Ontario students on making sure the campus presses kept rolling, bringing youth voices to community journalism and striking out on their own

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High school journalists are used to navigating a complex set of obstacles. From funding limitations to a lack of publishing opportunities and even interference from school administrators, students have become well-versed in adapting their processes and staying agile to keep the presses rolling. 

Now, when confronted with a global pandemic, some are using this time to grow and innovate as media-makers. As we embark on what will surely be an unpredictable school year, three Ontario high school journalists involved with the Canadian Youth Journalism Project — an organization which works to foster community and develop resources for high school student journalists — were asked to share their experiences reporting and publishing through COVID-19.

Here’s what they had to say.

Maxim Gushchin is the editor-in-chief of La Silhouette, the French school newspaper at St. Robert Catholic High School in Thornhill, Ont. He is entering Grade 12.

In March, many high school newspapers shut down to give their staff some time to adjust to remote learning. However, my school newspaper, La Silhouette, chose to continue publishing into July. While larger, professional news sources have addressed the global implications of COVID-19, La Silhouette has been uniquely suited to provide our student body with school news, entertainment, a space to share opinions and resources, like how to remain productive during the quarantine

As one of the few French high school newspapers in Ontario, we have also felt a responsibility to continue providing content for the broader Francophone community, and have published articles about topics like the impact of COVID-19 on health workers to stay relevant to all of our readers — even those outside our school community, province and country. 

Although we faced the common challenge of adjusting to online work, we found new ways to operate, broadened our audience and gained invaluable experience. We even participated in online high school media contests to polish our journalistic skills. What we learned during this pandemic — how to work online and quickly adapt to new situations — will be used to support our readers and help our peer community stay informed as we dedicate ourselves to reporting on our school’s reopening.

You can read La Silhouette online here.

Jonell Pantlitz is a junior reporter at the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper. This past June, she graduated from Central Peel Secondary School in Brampton, Ont. and is starting college this year. 

I started as a junior reporter at the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper last December during Grade 12. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have written over 10 articles about COVID-19, four of which have been about the experiences of young people and teenagers

Having a student’s voice has proven crucial, which I learned firsthand while reporting on the mental health challenges young people have faced during this challenging time. Many interviewees felt more open and willing to talk about how their mental health had been affected by the pandemic with someone of their age group. 

Although it is difficult to spend so much time writing and thinking about today’s many global challenges, my articles have allowed me to include the voices of other students and teenagers so that their views can be better understood by our newspaper’s mature audience. I still cherish being able to shed light on student-related issues in hopes of bringing young voices into the spotlight.

You can read Jonell’s work on the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper’s website here

Anya Singh is the founder of CNXN, a new Toronto-based magazine. She is a Grade 10 student at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute in Toronto. 

During the pandemic, many students have found themselves isolated, not only from their friends and families, but also from the world as a whole. For this reason, in July, I decided to create CNXN, an online magazine that bridges the gap between students and the wider world by publishing youth-and-expert-written content that ranges from the fields of business and current affairs to culture and guest features, all aimed at students’ interests. 

Through CNXN, I strive to create an interconnected community by empowering students to form opinions, find their own voices and express themselves. 

So far, the response has been tremendous with over 10,000 student readers. In the coming months, I plan to expand the publication into an online platform that amplifies student voices and connects students across multiple platforms, while encouraging increased engagement. Although creating a publication during the pandemic has been challenging, its benefits are clear. Many students are not just bored — they are looking to get involved and make an impact even at a time when it may seem hard to do so. 

By empowering the next generation of leaders to take control of their futures, CNXN is a step towards making Canadian youth more informed, engaged and capable of bringing change.

You can read CNXN online here