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They talked about it. Then they talked about it some more. And then, they did it.

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School now has an online student-run newspaper, and it is hard to tell who is happier: the students or the administration.

Josh Yamasaki, Emily Lucas and Kaci Mexico all say it is thanks to Kendra Schaefer. But Schaefer claims she did nothing more than fill out the paperwork using the ideas the team came up with. “I love the idea,” says Superintendent Paul Turnbull. “Anytime you can get one source that represents the student voice, it promotes discourse on important topics.”

Some of the topics they will cover in the paper include music, health and body fitness, and world news. There will be a section entitled “Student Spotlight” and a corresponding “Teacher Spotlight.” (The interview for the planned teacher spotlight got interrupted by last week’s unplanned schoolwide lockdown.)

They had anticipated a 10:10 a.m. earthquake preparedness drill, much touted on the local news, but none of them expected what did. When the conversation turned to the subject of an alleged gunman, the teens started to list the many rumors they heard, but it seems they knew few facts about the event. And as one would expect of enthusiastic young journalists, they immediately began to talk about getting them and turning it into a story for their paper.

For help with their stories they will turn to faculty advisor Melanie Dickey. “She’s awesome,” says Mexico, but the group plans to do as much of the work themselves as they can manage. Exactly how much it is going to entail is now dawning on them.

Previous attempts at a school paper never lasted longer than the originating group. The last was done as a class project in EAST, which first came out in December 2005. It was called 34⁰ N, 120⁰ W, but the next year’s class did not want to continue it.

The four seniors see this as a pitfall they plan to avoid. Several members of the executive team have younger siblings who promise to continue the cause, but the group realizes that alone is not enough.

“We have lots of reporters,” says Yamasaki. “They’re just mostly female,” and mostly seniors, they lament. “Maybe once we get started we’ll get more people to sign up –once they see it, and know that it’s real.”

They are working hard to make it real – and relevant, too. Mexico will have a column called “Life Quotes,” with bits of inspiration she’ll research or “just make up on the spot,” she says with a smile. “The point is to make students realize that it is OK,” she says referring to the many issues that confront teens today.

They also plan a Dear Abby type column, where students can write anonymously to “Karen and Cornelius” for advice from other teens. The first paper will have a sample column addressing the not-so-made-up problem of students texting during class, an activity which teachers and students alike find disrupting.

Schaefer, Lucas and Mexico all admit that they have had their parents text them during class. Yamasaki says his mom doesn’t know how to text, but she has called. They have all experienced the same. “Hello, mom,” says Mexico holding an imaginary phone up to her ear. “What the heck, I’m in class.”

There is no school newspaper class yet, but the group suspects the work load will be just as hard as if there was one. “My parents are really supportive,” says Lucas, who admits she has been talking about doing this for years now.

Hers are not the only ones. The cost of the project is funded by the parent group ABC+, which has paid the set-up costs of $600. The students will have to look for a sponsor to cover the subsequent years, at a rate of $200 per year.

Right now they are just focusing on getting the paper online. The foursome is still struggling with log-on and password issues, but has high hopes of going to press next week. The link to school paper can be found at blackorangenews.com, or through the school’s site.

While Guidance Counselor Jon Morris encouraged the students to follow through on the paper, noting that it will look good on their college applications, the students hope to get a more immediate benefit for themselves and their parents.

“It’s kind of cool for parents, too,” Mexico notes. If nothing else, the paper will answer the age-old question students come home to every day: What did you do at school today?

“I usually say: ’Don’t bug me, I have homework,’” says Mexico. Now she plans to text them a link to the newspaper. struax@syvjournal.com