Returning editors adapt during quarantine, prepare for new year

Rachel Wolkoff, Copy & Design Chief

Editor-in-Chief Ricky Podgorski

Editor-in-Chief senior Ricky Podgorski has been a part of the Journalism class for three years. Over quarantine, Podgorski took advantage of the outdoors and fished with friends. Despite the uncertainty of winter sports, Podgorski also utilized his surplus of free time to practice basketball for the upcoming season.

Podgorski works closely with Martinez to organize the class while communicating closely with other returning students.

“We are continuing to use our problem-solving skills as we tackle the balance between remote and in-person learning. For our consumers like students and teachers, our social media platforms have been huge, as we post daily on all of them,” Podgorski said.

While at home last spring the 9:05 News pioneered new strategies to hold virtual interviews, which the class still utilizes today, along with reformatting The Voice’s website and a total rebranding. Podgorski was instrumental in keeping the news afloat.

Managing Editor Hollis Tharpe

Senior Hollis Tharpe is a third-year returning student and Managing Editor this year. As Managing Editor, he is second-in-command.

During the summer, Tharpe learned a variety of new games such as chess and poker. These games helped him pass the time and allowed him to stay connected with his friends. After mastering chess, however, neither his friends nor his family wanted to play against him anymore, so he does not play as much.

“My goal this year is to support the younger students in this course because even though I will graduate at the end of the year The Voice will still exist at FHS, and I want to see it continue the success we have had in the past few years,” Tharpe said.

Opinions Editor Sydney Bigelow

Sophomore Sydney Bigelow is not only Opinions Editor, but only the second high school student to start Journalism freshman year.

Bigelow has taught new students the structure of opinion and review pieces. She hopes that her classmates value the importance of collaboration and interaction, something she came to appreciate during quarantine.

“I became closer with my family and friends and I learned to expand my relationships. Using virtual communication, I was able to strengthen old and new relationships, supporting myself and other people in my community during such difficult times,” Bigelow said.

It is lessons like these and about the importance of community that she hopes to transfer into the Journalism classroom this year and prepares to say goodbye to the seven returning senior editors.

Social Media Manager Sophia Bottalico

Senior and second-year Journalism student Sophia Bottalico is this year’s Social Media Manager. She leads the class in always ensuring that The Voice’s social media platforms and website continue to have meaningful content.

“My goal for The Voice’s social media is to become more engaging to all audiences while still being the voice of all FHS students,” Bottalico said.

Bottalico says she found a new love and appreciation for working out every day, along with a new addition to her family, her “quarantine puppy,” which kept her family occupied during quarantine.

The hybrid set-up for school has pushed Bottalico to work hard to get content needed for social media. However, it has also allowed her the opportunity to work collaboratively with students in the opposite cohort while she is online.

Creative Director Cullen Laberge

COVID-19 has forced all classes, teachers, and students to adapt and think outside-of-the-box. For this reason, a new position was crated for senior Cullen Laberge: Creative Director.

According to Laberge, the staff ’s ability to think quickly and adapt to new situations is what helped them thrive during quarantine.

“In the long term that quick thinking helped the paper tremendously while moving towards great content and a lasting connection to FHS students,” Laberge said.

In order to stay connected to his friends and family, Laberge utilized tools such as Google Meets and social media. This allowed him to not only maintain his relationships within the community, but to develop them on a more personal level. Laberge plans to use his role as Creative Director in order to create unique ideas that the class will be able to use in the years to come.

Broadcast Coordinator Khrystyna Stets

Senior Khrystyna Stets is a third-year journalism student who is acting as the Broadcast Coordinator this year, though she is also an active staff writer. This course has helped Stets not only with her writing ability but also her intrapersonal skills.

Stets attributed her newfound hobby, running, to helping her stay sane and healthy during quarantine. Gradually increasing the amount she ran, Stets completed a half marathon. Looking forward, Stets hopes to “not catch senioritis anytime soon.”

Stets helps organize virtual and physical interviews with the proper safety regulations. In order to adapt to hybrid learning the 9:05 News consists of both online interviews and socially distanced in-person interviews to include both in-person students and those at home. The in-person interviews consist of a microphone on a stretched out holder that allows for reporters and interviewees to remain socially distant with masks.

Sports Editor John Guererra

This year’s Sports Editor is tackling his role in the Journalism course from an all online perspective. Senior John Guererra not only has stepped up this year as an editor but also debuted his talents in sports anchoring as the host of the weekly “Sports Update.”

“The most important thing I learned during quarantine was how much I valued social interaction. Not being able to see friends and family was disappointing; however, spending time with them in the future will be even more exciting and meaningful,” Guererra said.

Over quarantine, Guererra attempted to learn guitar, which “did not pan out,” though it was a good distraction from the state of the world around him.

Being one of the few all online students that holds an editor position, Guererra has stressed the importance in his school experience, to keep a stable routine, stay organized, and plan ahead in order to not only be successful but also get work done in a timely manner.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Vic Wilczak

Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor Victoria Wilczak is a second-year journalism student who is attending school from home. Journalism has many elements of independence that Wilczak has honed in on in order to continue to be successful in the class, despite being all online.

As of now, Wilczak is trying to manage the stress involved with her future college plans and preparations.

“Sometimes I took social media for granted and saw it as something negative; however, these circumstances have taught me to see the positives of social media and just how much closer it can bring you to someone else and your community as a whole,” Wilczak said.

Advisor MJ Martinez

Journalism teacher of eight years MJ Martinez emphasizes that her role in journalism, unlike other classes, is to do whatever is needed of her in order to support the great student leaders of the course. 

During quarantine and the summer, Martinez spent much of her time teaching virtual Zumba classes and  learning in her doctorate program. The start of the school year, with the new hybrid model, caused a lot of stress and anxiety for Martinez; however, this experience has validated her belief that she has an extremely hard working group of reporters who can rise to the occasion.

Martinez describes this year’s Journalism class as not just a “a real newsroom with high energy and fast-paced reporting, editing, laying out” but a classroom where “ultimately, there is a lot of love.” 

Building off of last year’s Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s critique is the main goal for this year as it is for most. Last year, the publication won its fifth gold medal and its first Crown Award for the 2018-2019 school year.  By deciding to take a risk and allow a much larger number of students into the class compared to past years, Martinez hopes to achieve this goal and even establish a more well-defined online presence. As the school year progresses it is her hope that every student finds their own pathway in Journalism.

“The Journalism classroom did a lot for my confidence in high school. While I didn’t go into Journalism as a profession, as a Journalism teacher, I hope to give students that opportunity to find their own voice. In expanding the class, we better the chances of having students find their niche and develop a genuine love for communicating with the larger community. I think this is especially important in a world where we have come to not trust the media,” Martinez said.