By Guest Blogger and Solebury School Senior Carol W.
It’s almost the start of senior year. There are college applications, scholarships and recommendations to manage. There’s summer work you haven’t touched, Cotillion practices to prep for, and you’ve already deemed senior year the most stressful of your high school career. Yet, one day you wake up and decide to start an online magazine. Last summer, that is exactly what I did.
When my online magazine Nyota (which means “star” in Swahili) first launched, we focused on emerging talent in music, fashion and culture. Once I began my second year of Teach2Serve (a one-year public service program or two-year social entrepreneurship program at Solebury), as part of my work for the program, I decided to add a section to magazine that featured an inspirational person, or people, who are creating positive change in their communities. I am hoping it inspires readers to create positive change in their own communities. Collaborating with Teach2Serve has been great for Nyota, thanks to my Teach2Serve teachers, Diane Downs and Nicole Mount. They offer ideas for content, give me contacts, and they make sure I stay on track. To have the support of Teach2Serve and the Solebury community means so much to me and has been a huge help.
For Nyota to first come to fruition, I had to work out a few things. I had no idea how to do the graphics. I just knew how to take a good photograph, and Nyota wasn’t going to go very far with only fashion editorials. Luckily for me, my family was helpful in launching Nyota, and my sister, Niara, became my co-editor in chief. Once she joined Nyota, it was time to source our content. We had to consider what our teenage audience would want to see in a September issue, and we had to figure out who our first-ever features would be. After planning the issue, my sister and I put our plan into action.
First, we organized a back-to-school photo shoot. Once we found models and confirmed a location, date and time, it came down to the details. For the shoot, my sister styled all the outfits, and I took all the photographs. It was a scorching day in June, and the models were nearly sweating through their clothes. While we had perfect lighting, the heat was pure torture, but we persevered. The photos came out great, and the models we used then now work with us for each issue.
Confirming features for the magazine was harder than we thought. Our original music feature told us he was excited to be featured, but when we tried to set up an interview and photo shoot, it was like he forgot how to reply to emails. Instead, our music feature became Vine Street, a band that another Solebury student, Nealon E., was a member of. My sister booked our first fashion feature, and fortunately, he was very quick to respond. Our first culture feature ended up being a family friend of ours, and she was the easiest person to work with throughout the entire process. After getting features, we had to brainstorm interview questions, and schedule photo shoots and in-person interviews.
By then, my sister and I had been thinking about growing the Nyota team. I asked a good friend of mine, Breanna, to be our reporter for our YouTube page, and she agreed. Our first culture section feature was on Lauren Fisher, a musician and mosaic artist based in New Jersey. My sister and I worked the cameras for the interview, Breanna conducted the interview, and I took the photos. In late August, I conducted and videotaped an in-person interview of Vine Street.
It was a relief to be done with interviews, but then we had to design the magazine pages. I am not a graphic designer, and neither is my sister, but thankfully she knew how to use Adobe Illustrator and is artistically inclined, so she created a Nyota logo and started designing. I had to learn how to use Illustrator, write up the interviews, and create a few extra pages. It was a long, arduous process, and we ended up releasing the magazine two days late, but in the end, everything came together. We published the magazine on issuu. It was extremely rewarding to see our hard work had paid off, and we got a lot of positive feedback.
We knew that we needed to improve for the second issue, though. We also wanted to continue building our team. We booked a graphic designer, a writer from New Zealand, and more diverse features on people from all over the country. The second issue had fewer problems, looked better, and featured more content and better quality content. People told us it was more professional and eye-catching, too, which we were very happy to hear.
The second issue had four features. The features included a DJ from Oregon, a singer from Washington, DC, fashion bloggers from New York City, and a Solebury student named Jennifer Y. who hosts a teen talk show called “Cue The Lights” on Princeton Television with her two friends. Seeing the magazine evolve from the first to second issue showed us that we were on the right track, and that the issues to come would only be getting better.
Nyota helped me with the college application process, too. Colleges look for students doing unique things, and I truly believe that this magazine helped set me apart from other students. So far, I’ve been accepted to four schools, including Pratt Institute, one of my top three picks.
I am excited to see where we can take this magazine, and I can’t wait to release the third issue, which I think may be our best yet.
Watch for the third issue of Nyota on issuu, out next week!