When Schenectady High School senior Isabella Smarro took over the school’s literary magazine last year, she expected to have to fight with her classmates for submissions.
She did not expect a pandemic.
As New York schools transitioned to remote learning in March, working on the school’s literary magazine has come with some new challenges.
Smarro, who took over as head of the magazine club after English teacher Andrew Davis couldn’t continue, and the other students in the club had a lot to sort out. In addition to gathering submissions from other students and staff members and figuring out how to lay out the magazine, Smarro and the rest of the Literary Magazine Club students had to manage distribution.
Fortunately, by the time COVID-19 reached the Capital Region and Schenectady High School had transitioned to distance learning, the club had already garnered over 50 submissions from students and staff and was in the process of to lay out the magazine. However, that still left them with the question of how to get it to students and the general public.
“If the virus wasn’t happening, I would have sent it all over the county,” Smarro said.
After tinkering with a few ideas, they decided to put it on the school’s website so even people outside of Schenectady County could access it.
Titled “Diversity,” the 60-page magazine is filled with artwork, short stories, poems, songs and more.
Smarro said she was shocked that so many students submitted work this year, which was the first time the magazine had been run by a student.
“I was shocked. I was surprised that even one person submitted stuff. Being a student and not a teacher, I was afraid the kids wouldn’t take this [seriously] enough. Sure, we had our moments where we asked the kids and they didn’t submit things, but [then] I started having people I had never met before sending me beautiful artwork,” Smarro said.
In one of the earliest works featured, titled “I Am From”, by Rondacia McPherson, the author writes “I come from two hundred and forty-five years of shackled wrists, slow bruised feet and perilous journeys across the ‘Atlantic after spending almost an eternity in a wooden box at just nine years old and sometimes discouraged but certainly not defeated.
Many students shared powerfully personal poems, while others submitted photographs of landscapes, like Nick Poirier’s Inclined Ocean Plane; still others, like Sara Eason, submitted stunning portraits.
To help spread awareness of the magazine, which went live last week, Smarro often shares pages and sections of the magazine on Instagram. Schenectady High School teachers also shared the link to the magazine with their students.
So far, the feedback has been all positive.
“In fact, some teachers and staff have personally emailed me to tell me how [the magazine is] surprising . . . Teachers I’ve never even heard of email me personally. It’s very nice of them,” Smarro said.
Although working on “Diversity” wasn’t exactly the process she expected, Smarro is grateful for the experience.
“I’m very proud of everyone who sent stuff. I am grateful that people allowed me to do this. It’s not typical for a high school student to take on something as serious as this. They trusted me,” Smarro said.
To view “Diversity,” visit shs.schenectady.k12.ny.us.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts, Schenectady County