Exhilarating Process for Miramonte High School Student Magazine Staff

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(Moona Nandi, Photographer)
Miramonte’s Journalism Club students (L-R) Alex Finegan, Mia Singleton, Chaya Tong, Scarlett Mosher, Miriam Yee and Olivia Eukel, proudly showcase their 2018-19 issue of Writer’s Mag. Their 2020 issue was designed and finished in March, printed in April during COVID-19 and distributed in Oct. 2020. Journalism and English Honors teacher, Donia Gousios, advises the Club.

    Miramonte teacher Donia Gousios gets blown away by the level of talent her journalism students have, especially in creating Writer’s Mag, the magazine they built on their own with little guidance along the way.
    “I am constantly in awe of the great accomplishments these students do completely on their own,” said Gousios, who teaches Honors English and journalism, currently fully online. “The motivation, creativity and drive they consistently bring to the classroom, everyday, are inspiring. It makes me smile and I am confident they will go on to do great things.”
    A total of 10 students in the Journalism Club began work on a 32-page, full-color magazine in the fall of 2019, before the pandemic hit, mostly during their lunch breaks and after school. Students meticulously solicited local businesses for advertisements; they applied for grants and contacted a printing company in San Leandro called 440 Creates.
    Their magazine contains stories, essays, poems, cartoons, drawings and more.
    Sponsors and advertisers, past and present, include the Orinda Community Foundation, Lamorinda Arts Council, Orinda Books, Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery, Friends of the Orinda Library, Aspire Education and Miramonte High School.
    After working on the magazine, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Chaya Tong, a senior at Miramonte who plans to study English, classics and possibly history in college, talks about her future career goals.
    “I am considering going to law school or going into writing and publishing,” said Tong, who lives in Lafayette. “Putting the magazine together is an exhilarating process!”
    Co-Editor-in-Chief, Scarlett Mosher, has similar goals.
    “I want to study classics, but more specifically, I’m looking at majors in classical civilization and Latin/Greek language; however, I also want to pursue creative writing in college, either as a minor or as an activity outside the classroom,” said Mosher of Orinda.
The students enjoyed their time working on the magazine as a team.
    “Putting this magazine together was a kind of ‘exciting stress.’ While it definitely was stressful to gather submissions, coordinate with the printing company and gather funds to get the magazine to print, it was a new and exciting experience, and one we didn’t have to go through alone,” Mosher said.
    “The experience brought the entire club together, as we worked during lunches and after school to finish the magazine by our deadline,” Mosher added.
    Mosher said her favorite part of the process, during the lunches spent crafting the magazine, occurred while club members sat in the school’s computer room, working on Adobe InDesign to create page designs.
    “As one of the presidents, I walked around the floor of the computer room, helping with technical issues, as well as hopping back to my own computer to finish the pages I was assigned,” she said. “Between chunks of hard work, we would take breaks to stretch, laugh and jump into the piles of beanbags in the corner of the room.”
    Fortunately, the club’s students assembled the content of the magazine before COVID-19 hit; however, once schools went virtual, students learned to pivot through the challenges.
    “Normally, we distribute the magazine in April,” said Tong. “Since, all of the magazines were printed, we had to keep them at my house while we waited to see what would happen with lockdown. When we found out we would not be returning to school in the fall, we mailed out copies to all the sponsors and people whose work appeared in the magazine.”
    They also left copies in the book room and at the front office at Miramonte, where students could pick them up on campus. Now, they’re planning their next issue.
    “As we look ahead to this year’s magazine, we are trying to navigate the process of designing and printing without being in person,” said Tong. “We are still planning on producing a magazine this year despite COVID-19. The process will look different, but our team is coming up with creative new ideas so we can still put out Writer’s Mag in the spring.”
    Gousios feels Zoom is a huge blessing.
    “There are some activities and tasks that are even more effective when done virtually,” she said. “For example, working together in breakout rooms allows the student to focus on the specific task on hand, and it is very effective since they share their screens and work on documents in small groups.”
    She said they have already mastered working on page layouts virtually. 
    “Again, they are amazing,” said Gousios.
    In addition to the magazine, Gousios teaches a thriving production journalism program, where students produce The Mirador, a student-directed print newspaper.
    “I act as advisor,” said Gousios, of Lafayette. “The Mirador prints seven issues a year. We also have issues online, and we have hundreds of subscriptions that are sent out monthly.”
    Tong and Mosher are in both the journalism class and club, and find real-world benefits in these courses.
    Mosher said she learned the importance of relying on others while creating: “Their feedback, ideas and opinions are incredibly important to making the final product. I learned how to work through disagreements with my teammates, coming to a compromise that worked for everyone.”
    Most important to her, she said, was the value of friendship: “I worked with my friends and fellow writers to create something wonderful, something that would unite the creative writers at Miramonte.”
    Gousios is more than proud of the amazing work her talented students do.“It is an opportunity for the community and the students to be a part of something bigger than just high school,” she said. “Such a gift for all involved!”

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