Sarah Han: The Pepperbox Spreads The News, Educates Students And Pays For Itself – May 19, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

High school is not an accurate preview of what life is like after you graduate. There’s no denying that it’s a momentous experience, but it’s overwhelming to think that we’re actually sheltered. If high school is this hard, then what’s the real world like?

Well, every day at third period, I get a glimpse of it. Every day at third period, I experience the closest thing to reality that our high school can offer.

My third period class is Journalism. Except it’s inaccurate to call it a class—it’s really more of an occupation. Our journalism class produces about six issues of the Pepperbox each school year. We pay for all our equipment and printing costs using money raised from business advertising and we cover a wide range of stories, from the school level all the way to the global level, while making sure every article is somehow linked back to how it affects the students at AHS.

The Pepperbox might be the only main source of news for the students of AHS; high school doesn’t leave a lot of time for a student to sit down and watch the six o’clock news. It’s free, relatable and quite accessible. You might have seen it around the community-it’s pretty prevalent considering that each student and faculty member has access to the newspapers.

But these aren’t the only things that make Journalism a realistic and professional experience. More significant are the inter-journalist interactions and relationships that one would find in the building of a professional newspaper, the incorporation of a wide variety of skills, and the impact it has on the goals and aspirations of students who take the class.

Skeptics and cynics out there may think, “How much can a single class do?” Well, for some, the Pepperbox is the deciding factor for college ambitions. This year’s Editor-in-Chief, Cedar Lay, has been accepted to UC Santa Barbara as a communications and journalism major. Journalism is a life changing class for its students and an important source of awareness for the readers of the Pepperbox.

I’m the co-editor-in-chief of the Pepperbox. I am a junior and up until Tuesday, I’ve been planning on running the Pepperbox next year, taking up the mantle and advancing what previous Journalism classes have built. However, on Tuesday the 11th, I was called into the office and I was asked to choose another class because Journalism had been cut from the Arcata High’s list of curriculum.

So I’m here today to ask that a compromise be made to keep our school from losing journalism. We, the Pepperbox staff and I, understand that there are certain regulations and policies that limit the options, but we also recognize that there are definitely ways to preserve the Pepperbox.

Today I was told about the numbers and calculations that outlined the reasons why Journalism was cut and that it was ultimately these numbers that stipulated which classes stayed and which were removed. Needless to say (or perhaps not), a class has much more to it than the numbers it presents, but here are a few examples of numbers that prove that the Pepperbox should stay part of Arcata High.

Last year, the newspaper ran successfully with only six or seven active staff members working on it. This year, there are at least nine able, enthusiastic students enrolled to take journalism. At the end of last year, there were about 40 students signed up for the class, many of whom were only inhibited from taking the class because of a lack of college preparatory credits.

And finally, there are more than 800 students enrolled at Arcata High who are all affected by the Pepperbox, which doesn’t include the countless parents and other community parents that use the Pepperbox as a way to connect with the school—such a connection is rare in high school.

When you consider the numbers for journalism, you have to think about the fact that unlike most classes, where each individual student works for his or herself, journalism students work to produce something for every student at AHS and many in the community to experience. It was extremely disheartening for me to learn that it really is all about the numbers.

And, yes, we are going through a budget crisis right now, but what better way to triumph over this adversity than to show that Arcata High can provide a life-altering experience for journalism students and an important and effective way to increase awareness in its community?

The removal of the Journalism class is not just “unfortunate.” It is, in my opinion, vastly detrimental. All efforts should be made to keep this class, to look past the figures and calculations and see how much one class can affect so much.

Sarah Han is currently a junior and the editor in chief of the Pepperbox.

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