Pisgah High Millennials ready to voice their opinions

op frSomewhere at this very moment, a political science major is writing a dissertation on why young people these days are so apathetic with regard to politics and the issues. In the 2014 election, for example, slightly less than 20 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 29 cast a ballot. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that is the “lowest youth turnout rate ever recorded in a federal election.”

The perception of apathy among the Millennial generation is so widespread that it has almost become a cliché. But don’t tell that to Pisgah High junior Hannah Ensley. Not only does Hannah care about the issues young people are facing today, she is actually doing something about it. While many of her peers are busy perfecting a posture of cynicism — or working on getting to the next level of whatever video game is popular this week — Hannah is busy organizing and raising money to start a school newspaper. Even so, she is not convinced that the apathy label is a fair one for her generation.

“Personally, I don’t believe that apathy is the problem,” she said. “From what I have seen, most high school level kids and millennials in general do not stay informed or get involved in today’s issues because they feel that even if they want to, they cannot make a difference. I have noticed a striking sense of isolation and hopelessness when discussing such issues with my peers. Many feel that since they are young, they cannot make an impact, and the enormity of the problems our society faces are often overwhelming.”

Sounds like the beginning of a great editorial, doesn’t it?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Hannah lives in our neighborhood and approached me for some advice about the paper over the summer. We talked about her vision for the paper then, and I came away genuinely impressed not only with her passion for journalism and the written word in general — she is a big fan of George Orwell — but with her ambition and determination to make her vision a reality. School had barely begun, and she already had recruited a faculty advisor, secured the blessing of the principal, and assembled most of her staff. She had researched other school newspapers, weighed the pros and cons of publishing in print and online, and considered the differences between two of the online high school papers that she liked in particular.

“Most who know me would likely tell you that I am a very opinionated person,” she said. “I like to get involved in things I’m passionate about and try to make a difference. I think a huge part of that is having your voice heard, and when I realized that our school didn’t have a newspaper, I felt that it could be a way for our student body to have a voice. I also saw how our major sports were so extensively covered in the local news, but other aspects of our school didn’t get as much recognition. This would be a great way to inform people about all the wonderful things about our school that are often overlooked.”

She is excited about the staff and the support they have received from the school, though they cannot really get up and running until they are able to raise the money for the online template. The start-up fee is $300, with an annual subscription fee of $300 to publish the paper.

Hannah has started a Go Fund Me campaign in hopes of raising enough money to pay the initiation fee and to publish the paper this year and next year. So far, the fund is up to $290. With the deplorably tight budget that North Carolina public schools are faced with year after year, there is little else she can do other than to raise the money herself. In a just world, schools would subsidize a school paper as readily as they subsidize sports, but in this one she’ll need help from the community to get the paper on its feet.

“Our most pressing issue is funding, since we cannot get properly started until we have access to the website we plan to use,” she admitted. “The school’s response to my efforts to start this paper has been extremely positive, and the support of the faculty and other students has made this endeavor much easier, and very exciting!”

Hannah has not yet decided on where she will attend college, or what she plans to major in when she gets there, although med school or a doctorate in psychology are possibilities. Whatever she does, she plans to continue pursuing her passion for journalism by working with the school paper.

“I’ve been interested in writing for as long as I can remember, and I love the fact that journalism gives people a voice on issues that matter to them,” she said. “I would absolutely love to stay involved in journalism in college.”

If you are interested in contributing to Hannah’s Go Fund Me site, the link is https://www.gofundme.com/xpz2cs. Or you can make donations directly to Pisgah High School at 1 Black Bear Drive, Canton, N.C., 28716. Just make sure that the check you send is designated for the school paper. These students and their efforts deserve our support.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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