When Schenectady High School senior Isabella Smarro took over the school’s literary magazine last year, she expected to have to wrangle fellow students for submissions.
She didn’t expect a pandemic.
With schools around New York switching to distance learning in March, working on the school’s literary magazine came with a few new challenges.
Smarro, who stepped up to lead the magazine club after English teacher Andrew Davis couldn’t continue it, and the fellow students in the club had a lot to sort out. On top of drumming up submissions from fellow students and staff members and figuring out how to lay the magazine out, Smarro and the rest of the students in the literary magazine club had to handle distribution.
Luckily, by the time COVID-19 reached the Capital Region and Schenectady High School had switched to distance learning, the club had already collected more than 50 submissions from students and staff and was in the process of laying out the magazine. However, it 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 been sending it everywhere in the county,” Smarro said.
After fiddling with a few ideas, they decided to put it on the school’s website so even people outside of Schenectady County could access it.
Called “Diversity,” the 60-page magazine is filled with artwork, short stories, poems, songs and more.
Smarro said that she was shocked that so many students submitted work this year, which was the first time that the magazine was led by a student.
“I was shocked. I was surprised that even one person submitted stuff. Being a student and not a teacher, I was worried that kids wouldn’t take this [seriously] enough. Of course, we had our moments where we would ask kids and they wouldn’t submit stuff but [then] I started having people who I’d never even met before send in wonderful pieces of artwork,” Smarro said.
In one of the first featured works, called “I Am From,” by Rondacia McPherson, the author writes “I am from two hundred forty-five years of shackled wrists, bruised, slow marching feet and perilous voyages across the Atlantic from almost spending an eternity in a wooden box at just nine years and sometimes being discouraged but definitely not defeated.”
Many students shared powerfully personal poems, while others submitted landscape photography, like Nick Poirier’s tilted shot of the ocean; still others, like Sara Eason, submitted stunning portraits.
To help spread the word about the magazine, which went online last week, Smarro often shares pages and sections of the magazine on Instagram. Schenectady High School teachers have also shared the link to the magazine with their students.
So far, the feedback has all been positive.
“I’ve actually had some teachers and staff members personally email me saying how [the magazine is] amazing . . . Teachers I’ve never even heard of are emailing me personally. That’s very kind of them,” Smarro said.
While working on “Diversity” hasn’t exactly been the process she expected, Smarro is grateful for the experience.
“I’m very proud of all the people who sent in stuff. I’m thankful that people allowed me to do this. It’s not typical that a high schooler gets to take charge of something so serious as this. They put their trust in me,” Smarro said.
To view “Diversity” visit shs.schenectady.k12.ny.us.