Schenectady High School gets a bad rap, according to senior Isabella Smarro.
It’s part of the reason why she stepped up to continue the school’s literary magazine.
“It's supposed to show that Schenectady is more than the fights and the gossip. We're so diverse and [talented],” Smarro said.
The magazine, which showcases the work of Schenectady High School students, began three years ago thanks to English teacher Andrew Davis.
“I wanted to start it because there wasn’t a forum, at least in print, that our school offered for kids to show how talented they were. . . As teachers, there isn’t enough time or space in the curriculum to showcase it,” Davis said.
The magazine features short stories, poems, plays, photographs, and other artwork, and is put together by the school’s literary magazine club each year.
Since Smarro writes poetry, the magazine was a way to get her work out there. Beyond that, being a part of the literary magazine club gave Smarro and other students the chance to develop the magazine, from coming up with a title to editing the works.
“That first year with the literary magazine, I think she submitted 10 poems. It was clear that this was something she had a passion for. She’s pretty talented,” Davis said.
So, after Davis announced that he couldn’t lead the club this year, the senior decided to take it over.
“She wasn’t the first one to express disappointment that I wasn’t going to run a literary magazine this year. . . .There were a couple [students] who thought about getting it off the ground but I guess that fell through. She was the only one who took off with it,” Davis said.
“I wanted to be in it again [and] I had a lot of friends who just enjoyed it. It's a magazine for people who are really nervous to communicate [with] people in person. They can share their talents without having to do that stressful interaction," Smarro said.
Over the last few months, she’s been collecting submissions and sharing the news that the club and the magazine are marching on. She’s made flyers, spread the word on the school’s announcements and spoken up about it in classes.
When The Gazette spoke with her earlier this week, she had around 50 submissions and other students in the club to help carry the load.
That included Emma Lindenfelser, a sophomore who regretted not submitting her artwork for the magazine her freshman year. Last year’s magazine, called “Mosaic,” was about 140 pages long, each packed with short stories, poems, photography and other works.
"It's a great chance for kids to get their artwork out there. They can leave it anonymous if they want. If they're just [getting] into their talent, this is a great way for them to start out. Last year, everybody loved it. They really were trying to get their hands on [a copy]," Lindenfelser said.
Davis agreed. “Everyone wanted one. We had it everywhere, all over the school, the classrooms, [the] Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady carried it.”
Smarro is switching things up this year in terms of content. In previous years, the magazine had exclusively featured the work of Schenectady High School students, but this time, Smarro opened the submissions up to faculty and staff as well.
While the magazine has been rewarding to work on, both Smarro and Lindenfelser found that it’s been difficult to get other students to take them seriously.
“Getting it off the ground has been tough. Even though I'm a very open person, kids still don't want to listen to a kid. I'll tell them repeatedly [to submit work] and they're just like ‘uh-huh,’ and never do it,” Smarro said.
According to Davis, it was difficult to get students to submit work in the past too. He had to encourage students time and time again, which was time-consuming.
Nonetheless, Smarro and Lindenfelser are making progress. They’ve formed a literary magazine club and are encouraging others to join and help proofread the submissions and put the magazine together.
Davis is still assisting them, as is another English teacher at the high school, Lori Dempf. In the coming months, Smarro will work with Davis to print the magazine at the school district’s duplication office. In either May or June, 300 copies of the magazine, which is titled “Diversity,” will be distributed by students around the school, as well as around Schenectady.
“We give them to all the libraries in the county and this year I'm going to all the theater companies,” Smarro.
At this time, Smarro and Lindenfelser are looking for more poems and short stories from students and teachers/faculty at Schenectady High School. The deadline to submit is Jan. 20.
Those who want to submit work or join the club can email Smarro at [email protected]
“People really need to look past the reputation that's [given] to our school and find the treasure that's here because there's so many kids . . . that are talented and this is such a good representation of it,” Lindenfelser said.