News is old school, but it’s back in schools

Senior Marc Cugnon and English teacher Robert Griffin discuss potential stories for the next issue of “The Conversation.” Photo by Matt Wingfield/Rappahannock News.
Senior Marc Cugnon and English teacher Robert Griffin discuss potential stories for the next issue of “The Conversation.” Photo by Matt Wingfield/Rappahannock News.

Statistics may show that newspapers are on the decline, but you’d never know that from looking at Rappahannock County. In addition to the newspaper you hold in your hands, two local schools – Wakefield Country Day School and Rappahannock County High School – have taken up the journalistic mantle and started developing their own papers.

Wakefield is actually producing two papers; Lisa Ramey, who teaches English 10 and is the dean of upper school faculty, acts as the faculty advisor for a sophomore staff of students. The 18-person staff is producing a paper, “The Hoot,” aimed at appealing to the entire school – which includes students in grades one through 12 – and expects to have its first full issue out shortly.

“I believe every school needs a student-oriented newspaper,” said Ramey. “I challenged the 10th grade to do this and they’ve responded really well.”

Ramey said the students submitted ideas for what they’d like to write about and are preparing articles on many different topics, including teacher profiles, school government, opinion pieces, a history of the school and even international news, which is largely being handled by the staff’s five international exchange students, who hail from China, India, Guatemala and Macao.

“The students have really done all the work,” Ramey stressed. She said the main delay in the paper’s production stems from the need to copy edit everything extensively. She’s also started a blog for the paper, which will have a link on the school’s main page and house all the paper’s articles.

“I’m very proud of everything they’ve done,” said Ramey. “Every one of them is doing a bit of everything.”

Wakefield’s other paper, dubbed “The Conversation,” is the product of senior Marc Cugnon, who says the idea for a paper came to him over a dinnertime conversation about politics. “I wanted to improve the quality of the conversation,” said Cugnon, “and I felt the school needed a paper that focused on ‘real news’ that took place outside of Wakefield.”

To that end, Cugnon began working on an initial copy of the paper over the summer, before approaching new head of school Jessica Lindstrom about the idea. After Lindstrom gave him the go-ahead, Cugnon talked two of his classmates, Alex Foster and Carl Liles, into writing for The Conversation.

Cugnon says his goal is to produce a paper at least once a month; he also says the staff is expanding, with several other students wanting to contribute articles. “The current staff is four people, with at least two more interested,” Cugnon explains. “I just ask people what they’re interested in and what they want to write about.”

While Cugnon runs The Conversation, Wakefield English teacher and former journalist Robert Griffin serves as copy editor for the articles, a position both he and Cugnon seem very happy about.

The sophomore staff of Wakefield’s “The Hoot” poses on the school steps in the lower lobby. Front row, from left: Wei Zhao, Kitty Lo, Angel Chiu, Kitty Long, Jessica Leskovec, Anne Katherine Burns and Freya Rodriguez. Back rows: Tianyi Wang, Chris Payne, Si Chen, Maeve Dale, Ashlyn Ramey, Kariss Tschopp, Anna Clark, Vitasta Vyas, Sam Mullany, Tim Johns and Madison Romine. Photo by Matt Wingfield/Rappahannock News
The sophomore staff of Wakefield’s “The Hoot” poses on the school steps in the lower lobby. Front row, from left: Wei Zhao, Kitty Lo, Angel Chiu, Kitty Long, Jessica Leskovec, Anne Katherine Burns and Freya Rodriguez. Back rows: Tianyi Wang, Chris Payne, Si Chen, Maeve Dale, Ashlyn Ramey, Kariss Tschopp, Anna Clark, Vitasta Vyas, Sam Mullany, Tim Johns and Madison Romine. Photo by Matt Wingfield/Rappahannock News

“I’m thrilled to be an advisor on it,” Griffin said. “But Marc is really the driving force behind this.” Cugnon says he not sure if The Conversation will carry on after he graduates but is enjoying the opportunity to write it.

“I don’t know if it’ll continue next year, but I’d love for it to.”

