Windy Nguyen, a seventh-grader at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, signed up for what he thought was a “basic writing class” that would meet in school every other day. What he landed in, however, was a new multimedia publication: The HighLander.
Windy, a video game columnist, is one of 14 Carroll students at the school’s new student-run online news publication.
The students do all of the writing and interviewing and they create videos for the publication.
“I didn’t know it was actually going to be a group, and we were actually going to do stuff. But now that we know, we think it’s pretty cool,” Windy said.
The HighLander, named after the school’s former mascot, launched this school year as part of Carroll’s new journalism department.
Students from Carroll’s journalism department work in class and at home with volunteer help from Carroll’s staff to contribute several articles per week. Students from the school’s technology program also produce content for the publication, filming and editing videos during lunch periods and other allotted times.
English teacher William Simpson, the club’s founder, said he wanted to give students hands-on experience to supplement their coursework.
“We talk about creating questions that cause students to write deeper. Why not create situations where that’s just the expectation based on that job?” said Principal David Curry.
Seventh-grader Loel McKinnies, a fashion columnist for The HighLander, said she wants her stories to keep classmates informed about the latest style trends.
“It’s keeping everybody up-to-date — like, what’s in and what’s coming back,” Loel said.
Sixth-grader John Pearson, another video game columnist, said he wants to work in a gaming-related field.
“[This experience] can help me learn more about video games and how they’re made,” John said.
Diana Mitsu Klos, executive director at the Minnesota-based National Scholastic Press Association, said journalism programs can help students sharpen their critical-thinking skills.
“It elevates their research, reading, writing and speaking abilities,” Klos said. “As they learn, their efforts will help their community stay connected and informed.”
The club also includes a video component. During Hispanic Heritage Month, The HighLander staff interviewed Cheryl Escobar, the school’s foreign language department chairwoman, and posted a two-minute video on The HighLander’s website, tinyurl.com/ccmsnews.
“We’re trying to create an environment here in the school where students are not scared to ask questions,” Curry said.
The project was implemented without any costs, Simpson said. To help expand the publication, students are working on a fundraising project in which they contact community members who might be interested in advertising in The HighLander.
Simpson said The HighLander will take over a portion of the school’s print newsletter and also will start a talk show using the school’s underused broadcast studio.
He said his goal is for The Highlander to be seen as a communitywide publication, with students interacting with people outside the school.
“I don’t want it to just be a Charles Carroll thing,” he said.