“Go, Grace, GO!!!” I shouted from the sidelines, my face painted in blue and white, our school colors. Of the 17,732 seats that make up Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, roughly 50 were filled with Grace Church School supporters. The lack of school spirit was palpable. I had just started high school and was afraid of facing four years devoid of passion, community, and spirit.
In an effort to spark enthusiasm I turned to what I knew best: digital storytelling. Developing the “The Grace Gazette” from the ground up, Mr. Nichols and I gathered a team together and attempted to bring together artists, athletes, and student activists. The aim was to attract all types of members from our community to one place in which everyone could find something they were interested in.
But I’m not going to lie to you, we did not succeed at first for two reasons. First, people didn’t even know we had a school paper. Second, if they knew we had one they definitely didn’t know how to find it on WhippleHill (the old website).
So why would we try to create a newspaper that nobody was going to read? How would we proceed? Within our first year, we generated enough buzz from one article to alter our school dress code. But this interest only lasted for a few days and then everyone went back to their everyday lives, which did not include reading The Grace Gazette.
The only viewers on the site were Mr. Nichols and I who were clicking around to re-read articles and make sure they were in the right section.
If you know me, I very rarely give up. I knew that the obstacle of having no readership was definitely the first obstacle we would have to overcome, but we knew we could find a solution and surpass this impediment. We knew the articles were interesting and compelling if only people would open their email.
So I put a little clickbait in my email subject line. You know it because it got your to open your email at least one time: “READ THIS EMAIL AND I WILL GIVE YOU A COOKIE!!” Within twenty minutes of the first email fifty people contacted me. I had a realization: people cared. Or they just wanted cookies. Regardless, readership increased from 54 to 383 in a single week. The cookie was a catalyst for change. It was not really about the cookie, however, but the opportunity for people to come together.
Yes, it’s me. Yes, I owe you cookies. But honestly we both know that you don’t want to eat one because you’ll just crash from the sugar and regret it afterward. However, reading these articles, improves your ability to think and comprehend written information without making you feel gross from a sugar crash! You’re welcome.
Since you were first tempted by the cookie email, our regular readership has steadily increased from one article being read a day to nearly 50. One day this spring, over 538 people visited the site, and since the cookie emails started we have had just shy of 10,000 views of “The Grace Gazette” site. Our newspaper is growing and growing.
I just wanted to say thank you. To all of you. Thank you for making my high school career so fulfilling. Running this newspaper has been one of the highlights of the past four years and regardless if this if your first time reading an article or not, thank you.
This paper started from nothing. Just a few kids in a classroom with Mr. Nichols. Let me tell you, if you don’t know Mr. Nichols you are missing out. Go meet him. Seriously, go email him or find him in the hall and say hello because he rocks. Or take Journalism!
Now that I’ve thanked all of you, I need to thank him. He has truly been an incredible mentor to me throughout my four years of high school, and I don’t think I will ever be able to repay him. He has supported not only me, but all of our writers throughout their time and he has truly impacted each of us in some way. He is the kind of teacher that students, including me, will always remember.
I will forever cherish all of the experiences and memories this newspaper has provided me with, and I am excited to pass my baton to Ellen Jorgensen, Class of 2019, the next Editor-in-Chief of “The Grace Gazette.” She will do an incredible job.