Students revive the 'The Williston Sun' newspaper
Students at Williston Middle School are restarting their school newspaper, The Williston Sun. Their first online issue dropped in October and had close to 300 people read it.
Matthew Sullivan is an AIG (Academically or Intellectually Gifted) specialist and reading instructional coach at Williston Middle School. He, along with eighth-grade teacher Kate Diehl, is helping to revive the publication.
“So when I came aboard, I remembered people were talking about this paper, and I wanted to do something big, something to help build the new culture of our school,” Sullivan said.
Diehl said she reassures the students that they can write as journalists.
“They're really on their phones writing all the time through their texts and all of their little messages to each other. So I think just encouraging them that they do have the power to write with their voices, like that they are doing it every day,” Diehl said.
Eighth-grader Izzie Vasquez is the editor. She said when The Williston Sun rebooted, the students sent out a questionnaire asking their classmates if they felt heard or accepted at school — and received about 50 responses.
“I feel like since the newspaper has not been published anymore, it's been hard to get student voices out there because we haven't had an open-ended, like, ‘Hey, can we change this?’ [...] It's either been brushed over or not heard about. And this is giving such a great new outlet for students and staff to have a voice,” Izzie said.
Izzie said the survey was “where the bathroom issue[s] came up and lunch and recess issues came up as well.”
One of the issues with the bathrooms, she said, is not having mirrors.
Student Dae Bracht said the paper is giving voice to this particular concern.
“I understand how it could be a danger and a hazard, like if some kids would be aggressive, but in the female bathroom, we like to check up on ourselves. And it's sad to like, look at a boring wall, but at least it's good for safety,” Dae said.
WHQR reached out to the district and the principal to find out when and why the mirrors were taken out, and what the school plans to do moving forward but has yet to hear back.
Dae said her dad gave her some powerful advice that informs her reporting work — that the minds of her and her classmates are like sponges.
“And we just absorb everything we see and hear, and we acknowledge it and take it in, and we just really need to be out there, so we can see what all can be done,” Dae said.
And these budding writers are doing one-on-one interviews with students at school — like A’miya Lopez, who did an article on the football team.
“I interviewed like four of them. The answers, I wish they had given me a little more to put down, and I was expecting a little more to the questions I asked,” she said.
For the November issue, A’miya said there’s another group she wants to interview.
“We're going to do the cheerleaders, and see how it is on that team because, you know, we're not on the cheer team, so we got to see how it is for them. You gotta get different points of view of how it is,” A’miya said.
Student reporter Naurice Dukes highlighted a professional working in the area.
“My article that I've done was about the community and about a film and photographer. Her name was Beverly Judge, and she's done photo shoots and has worked on a few movies around Wilmington,” Naurice said.
Looking ahead to next month’s issue, Izzie said they’re focusing on teachers for their next opinion section.
“So we're trying to see if teachers are accepted and welcomed, and if they want anything change like materials, or how conflicts are handled,” she said.
Teachers Diehl and Sullivan both say they’re inspired by their students’ work — and are looking forward to what they write about next.
You can read the students' work here: The Williston Sun – October Issue
To hear more from the students, listen to the Cape Fear Rundown podcast, third segment