The Reborn Saint Luke School Times Newspaper Teaches Students the Importance of Journalism

From Left: Karter Dandrea (second grade), Liliana Tavarez (eighth grade), Stefania Amato (seventh grade), Luciano Amoroso (fourth grade), Elizabeth Gilmartin (fifth grade). They are among the newspaper staff for this year’s first edition of the Saint Luke School Times. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

WHITESTONE — At 6 a.m. each morning, Luciano Amoroso starts his day by turning on ABC7 New York. He’s curious about what’s happening in the world, and watches and listens to the newscast to learn about local and national events — and even the daily weather forecast. 

Even though he’s just a fourth grader at St. Luke School in Whitestone, Luciano understands the importance of journalism. “Without the news, everyone would lose their minds,” he explains. “No one would really exactly know what’s happening.”

So when Luciano learned that his school was resurrecting its student newspaper, he quickly applied to be a reporter. Now, he is a published staffer for the Saint Luke School Times, a print newspaper filled with drawings, photos, and articles created by the students from second to eighth grade. 

The paper’s staff recently published the first edition of the Saint Luke School Times since the pandemic, with 25 students participating, and included sections such as “Teachers Features,” community events, and entertainment news. 

The publication was the brainchild of Jan Brunswick, the school’s principal, who formed it in 2017, her second year at the helm of the school, because she sensed the potential for students to learn through their printed work. 

Members of the newspaper editorial team from the most recent edition. In each edition, different students are encouraged to participate. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

“It was something I had been involved with in high school, and had thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have that in elementary school level?’ So, in thinking about that, I wondered what was the best way to start it,” Brunswick said. 

What she decided to do was set up different roles for each of the students participating. Not everyone is a writer like herself, she said, but others can incorporate photography and drawings to the editions. From there, the Saint Luke School Times was born.

Publication was halted due to the pandemic, but it was resurrected this school year thanks to a grant from the Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust. The funding allowed the school to purchase a Canon camera, and covers part of the logistical costs of printing a newspaper, which is published once per trimester. 

“We have so many students that are interested in the newspaper that we often have way more volunteers than we can fit into one issue without it being more like an encyclopedia than a newspaper,” Brunswick said.

In Luciano’s article, he wrote about parish life, covering the youth choir at St. Luke. He interviewed four students who had recently joined the group. 

And he displays his passion for news in other ways around the school as well. Every day, he goes to a fifth grade teacher’s classroom to deliver the weather for the day, sometimes even bringing his laptop to show on-screen reports — to let them know if St. Luke students will get to go outside for recess.

“It was interesting to see the progression of how a student grows academically and in their writing,” Anthony Rau, the teacher who serves as supervisor for the newspaper, said of leading the handful of student journalists. Rau, the religion teacher for the upper three grades at St. Luke, added that he acts as the “liaison between the students and what gets printed.” 

In the publishing process, students pitch their own story ideas, and the selected illustrators enhance the articles with drawings. Elizabeth Gilmartin, a fifth grade student, was commissioned to draw a picture of Taylor Swift for the edition, a role she happily filled. A self-proclaimed “Swiftie,” Gilmartin drew her idol in the outfit she wore during the Eras Tour.

Elizabeth Gilmartin drew Taylor Swift for this edition of her school’s newspaper. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

“It’s really cool because everyone gets to contribute to what’s in the newspaper and what’s going to be there,” Elizabeth said.

Rau noted that writing for the newspaper offers the opportunity to teach the St. Luke students a necessary skill: media literacy, the ability to discern what is fact and what is fiction.

“I think by these guys doing something unbiased at this age, hopefully when they are consuming media, they will be able to look at it from that perspective — more of a holistic perspective,” he said.

The next edition of the St. Luke School Times will be out around Memorial Day, with another group of students coming in to write, illustrate, and learn about the purpose of journalism.