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‘We have a newspaper? I want to join’

Two-week class morphs into middle school publication

A recent online meeting of the staff of the Crossroads Chronicle student news site could have taken place in a newsroom anywhere.

Aurora Thompson was tackling interviews with Superintendent Scott Korpak and Deputy Superintendent Liz Cotter about what school will look like in the fall, given the coronavirus pandemic.

“I did get a few answers, but it wasn’t much,” Aurora said. “I can write that up and just put it out there.”

Kendall Berryhill and Mackenzie Baldrica planned to share a byline on an article about at-home physical fitness. The plan, Kendall said, was to interview teachers Kevin Bostrum and Max Kerry. Good sources, noted adviser Melissa Moens.

Next, Chloe Blumke’s article on face mask-making was ready to be edited. “Someone want to take that on?” Moens asked the dozen or so seventh and eighth graders at the meeting.

“I’ll take it,” volunteered Brooke Gunderson.

Student Leaders

Moens, a language arts teacher at Crossroads Middle, is a big fan of newspapers, and even considered a career in journalism. When teachers were tasked to come up with and lead two-week courses in January on topics of interest to them, she created the Crossroads Chronicle. Eighth grader Ava Wagner designed the site.

“I want them to learn to investigate and ask those good questions,” Moens said. “I want them to find that good balance of respectful reporting and seeing both sides.”

Students meet once a week to pitch articles and talk about the status of those in process. Articles are a mix of self-generated and assigned, Moens said. Topics sometimes are suggested by administrators and teachers. New content is added once a month.

There’s world and school news, articles on the performing arts at the school, sports, question-and-answer pieces with staff and students, and opinion writing.

“For the first time, really, in my 18-year teaching career, students took the lead and were in charge of it all on their own,” Moens said. “I’ve never run a class where I’ve just facilitated, but I’ve always wanted to, (and) when I did, amazing things happened. … I was so proud and impressed by what kids can do when simply given the tools in which to create.”

Moens said Principal Jerry Klekotka told her he was grateful the Chronicle continued to publish during the school shutdown, as it has been “a source of connection among students and staff. I felt good about that.”

Crossroads Chronicle staff review the status of articles in progress

Possible Profession

Sixteen Crossroads Chronicle staffers stayed on since the January pilot class as it morphed into an after-school club. Two others have joined since, with the school year winding up this week. 

Kelly Burke was looking to fill the hour between the end of the school day and band practice. The Chronicle “just sounded interesting, so I thought ‘We have a newspaper? I want to join.’ ”

Ava Wagner was interested at first only in designing the website, but found she liked non-fiction writing when she wrote a piece about the tragic death of basketball great Kobe Bryant.

Aurora Thompson plans to take journalism classes as a ninth grader at the high school in the fall, and said she will apply to be part of the Northview Roar student news site. 

Perhaps eventually, she says, she would consider pursuing journalism as a career.

“I always loved writing and telling people what’s going on, and giving people a voice who aren’t as heard,” she said. The Chronicle “felt like it was someplace I could do what I love.”

It’s also pushed her to not be as shy, she said. 

“One thing that surprised me was that I never really talked to people that much. I got used to communicating with people.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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