of our new advisor, Mr. Hanzlik, two years, six months, and 25 days ago, the first issue of the Clarion since its demise was published. The cover lacked color, mostly dark ink on newsprint.
That year’s April, I shone a flashlight on Kennedy’s plans to install signal jammers in classrooms to stop cell phone use. I heard PACE book club leaders discussing the outrageousness of this action weeks later. I was enlightened; it was then that I discovered the impact my writing could have.
One year and nine months ago during first period as the sun just rose, I scanned the new newspaper class, finding fresh and familiar faces.
I lightened up like the sun on a clear Sacramento day. I found the newspaper was printing less errors. I found an amazing editorial staff to help push the paper forward. I found new friends in the new staff, and found them again playing hide and seek in the auditorium in a class wide game. I found that our paper won eight awards in the county high school journalism awards. The sun set on that night as the paper celebrated an amazing second year.
Two months and 16 days ago, the alarm bells rang, and I found myself on the auditorium’s spiral staircase gazing down at my peers, falling into three divisions: afraid, angry, and apathetic. I wanted a camera, but was forced to burn the images in my head instead: Casey the Cougar’s skin, my friends huddled on the ground, a guy from SPD carrying the colors on his way out.
I left. I forgot my orange watch inside.
Time stood still as I collected my thoughts, anger once again aflame inside me. I addressed those who wronged the scared students in that auditorium, not just the threatener, but the apathetic public. I finished that article just before sundown after return from break. Students wore orange at the walkout on 4/20 to push for gun laws. More conflict is coming in the night.
Seven days from now, I’ll sit in the newsroom as an editor for the last time. I’ll wonder what the paper will be when I visit. “History repeats itself” is often a warning of disaster’s second coming, but what of miracles as well? My money is on miracles, but I still wonder if, upon my return, the paper will once again be as it was two years, nine months, and six days ago.
Having transferred from a school on a military base in Japan in 2016, I was only fortunate enough to be a member of the Clarion for two years. It was the year that the newspaper class returned to Kennedy after being eliminated nearly half a decade earlier.
Back in Japan, I had been on the staff of the school newspaper, so I joined the Clarion with the intent to continue my journey as a student reporter. Difficult as it was for me to adjust to the new environment and make friends, the Clarion had always been there as my main source of support. The first friends I made were from the newspaper class, and I quickly befriended Mr. and Mrs. Hanzlik, the advisors, who were so kind and patient, making my transition into the school easier. Thank you, Hanzlik’s, for believing in my talents even when I did not.
I started off my junior year as a regular staff writer, but now as a senior, I prepare to relinquish my position as a features editor. As I look back on all the opportunities the class had presented to me, I cannot help but wonder where I would be today if I had not chosen to take the class. Every struggle that I experienced, which was when the deadline was nearing or when I had to sell an advertisement to local businesses, in some way had shaped me into the person I am today. I am not only a better writer, but my social, communication, and time management skills have improved dramatically.
The last few quarters in the Clarion have been my golden times. I was creating my best work along with my fellow staff, and I often find myself convinced that no other future class will ever be able to replicate anything as creative and unique. Part of what made the class so successful this school year was the large number of the ‘right’ kind of people; people that ranged from great writers and photographers to those who knew how to work Adobe Photoshop like it was the back of their hand.
I am confident, though, the Clarion will continue to thrive and create work that is unique and impactful to the student body, just as it has been doing for the last 50 years. The key to making a successful paper is to have everyone contribute a part of their talent to it. Although my time as a student reporter is up, I plan to use the skills I learned from the class to aid me in the future, wherever it may take me.
The last three years in newspaper have been memorable, stressful, and most of all fun, but I would not change a thing. I have had the amazing opportunity to be in newspaper for a majority of high school and got to watch it grow as I did. It has always been one of my favorite parts of the day, despite it being first period, because it is where I nurtured my writing and editing skills and met some amazing human beings.
During club rush all the way back in 2014, I signed up for the Clarion when it was attempting to revive itself after being dormant for so many years. I remember being hesitant to sign up because of my sophomore ignorance, I thought it was not cool and it also required dedication. I had always wanted to be in publications, so I had 20 seconds of courage and signed up, who knew back then that the Clarion would change the way I see the world and improve my writing skills.
When I look back at my high school years, I will remember my time in newspaper and the memories that were made. Many students have gone through the class and each one of them has made their impact. I will always remember the girls I sat next to my senior year and the crazy music they played or the memes they could recite from the top of their heads. I will always remember the rivalry we had with McClatchy and all the times we messed with them. I will always remember the writers that always wrote three page articles (that were a pain to edit) and the writers that did not write enough. I will always remember the breakfast parties we had and the boy who always wanted the french toast casserole. I will always remember getting our shirts at the end of the year rather than at the beginning. I will always remember the long days that were full of editing because we needed to make deadline.
I know that I will never forget my experience in the Clarion and hope that it continues and strives to be the very best. For future members of the Clarion I have one piece of advice for you, “If you work hard and you do your best, you can do and be anything.”
To the future Clarion staff– I hope you find the desire to discover more about the world around you and to have the courage to keep pushing and searching for answers. You are the voice of the school now; do what is right to spread the truth, and I wish you all luck.
Joining the newspaper class my junior year of high school was a pivotal point in the shaping of my view of both the John F. Kennedy campus and the world as a whole. In the struggle that is creating one’s identity, having an activity that helps in the development of one’s worldview is crucial. Having involvement in the school newspaper not only provided me with skills that will be helpful in the future, but allowed me to surround myself with fellow students who were vocal about their opinions.
Throughout my time in newspaper, seeing fellow members of the staff who continuously produce excellent work and are consistent in taking advantage of all opportunities presented to them allowed me to become more appreciative of my peers, passions and efforts.
My involvement in the newspaper, despite the good memories and skills learned, more than anything emphasizes the efforts of the people I was able to work with. From the members of the newspaper who took matters into their own hands in establishing the newspaper after years of inactivity to the teachers and advisors who provided guidance and support for all students.
The community that formed and the resulting issues of the school newspaper were built on the admirable work of countless students who began the new chapter of Clarion history, and those who follow. I am endlessly thankful for all the good memories in newspaper on the Kennedy campus and hope to see future students experience the long-running student journalism present on the Kennedy campus.
Commanding authority with all that he spoke, Gen. George Washington articulated, “If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.” Having a natural talent for literary composition, Thomas Jefferson expressed, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Reaffirming the sentiments of both, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
Being guided by the knowledge of the Founding Fathers, I have come to develop a reverence and strong passion in the defense of the First Amendment. A sacred gift bestowed upon us, by our Creator, and protected by the Republic’s founding documents, the freedom of speech is of utmost importance, and with it comes the tremendous responsibility, burdened upon the shoulders of journalists and writers alike, to wield the sword of truth in the face of all injustices.
My time with the Clarion has only further garnered my devotion to the principles that act as a defense to our liberties and the American way of life. No matter what I was contributing to the student paper, the thought at the forefront of my mind was what good might this information do for our community, and how might this better the world we found ourselves within. From reporting on the heinous crimes of morally abhorrent staff members to holding elected officials accountable to their constituents, my time on the editorial board has been for one purpose, to further shed the light of truth into humanity’s darkest corners. May all Kennedy students, current and future, read this message composed for you, and come to understand the importance of newspapers and the media, actively participate within your government, and stand firm against all infirmities of this life.