Written August 2011
We started Wolves Weekly in the first month of our sophomore year. Terri came up with the idea over the summer. Together with several other friends, the idea was conceived. Wolves Weekly would be a school newspaper entirely independent from the rag the school put out. It would have information and articles that students actually cared about.
An interview with Johnny Diaz about why he disappeared for a month last year. An honest editorial page putting value on what we learn in the halls versus what we learn in the class. Briefs on new couples accompanied real reactions. Briefs on breaks ups, the truth about what happened, and how to avoid it in your relationship.
But the heart of the Wolves Weekly would come from the interviews. High school is a place where people come without knowing who they truly are. We do stupid and thrilling things just to prove to ourselves that we are alive. Through those experiences, we start to understand who we are. Those were the stories we would tell. We would vindicate the world our classmates only traveled to in their memories.
Terri knew our greatest obstacle with the students would be gaining the trust needed to do interviews. She also knew that the greatest threat was the school administration. That was a given. We spent weeks creating an in-depth business plan and presented it to her father. In order for Wolves Weekly to be taken seriously, it needed to be two things: professional looking and free. Terri’s father owned an independent printing press. He was our only hope.
Although he was afraid of what the school administration would do, he was too impressed to turn us away. We spent the rest our summer gathering the necessary journalists. Many signed on immediately. Others waited until after the first issue came out. We were fine with that. It took us a month to put out the first issue. That was expected. It was harder to get honest interviews when no one understood what we were doing.
The first issue of Wolves Weekly was something to be proud of. We presented relevant news to the students of Creston High without talking down to them. With our first issue behind us, there were few people who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to be interviewed. We were succeeding. More importantly, we were doing good. We brought a sense of community to the school that could not be broken by any outside power.
After the third issue published, we were on autopilot. The paper looked good. New ideas for articles were discussed openly and brought to a vote. The journalists were doing better at bringing their stories to life. Putting the paper in order for the printer became second nature. I spent most my evenings in Terri’s basement—which had become the central office of Wolves Weekly.
Terri held me back one night after the others had left. I assumed we were going to talk about the direction Wolves Weekly needed to take next. That was what we normally did when it was just the two of us. That wasn’t the case. She told me that the process was starting. Ms. Walhalla, the teacher in charge of the school’s newspaper, had met with the principal that afternoon. We did our best to go over the game plan we had devised alongside our business plan. We were ready for this before the school year even started. We knew what we wanted and we knew how to fight for it.
Terri got called into the front office the next day. Her father was waiting for her. I cut English just so that I could wait for her. The meeting lasted only ten minutes. The result was nothing we didn’t expect. They acknowledged that they had no authority to shut us down. They did, however, make it clear that we were no longer allowed to distribute Wolves Weekly on school property. We expected this. We also knew that it was a death sentence if we abided by it.
The fourth issue of Wolves Weekly was printed that night (with a new front page story). The next day, Terri distributed the paper during lunch hour. Alone. The other journalists and I watched. We usually helped her distribute the paper. But we couldn’t all get suspended. Terri was taken to the principal’s office.
The moment we got word that she was suspended, we returned to the lunchroom. It was packed—as always when a new Wolves Weekly arrived. I stood up on one of the tables. The whole place went quiet. Respect. That was something I never would have received before Wolves Weekly brought us together. We had created something remarkable. Something we could not lose. I told them this. I told them that so long as we stood as one, they could not destroy what we had created. They understood. I was talking about a community, not a newspaper.
I led them out to the front lawn. We spent the rest of the school day discussing everyday problems. We talked about things that we discussed in every issue of Wolves Weekly. They were completely engaged. It was the learning experience we all strived for but school failed to present to us. With the final bell, I told them to meet back at the front lawn the next morning. We would continue until they undid Terri’s suspension and allowed us to distribute Wolves Weekly on school property.
As everybody left, I was escorted to the principal’s office. My parents were waiting. They weren’t upset. They were worried. Principal Walden explained that he could not have another walkout. He threatened to expel me. I gave him our terms. He contemplated his response far longer than I expected. I didn’t know what his answer would be. After what I had experienced on the front lawn, however, I didn’t care. We had already won. His only choice was whether or not he wanted to be a part of it.