Oceanside High’s The Driftwood newspaper is back
OCEANSIDE — Print isn’t dead and neither, it seems, is the idea that if you can dream it, you can do it, in Jo Brinkman’s classroom at Oceanside High School.
That much was apparent this school year when Brinkman created the Driftwood Journalism Club and brought back the school’s newspaper The Driftwood after the school’s journalism class had been canceled and the paper placed on hiatus several years ago.
The Driftwood’s final issue for this school year rolled off the printers just in time to preview prom and address the anxieties of finals.
But what makes this story interesting is not so much the paper’s revival, but that the majority of the newsroom staff is made up of English language learners.
Brinkman has been teaching English language learners for 15 years now.
On a personal level, Brinkman said that there was a lot of negativity surrounding English language learners.
She said she knew she could help students with their writing and get them inspired and that a newspaper was maybe a way to do that.
Brinkman, who’s always had an interest in reading and writing, knew what kind of doors those skills could open.
And being the first girl in her family to go to college and beyond, she could recognize the talent in the students she was teaching.
“I know there’s so much talent, and I see in these kids what I felt myself, and what I would hope that I can offer them (is) to encourage them because maybe they won’t get that in any other classes because they’re shy and quiet,” Brinkman said.
She knew also that it was something that she wanted to prove they could do even though they didn’t have the money.
Without any training in journalism or even the know-how to put out a newspaper, they began their endeavor.
“We started with this little rag-tag group of students, and our first paper — OK, not the greatest —but I’m so proud of all of them,” Brinkman said.
There were four issues this year, and each time the papers would get better and better, Brinkman explained.
Every Monday, for a half-an-hour during lunch, the Driftwood Journalism Club would meet, trying to put out a newspaper with whatever material they could find.
Managing Editor Jing Cheng now knows all too well the stresses of deadlines, but about the newspaper, she said, anyone could write and contribute. “Many times we have actually (had) English language learners send articles to us and we would try and fix it. So it’s not like a professional paper only thing,” Cheng said.
Cheng, a junior from China, has been in the U.S. for three years.
“Jing is like the little star pupil because she excels in everything and she tries so hard with her English,” Brinkman said. “That’s what she keeps saying, ‘That’s what’s holding me back in my writing.’”
And Cheng was really shy, added Brinkman, who told her that working on the paper would help her.
The newspapers included a myriad of content, from recipes to movie lists to poetry and personal stories.
In their very first issue, they launched an investigative piece seeking to find out the history of The Driftwood.
Every question they asked: “Who started it,” “When did it start,” would come up empty, Brinkman said.
But when they published what little information they had about the paper’s history, Brinkman started to receive emails from people that were able to shed more light on it.
They followed up with a more detailed story in a later issue.
Another story that got some attention questioned why the school’s new soap dispensers in the bathrooms weren’t working.
“They immediately got fixed after,” Brinkman said.
“When I joined (the journalism club) I was able to write and express my opinions and provide students with certain information that’s going on around the school,” said 10th grader Nicole Quiroz.
When asked why she thought that was important, Quiroz said, “Because a lot of kids don’t know what’s going on.”
In one of her articles, “The Redesigned SAT,” appearing in the final issue this year, she said that a lot of the students did not know of the test’s changes.
“Just being able to give students information and to make them a little bit smarter on a certain topic, I think that’s very important, so students aren’t just lost and not knowing,” she said.
Brinkman didn’t have any funding when she started the club; she was begging to find funds where she could.
And then a grant, the 21st Century Assets grant, came through for them.
“That gave us a door, a portal into money,” she said.
With the school year coming to a close, she’s been promised funding to continue the club next year, she said, though they’ll welcome any donations or advertisers.
“I am proud of these papers,” she said. “I am so proud of these kids.”
Donations may be sent to Oceanside High School, 1 Pirates Cove Way, Oceanside, Calif. 92054 c/o The Driftwood Journalism Club.