downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 27 | November 17 - 23, 2006

Soho high school brings its newspaper back to life

By Lori Haught

The students at Chelsea Campus High School are quickly learning that putting out a newspaper is a full-time job.

Chelsea Campus is actually in Soho, and in the premier issue of The Chelsea Vanguard — the new student paper — that issue is addressed in a front-page article by senior Roberto Guzman and is continued on the center spread. In addition to the school’s name, the article also talks about the history of both the school and the paper, which suffered an extended break in publication until this October.

The Vanguard is coming out of the gate eight pages strong and is set for monthly publication. It also brought along some controversy with its first issue.

“The truth hurts,” said senior Kazi Islam, currently the pseudo-editor of the Vanguard, who wrote a controversial column, aptly titled “A rant about Chelsea that’ll probably get me chastised.” The diatribe includes criticism of the teachers, counselors and school administration.

“I wanted to spend more time on the students,” Islam said, but the article was cut for length. “They think I blame the teachers but the students have their problems too.”

This public voice for the students is exactly what they and their advisor, Ricky Herbert, primarily a math teacher at C.C.H.S., wanted out of a student newspaper.

“The problem for a lot of inner-city kids is that no one listens,” Herbert said. “I wanted to do something creative and give them a free space to rant.”

Senior Missaelle Morales, who helped with layout and design, also said he wanted the newspaper to be a platform.

“Maybe it can get a few things changed or stir things up,” he said.

The article “What’s in a name?” speculates that the school may have been called Chelsea because that was the old telephone area code for the neighborhood. It notes the building that includes the Downtown Express’s office, across Dominick St. from the school, was, in fact, once the school’s annex, and had a field on the roof. An archival photo shows the architectural similarity of the two buildings.

The Vanguard’s first issue also notes that “vocational” was dropped from the school’s former name, Chelsea Vocational High School, because the federal government now frowns on use of the term, feeling it implies tracking students into menial jobs. The school today is made up of several subschools, each of which has “Soho” at the start of its name.

Another bit of information in the premier issue: The students refer to Soho Square, where they often hang out in between classes, as “Chelsea Beach.”

Herbert said it was hard to produce the first issue, but he suspects it will grow easier with time.

“I hope that [after they see the newspaper] kids will buy into it,” Herbert said. “The newspaper club technically has 15 to 20 people in it. The object is to train the kids to do it themselves and then my role will decrease.”

Herbert said that on this first issue, he worked about 80 hours, with the help of mainly three other students: Islam, Morales and Guzman. Troy Masters, associate publisher of Gay City News, a sister paper of Downtown Express, also provided guidance and technical help on the first issue, which was produced in the Community Media L.L.C. office.

“We guided them on selecting a name and urged them to select the name that had previously existed for the school’s paper, urged them how to ‘think’ about reader needs, school needs and what kind of paper they wanted to be, about what a paper does for its community,” said Masters. “The advisor, Ricky Herbert, and I, worked until 4 a.m. to get the paper to the printer on deadline.

“We also have urged them to go out and sell some ads. Ida Culhane, our advertising director, has advised on this, and I created a media kit/rate card for that effort,” Masters added.

All three students were excited to be a part of this new beginning for the Chelsea Vanguard.

“Since I was working in the library last year, I found the old papers,” Guzman said. “I love the school and this is a show of school pride.”

Morales said that it was an exciting and interesting project.

“Seeing the final product was rewarding in itself,” he said.

Islam started out just writing one story and gradually became more and more involved.

“He’s an amazing writer,” Herbert said of Islam. “They are all good kids.”

Morales said the strangest part after publication has been listening to people talk about the paper, whether the talk is good or bad.

“They have no idea what goes into it,” he said with a sigh and a smile.

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