During the last 10 years, one of the most important parts of my job as publisher of The Gazette and Gina Rullo’s job as Editor-in-Chief has been interacting with the Fourth Grade Enrichment Students at Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School. Each year, we speak with them about how The Gazette is made each week.
Then, we name them all “Deputy Gazette Journalists” and let them know they will be writing articles for The Gazette that will have their names in bylines on each of those articles in one of our upcoming editions.
This week, the first group of “Deputy Gazette Journalists” have their articles printed in the Our Town section beginning on page 35. The next group will have their articles printed in the paper’s Our Town section on June 9.
Gina and I always look forward to meeting with the students and their teachers at the elementary school. This year the teachers included Mea Lupinetti, Joe Martino, Allison Fedga (in for Renee’ Clark) and Desiree Downes (in for Kristin Cavalucci). In previous years, we met in the school library during the day, and the energy and excitement was always evident in the room.
When the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its restrictions happened, Gina and I took to Zoom meetings with the students and teachers—and I’m pleased to report that there was no downturn in the energy and excitement of the students and their teachers.
There were still plenty of insightful questions about how newspapers work (they always like to hear Gina and I talk about how it’s printed and how we use technology to produce the paper, our website and our Digital Edition). We have a lot of back and forth with them regarding the topics of the articles. We suggest four different topics, and then the students pick one of them and create an article.
We’re always impressed by the students’ writing, and the creativity they put into the articles. We’re always pleased to put them in The Gazette with their names over the title “Gazette Contributing Writer.”
During the last decade, we have heard from some of our former “Deputy Gazette Journalists.” Being a part of the newspaper when they were younger was a big deal for them—they always make sure to remind us that their articles were once in The Gazette.
We’re proud of them, too.
Education, at its best, provides moments where people connect with ideas and concepts in a meaningful way that stays with them as they advance through life. The learning that sticks with people isn’t always taught solely out of a book or in a classroom. Sometimes it happens when students encounter people who have experience in a particular field and want to share that experience with the next generation.
Who knows? Maybe one of the students whose article you read on the pages of The Gazette this week or next week may become an award-winning journalist. Maybe one of our former students may write articles, or a book, or a play, or a movie someday.
Thanks to the dedicated teachers and administration at Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School and the Enrichment program (of which this columnist was a student when he attended Hammonton Elementary School in the early 1980s), students of the last decade have had the opportunity to interact with the publisher and editor of a local newspaper.
We always tell these students—the pride of the next generation of Hammonton—that their writing makes a difference. Because it does.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.