Attending North East School of the Arts with more than 400 peers in seven different majors is mesmerizing. You want to be a part of everything, know everyone, and breathe in as much as you can before your time there is up. Most of the time, you’re so wrapped up in your own work, you’re clueless as to what is happening in the community around you.

I wanted to change that.

So I drafted a plan, teamed up with my friend Marisa Barrera, and set out to build NESA News, a student-run newspaper produced and distributed at the Robert E. Lee High School campus, which includes NESA, the International School of the Americas, and the STEM Academy. For now, our content is specifically tailored to our high school – we cover school and community affairs, mental health, and NESA students’ achievements in the arts.

However, we plan to expand distribution to other schools and parts of the local arts community, particularly as we work to promote artistic activities surrounding San Antonio’s Tricentennial. We’re also working on a website, so our publication can go digital and reach more readers.

While the arts scene at NESA and Lee High School is strong, I noticed a lack of integration and intermingling of the school’s different majors. This observation helped form NESA News’ mission statement, “Enriching the arts community.” Our goal is to unite the campus arts community by creating a forum for students’ thoughts and ideas, while spreading inspirational messages.

The NESA News team includes me, the founder and co-editor; Marisa Barrera, publisher and co-editor; Dillon Reyes, manager of writing; Maeve Armand, secretary; and Katerina Damm, treasurer. We don’t have any permanent staff writers, so we rely on multiple contributors to fill our pages with newsworthy content.

The NESA News team, from left, Clayton Anderson, Dillon Reyes, Maeve Armand, Marisa Barrera (Katerina Damm not pictured).
The NESA News team, from left, Clayton Anderson, Dillon Reyes, Maeve Armand, Marisa Barrera (Katerina Damm not pictured). Credit: Courtesy / Emma Muñoz

Once we had formulated a plan, we began putting our words into action.

First we scoured local newspaper La Prensa for design ideas. Format is one of the most important criteria for a publication, especially one for high school students. Even if  a publication’s content is brilliant or even life-changing, the average high school student isn’t going to read it unless it looks interesting. Marisa and I agreed that our paper’s design had to appeal visually if we wanted our peers to read it.

The concept of judging a book by its cover can be unforgiving, but I’ve found that I thrive in having to adapt to this societal vice. It’s like a game: Will I trick readers into elevating their minds by playing into what they find appealing? Or will they trick me into pouring my heart into a newspaper, only for them to ignore it? I like games like that. They’re high risk, but also high reward. Who wins is simply based on who works harder, and Marisa and I had already decided it was going to be us.

For the publication’s debut, we decided to write a “welcome” edition to help new students learn the ropes of our often-hectic school. We started by emailing interview questions to NESA’s faculty members.

Waiting weeks for responses quickly reminded us that while our ideas were boundless, time was an unapologetic constraint. Though the pressure was binding, the workload was no match for our drive and passion. We were going to get those interviews, make the paper look stunning, and find a way to do it all by the beginning of school. We gave ourselves no option for failure.

Maybe everyone should adopt that mindset. After all, what’s the point of trying anything if you accept the possibility of failure?

One month later, with the first edition formatted and ready to go, Marisa and I stood in the copy room, ready to print our baby. We operate on a low budget, so we use school resources to print for free. We repeatedly placed the NESA secretary’s ID badge on the printer to give us access, but the villainous machine had other plans. Beep after beep, we became more and more frustrated.

As Marisa left to go get help, I stood there alone, smiling and staring at the printer. The room smelled of fresh copy paper and other office supplies. We were so close to realizing our project, and I could already feel an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment.

When the printer finally cooperated, I picked up our master copy and read through it again. Perfect. Every word, every layout, every picture was simply perfect. I ran my finger along the smooth texture of the laser printer ink, savoring its slightly sticky touch. I am a storyteller in whatever form. I am an actor, journalist, and human
being. And I will tell stories until I die.

Clayton Anderson is a junior musical theater major at North East School of the Arts at Lee High School. He is the founder and co-editor of his school’s student-run newspaper, NESA News.