Grand County High School student Duncan Clark created this artwork to complement his article “Celebratory difference” about his experiences as a student on the autism spectrum published in the 2021 issue of The Devil’s Advocate. [Courtesy image]

Grand County High School journalism students have proudly published their yearly news magazine The Devil’s Advocate, and this year it’s online for the first time. Sophomore Lillian Scott put in extra hours outside of class to bring the magazine onto the Canva platform.

Journalism teacher Alanna Simmons-Cameron said it was Scott’s idea to digitalize the magazine.

“She said, ‘I know that we printed this visually stunning news magazine last year, but I don’t think a lot of people read it or heard about it,’” Simmons-Cameron recalled.

Scott said she worked 30-40 hours outside of class time to perfect the online version, with the hope that more students would access it.

“Looking back, it doesn’t seem like it was that much time—but it was all I did in my free time for a few weeks,” Scott said of the work. “It’s important to me because I love that we have this great outlet for students’ ideas and emotions; bringing more attention to what we believe in and how we see the world is something I deeply value. I hope the magazine’s reader base will continue to grow with each new issue!”

Simmons-Cameron said The Devil’s Advocate used to be a monthly publication in a traditional newspaper format funded by advertising. That format meant that a teacher was taking on many aspects of production. Simmons-Cameron took over the journalism class four years ago, and, she said,

“We moved it into a student-run, student-created publication with the goal less about a perfect end product and more about student leadership, student growth and student ownership.”

To achieve that, she and the students changed The Devil’s Advocate to a once-a-year publication showcasing feature articles and appealing design. Simmons-Cameron applied for and received a grant from the State Trust Lands Committee for $500 to cover publishing costs, so students could focus on journalism and design skills rather than the marketing skill of securing advertisers.

Throughout the year, journalism students submitted topic proposals and wrote two articles. Simmons-Cameron helped them learn skills like developing an angle, making professional interview requests, and keeping an open mind while learning about a topic, as well as crafting leads and structuring writing. The final product includes nine feature articles on topics ranging from holding down a job as a student to the experiences (“Pick up your paycheck!” by Jade Sims) to the perspective of a Grand County highschooler on the autism spectrum (“Celebratory difference,” by Duncan Clark.

“A parent reached out to me and told me that Duncan Clark’s article on “Celebratory Difference” had a positive impact on her young son who also has high functioning autism,” said Simmons-Cameron. “That really moved me, and Duncan, too. And that opportunity happened due to the digital format which was able to reach more people with great ease.”

Clark also wrote a piece on creativity called “Creativity: Humans’ milk and honey.” Student Tanyon Griffith wrote one piece about falling in love and how reality may not match up to idealized expectations, and another about the history of blue jeans. Emma Rockwell, a student who creates and sells artwork locally and online, wrote about her growth as a working artist in a piece called “Making a Life from Art.” Student athlete Anika Scherer wrote a persuasive piece about high school athletic regulations called “Why limit play?” Student Willow Nichols wrote a piece recounting the challenges of staging a high school musical during the pandemic called “COVID: we choose to fight it musically.”

Scott wrote a piece called “Stress!” about what makes students stressed and ways to cope with it.

“This year added a lot of extra burdens to everyone’s shoulders,” Scott said. She was looking for a topic for her feature that could help her fellow students. “Stress seemed like a topic most everyone could relate to, so I tried my best to make it as helpful as I could!” she said, noting that she stresses about the future and difficult decisions.

“I find it helpful to take a step back and realize how minor the issue may be, or how it’ll be over in a short time. It always makes me feel better when I think that whatever I’m going through has the potential to help me grow as a person and/or experience new things,” Scott said.

Students also contributed artwork to the magazine, and the cover art was designed by student Kyla Jackman, the Grand County High School Visual Arts Sterling Scholar for the 2020-2021 school year.

Simmons-Cameron said the journalism class brainstormed ideas for the cover and landed on the idea of an image showing a diverse group of students standing in solidarity.

“The goal was to show that while we are diverse, at our best, we celebrate each others’ differences and are stronger for them,” said Simmons-Cameron. “And to show that we rally together.”

Jackman was not in the journalism class, but took on the task of creating the cover.

“Kyla is an amazing listener and a very talented artist,” said Simmons-Cameron. “She really took this raw, good idea and, well, made art!”

The online version of the 2021 issue of The Devil’s Advocate can be viewed at Print copies of the magazine are in every classroom at the high school, and everyone who contributed to its production received a copy. In the future, Simmons-Cameron said there may be copies available for sale at a local bookstore, and past issues may at some time be loaded onto a digital platform. She plans to remain adaptable and is excited to see what ideas students will bring to the table next year. She keeps print copies of the previous year’s issue so each year’s journalism class can see what was done the prior year.

“I like them to kind of see the arc and what they’re inheriting,” she said, noting that the project-based learning model allows student leaders to step up and make their ideas become reality.

“That’s something I’ve really loved over the years,” she said.