By Mary Pritchard
Northborough/Southborough – While the end of a school year brings many opportunities to showcase student work, there is a unique way some talents are exhibited at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS). All year, a group of students gathers each Wednesday after school to create their award-winning magazine, “Sachem.”
Published each June, Sachem is a compilation of students” writing and artwork. The magazine features photography, sculptures, ceramics, short stories, poetry and more. Sachem, a long-standing tradition at ARHS, dates back at least to 1968. According to Jen Zuba, teacher and Sachem advisor for the last three years, the magazine was originally published twice a year and the name, which means Algonquin Indian Chief, acknowledges the fact that ARHS is built on land once owned by Native Americans.
Emily Champagne, Melissa Taing, and Katie Wilson, editors of the magazine, were among Sachem staff members who spent three days in New York City in March at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) conference. The ARHS participants
learned additional publishing skills and, for the second year, were awarded the CSPA Silver Award.
“With our award, we received a very detailed critique of our magazine,” Wilson, Sachem's managing editor, said. “The critique is a tool for us. We were just points away from winning the gold, so we were able to make changes to this year's magazine in response to the critique. Sachem has become so much more for me than just an after-school club. It's something different that I do purely for enjoyment. I like being able to teach the other staff about the magazine and techniques they can apply to make it better.”
In the past, each year's theme was determined after the staff saw student submissions. However, this year editors chose a topic and asked students to create and submit pieces with the premise in mind. This year's theme, “Teenage Wanderlust,” was described by Sachem editors as “what we love in our life.”
Sachem, a piece of art in and of itself, is printed in a limited edition of 400 copies. Staff members sift through 300 to 350 submissions and strive to keep the artwork and copy balanced in the magazine.
“We strive for a linear, continuous flow of our theme throughout the magazine,” Taing, the graphics and design editor, said. “We look at elements of artwork and writing to bind it all together. I stumbled upon the magazine freshman year and it has become a part of who I am. It's really cool to make something out of nothing and to help people get their art out and recognized. I'se experienced personal growth and the staff is like an extended family – Sachem is everything.”
The staff also works on fund-raising as the cost to print this full-color magazine, which can be seen at the Northborough and Southborough public libraries, continues to rise, while the budget remains the same. This year, Sachem received a $350 grant from the Northborough Cultural Council, which is part of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
“Being a part of Sachem means you’re helping to keep literature alive and well,” Champagne, the writing editor, said. “It's an honor to do this; I think everyone on our staff can feel it, and so can the kids whose works get noticed through us. As an editor, I get to oversee the creation of this beautiful, meaningful magazine and watch it come to life – that's an even better feeling.”