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Student-Run Newspaper Provides Unique Learning Opportunities

A new student-run elective hit the headlines this year!
Led by new Allen-Stevenson seventh grader, William G., a group of committed Upper School boys decided they wanted to highlight topics of interest to students in the form of an Allen-Stevenson newspaper, The Monthly Monitor. This publication covers a broad range of categories including, lifestyle, inside A-S, outside A-S, and op-ed.
 
The creation of this newspaper has encouraged the students to become incredibly resourceful. While they are working under the guidance of Faculty Advisor Aidan Fennelly, the students have been the drivers of the content. They’ve interviewed faculty and staff members, developed technology skills they learned previously from the art and tech teams to design a newspaper website and sought out help with photo and copy-editing from adults around the School.
 
In the first issue alone, boys interviewed Director of Organizational Initiatives Winnie Barnes about the School’s ongoing construction project, provided news coverage on the COVID-19 vaccine, and wrote several important opinion pieces by Upper School boys on subjects ranging from remote learning to movie and television reviews. Communications Manager Lily Miller sat down for a conversation with the newspaper creator William G., advisor Aidan Fennelly, and newspaper editors Sebastian I-P., and Charlie G. to learn more about the inspiration behind this project and what they have learned from this experience. Read their interview below to learn what they had to say.
 
William, what inspired you to start this elective?
William G. (WG): I started going to Allen-Stevenson in September 2020. I was part of a newspaper elective at my old school, and I got really into it. I found it interesting and wanted to bring it to Allen-Stevenson. So, I talked to Upper School Head Mr. Cohen and he told me to go ahead and find some members and a faculty advisor. I reached out to Mr. Fennelly because he is my English teacher and I really like how he teaches the class. He said yes, and we came up with a plan! First, we had to decide what was going to be in the newspaper. I had the idea to make a website to coincide with the newspaper which has been important because things have changed a lot this year because of COVID. The website allowed for flexibility and editing.
 
Sebastian and Charlie, why did you decide to join this elective?
Charlie G. (CG): I am an eighth grader, so this is my last year at Allen-Stevenson. I thought this would be a cool way to leave my mark on the School. I also like working with Mr. Fennelly. He isn’t my teacher anymore, so it was a great way to reconnect with him.
 
Sebastian I-P (SIP): For a short time in my advisory, I made a newsletter with a few classmates. Then, after I wrote the mystery story in Sixth Grade, I realized I really like writing. When I saw that Will was setting up this elective, I thought it would be a lot of fun to try and could improve my writing.
 
Mr. Fennelly, what attracted you to become the faculty advisor?
Aidan Fennelly (AF): I was very impressed with Will’s enthusiasm. He is the one who inspired me to do this. He really lit the fire under us to get this going. I also thought it would be an interesting year to start this project. I think we can all agree that we are living through a historic time. So, I thought it would be kind of cool to do something that takes note of history at Allen-Stevenson.

What was the process like creating the newspaper, and what did each of you learn along the way?
WG: For me, the biggest takeaway has been how to lead a group and teach my classmates. Before I took on this newspaper, if I tried to teach someone, I had a hard time explaining things in ways others could understand. I think I’ve become so much better at managing others from leading this elective.
 
SIP: My writing has improved greatly. I remember on day three of this elective, Mr. Fennelly taught us the difference between hard news and feature stories and had us practice writing both. We did an exercise where we read two articles and had to decide which was which.
 
CG: I am used to formal writing styles, so using different voices for different kinds of articles has been a great skill to learn.
 
WG: I agree with Charlie and Sebastian. I have improved my writing a lot and have learned how to write in different voices. Also, I’ve learned a lot about how to use punctuation.

AF: As a teacher, I have learned so much from this experience in terms of letting students take control of something. It really, truly is a student-run elective. It has been very rewarding to see the boys take control and see them create something so awesome.
 
What do you think are the benefits of a student-run elective?
AF: It teaches students intangible skills that they don’t necessarily get in a formal classroom setting: how to deal with other people, how to manage people, and how to be managed. I was impressed that our eighth graders were so gracious in allowing Will, a seventh grader and new to A-S, to take the reins. There were no power struggles or ego battles between the boys. Seeing that our boys are capable of that level of teamwork and cooperation is wonderful. It’s important to learn these things for life after school. If you don’t learn these skills when you are young, it will be a problem when you enter the workforce.
 
SIP: The people taking these electives are the students, so why not let them have a choice in the content? This is a way for new activities and ideas to enter the pool of ideas. It lets you expand your interests and find new hobbies. It’s a great way to get to know your classmates and maybe find new things you’re interested in.
 
CG: I agree, and I think students are way more motivated to work when it’s something that has been made by their peers. There’s something really rewarding about doing something not just because a teacher is telling you to but because you actually want to work on it and care about it and want to be there.
 
WG: I agree with Charlie. I find myself putting hours into this elective without even noticing. I don’t have to push myself; it comes naturally. If you want to do something and you enjoy it, you’re going to take the time to really invest in it. Giving students a voice is so important.
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Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.