Clifton Hunter publishes student newspaper

From left, Clifton Hunter Principal Pauline Beckford, newspaper advisor Donett Nattoo and student journalists Gianni Jervis-Solomon and Cassidy Verona look over the first issue of Hunter News. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

A broken-down bus led to the first publication of a student newspaper at Clifton Hunter High School, which came off the presses on Thursday, just in time for graduation ceremonies.

Cassidy Verona, 11, said she was impressed by her bus driver’s efforts to help another bus driver fix his vehicle when it broke down one day on the way to school, so students could get to school. She told a friend they should start a student newspaper to tell such stories.

“I kind of like the news that is Caymanian,” Cassidy said. Her love of storytelling seemed an obvious fit, she said, and she enjoyed the process.

“I found it a lot of fun,” she said. “It feels like I was working on something that was really important. People need to learn how to read and enjoy reading.”

English teacher and librarian Donett Nattoo served as adviser to the newly formed Newspaper Club. She said students were enthusiastic, initially meeting every Wednesday and, as production neared deadline, spending their lunch breaks, free periods and even staying after school to complete the work.

“We wanted to get it out before we go off [for summer],” said Ms. Nattoo, who is in her first year at the school. “Cassidy is going off to England for school next year.”

She said neither she nor the kids had any experience with newspaperwork. Principal Pauline Beckford suggested the club take a tour of the operations at Pinnacle Media.

“It was really an eye-opener for the kids,” she said.

The inaugural issue of Hunter News included stories on student lobbying efforts to get government to eliminate plastics on Cayman, a fashion guide to the annual formal dance, food stories, poetry and an editorial page. The paper was printed by Pinnacle Media Ltd., which owns the Cayman Compass.

Gianni Jervis-Solomon, 12, said working on the student paper was a process that was both fun and challenging. It was worth the challenge, she said to give her peers good information.

“Sometimes people start really bad rumors,” Gianni said. “If we have the right news, there won’t be so much argument going on. Our information is going to be true. We want to get eyewitness news.”

Principal Beckford said having a school newspaper not only gives students a taste of the media, it also helps strengthen their writing as well as other skills.

“I’ve been trying to get this going for six years,” Ms. Beckford said. “It’s a dream come true.”