Cugnon’s first issue included an interview with renowned actor Robert Duvall, who has a 360-acre farm in Fauquier County. And, while the second issue is still being written, Cugnon stressed that he wants to “make sure it’s balanced.” To that end, coverage on the current political race will continue to be mixed in with music reviews and an update on sports. Copies of The Conversation are available at Wakefield.

New RCHS English teacher Alexander Coffroth had originally planned to continue the school’s tradition of a newspaper, but says he lacks the students to do it this year – although an online outlet is still a possibility.

“The class is only five kids,” Coffroth said. “That’s not enough for a paper, so I decided it would be a unique opportunity to look at various kinds of journalism.”

To that end, Coffroth and his students have spent the year dissecting news articles, blogs and podcasts. He says students have learned about the inverted pyramid-style of news writing (with the most wide-reaching information at the top) and written research papers on famous journalists.

Coffroth says he has enjoyed teaching the one-term journalism class; due to its small size, he says he can pick and choose what sort of information to emphasize, and what to leave out. He also wants to have a paper by next year, but says whether or not he can do it largely depends on the size of the class.

“Next year I’ll have time to promote the class more,” Coffroth. “So it’s definitely a possibility.”

Marching Virginians named

Two local residents – Katharine Hale and Taylor Light – were recently selected to be members of the Marching Virginians at Virginia Tech. Hale is a freshman from Castleton, who plays the clarinet and is majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science.

Light is a junior from Woodville who plays the piccolo and is majoring in music in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Light also holds a leadership position as an officer.

Commonly known as the Spirit of Tech, the Marching Virginians celebrated their 39th season this year by entertaining the crowd and supporting the Hokies during the 2012-13 football season. Under the direction of David McKee and Polly Middleton, the band featured great American music throughout the season.

Founded in 1974, the Marching Virginians have performed for hundreds of football games and parades. The band has also received numerous compliments for outstanding performances at recent bowl games, including the 2012 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. and the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Orange Bowls in south Florida.

The group volunteers their time and energy toward service projects both locally and nationally. The band has led the demolition parade for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, performed at Craig County and Narrows High Schools, and performed during a fundraiser at Dick’s Sporting Goods to help a local elementary school raise money for a new playground. This year the band led their 16th Hokies for the Hungry canned food drive at the Florida State game.

Wakefield sports update

WCDS Athletes of the Month

Female: Hannah Tufts led the varsity girls’ volleyball team to a 10-1 record in October and a sweep of the Delaney Athletic Conference (DAC) regular season and tournament championships. As co-captain of the team, she played every minute of every match; her service percentage was 96 percent, and she assisted in 50 percent of the kills. She was named First Team All-DAC by the Division II coaches. Coach Suzanne Zylonis described Hannah as “an invaluable asset to our success. She is a well-deserving member of the Wakefield Country Day School community, and is a perfect example of WCDS’s student athlete.”

Male: Daniel Chadduck led the varsity boys’ soccer team in scoring in October with 11 goals. He scored multiple goals in four games including two conference games. He was named First Team All-DAC by the Division II coaches. His play helped the team defend their DAC Division II regular season title and tournament title, finishing 7-2 for the month. “Daniel has used his passing skills and good ball skills to assist our other players and our offense. He has contributed by dropping back to assist our defense. He has a high soccer IQ and often makes physical sacrifices for the good of team,” said coach Dr. Gustavo Tisera.

2012 Fall WCDS team awards

Varsity Volleyball:

Co-Most Valuable Player: Alex Cancio-Bello
Co-Most Valuable Player: Kim Pankow
Coach’s Award: Hannah Tufts

Varsity Girl’s Tennis:

Most Valuable Player: Makenzie Magaro
Most Improved Player: Brianna Rodriguez
Coach’s Award: Grace Albert

Varsity Cross Country:

Most Valuable Runner: Michael Chen
Most Improved Runner: Kitty Lo
Coach’s Award: Will Scaring

Varsity Boy’s Soccer:

Co-Most Valuable Player: Marc Cugnon
Co-Most Valuable Player: Alex Foster
Co-Most Valuable Player: Daniel Chadduck
Coaches Award: Alo Rodriguez
Most Improved Player: Mike He