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NORMAL — Truth seekers and creative thinkers have contributed to a longstanding publication at Normal Community High School, and this year’s class is no exception.

The student-led newspaper, The Inkspot, is celebrating 70 years of high school reporting, and students are eager to keep the paper thriving.

“Having a newspaper with stories about the students highlights the strength of our entire school. It provides an extra layer of community and helps people learn more about each other,” said Melissa Schill, NCHS senior and Inkspot editor-in-chief.

The Inkspot was first published in the 1947-48 school year, before McLean County Unit 5 was founded as a district, but the paper has roots back to 1896 when NCHS was Normal Public High School.

Today, it is staffed by students in Brad Bovenkerk’s elective journalism classes and stories are published on www.NCHSInkspot.com.

“A news source should be representative of its community and the school paper gives a voice to every kid in the building,” said Bovenkerk.

The paper ceased the print edition in 2012 but elevated its online presence, especially on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

To celebrate 70 years of content, the students are hoping to return to print, producing a 12-page publication to share with students and staff once a year.

“There are probably a large number of students who don’t know we have a newspaper because there isn’t a tangible copy to grab. We’re going back to print because it has this element of tradition. With a school this size and district this old, there’s still value in tradition,” said Bovenkerk.

He said the creators have a goal to blend print and digital. Students in the journalism classes can work on in-depth reporting for print and churn out quicker stories for the web.

Senior Ashleigh Brady, Inkspot sports editor, said contributing to the paper gives her freedom to write about her interests and gain interviewing experience.

“I wrote about the Illinois State University homecoming football game. I got to sit in the press box and go to the press conference. Being in that environment was a preview of what I’d like to do in college,” said Brady, who plans to major in communication and minor in journalism.

Senior Keyairah Sinclair, managing editor for the paper, said she prefers to write feature stories or opinion pieces.

“I try to stay focused on what the student body is focused on. If people are talking about the dress code or blood drive, that’s what I write about. I like to answer their questions after doing research and talking to administrators,” said Sinclair.

Bovenkerk said the students who are most successful are “naturally curious.”

“They’re being journalists all the time,” he said. “They are being representative of their fellow high schoolers.”

Students can contribute to The Inkspot through writing, photography, graphic design and marketing, but Bovenkerk said he always makes an effort to tie assignments back to English and critical thinking.

“Journalism class gives them a voice. Most of these 16- and 17-year-olds don’t have a place to share their voice in eloquent and insightful ways,” said Bovenkerk. “These kids are the future voters, doctors and lawyers in our community. If they understand civic duty, the Constitution and the First Amendment now, that has a lot of value.”

The journalism students are working to raise enough money to cover the $574 price tag to print 1,500 copies of The Inkspot in March.

Several upcoming fundraisers are open to the public at local restaurants. Proceeds from meals purchased at the following times and locations will be donated to the cause:

  • 4-8 p.m. Feb. 25 at Chipotle, 1601 E. College Ave., Normal
  • 4-8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Panera Bread, 208 Greenbriar Drive, Normal
  • 5-8 p.m. March 1 at Portillo’s, 202 Landmark Drive, Normal

Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for The Pantagraph.

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