The Beacon: Giving Altamont Students A (Deep) Voice on the Issues of the Day

Caroline Reddington

Caroline Reddington

Monday, December 6, 2021
The Beacon: Giving Altamont Students A (Deep) Voice on the Issues of the Day

The first student-painted mural on the back wall of The Altamont School. Photo by Caroline Reddington.

The Altamont Beacon is a student journal that serves as a platform to give students a voice about pressing issues. Every year there will be a new theme or issue that is discussed in the journal. The idea of The Beacon was conceived in the year 2020, a year of battling a deadly virus, political tension, police brutality, as well as racial injustice. During this time, several Altamont students desired a platform to express their deep connection and passions about these issues and that was when the Beacon idea was put into action. The goal of the Beacon is ultimately to create a publication where students showcase their views about relevant or long-standing issues, but in any way that they see fit, leaving a lot of room for creativity. 

Beacon cofounder Dr. Alex Melonas says, “In response to ongoing diversity, inclusion, equity, and access initiatives (IDEA) at school, Ms. Daniels, Mr. Rediker, Ms. Dawson, Ms. Gillespie, and myself, along with Greyson Parham (’22) and Lilla Carroll (’21), founded The Altamont Beacon to give students an opportunity to document their feelings, beliefs, and ideas about events in the world that matter. As a teacher here, it is clear to me that our community is eager for some space to be able to do this kind of work. As one of our founding members, Lilla Carroll, put it in her introduction to the inaugural edition:

I, like many of my peers, spent the summer before this school year living at the intersection of extensive political protest and the distant knowledge that a return to school life was fast approaching. The latter felt impossible. Months of working against police brutality and navigating global uprising in an increasingly virus-stricken world had made me a different person—older, smarter, louder. It was not until a handful of my classmates and I came together to lead a series of student panels responding to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that I realized Altamont had changed, too … [t]hrough our clumsy first attempts at virtual conversation, I came to know a student body that was brimming with emotion, questions, and profound experience.

Our interview with Dr. Melonas and Beacon student board members Ariel Dean ('23) and Lucine Carsen ('24) follows:

What is the main mission, or what do you want readers to get out of The Beacon?

Alex Melonas: Lilla expresses the mission of The Altamont Beacon well. In response to ongoing protests stemming from the police murder of George Floyd in summer 2020, for our inaugural edition last year, for instance, we published poetry, essays, and artwork that took up the theme, ‘racial protest and uprising’. For our edition this year, the Editorial Board, which now includes Ariel Dean (’23) and Meghan Goyal (’22), have chosen ‘intersecting global crises’ as our theme, where, for instance, students might submit work that addresses how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global refugee crisis. 

One final thing we want to stress is how intentional we have been about making sure this is a schoolwide project, rather than something narrower like a history journal. We accept work
in a variety of forms, from poetry to formal research to philosophy to artwork.” 

How is this project important?

Ariel Dean: I believe that the Beacon is an important project because it allows students to share their opinions and meaningful thoughts on the events of the world, they live in. The opportunity that the Beacon gives to students is one that cannot really be found in other places, making it an important way to let us as young people express ourselves.

Why did you want to be a part of this publication/project?

Ariel: I wanted to be a part of the Beacon for many of the same reasons that I think it is an important project: it is a place where us students can express ourselves and have meaningful conversations about the world around us. But, in addition, I also wanted to be a part of the publication because I did it last year and I really enjoyed and learned a lot from creating my piece and reading other people's pieces. I became more involved in it this year because I wanted to learn more from my fellow students and help others do the same.

Lucine Carsen: I wanted to be a part of the Beacon because of how it accepts so many different kinds of pieces from different students and structures them around a single theme that speaks to relevant events, helping to educate the Altamont community about the real-world issues happening both near and far from them. I personally am passionate about many of the issues that affect the world’s society today, and I feel like the Beacon is a perfect outlet to help other people express their thoughts and feelings on these topics.

Why is this project meaningful to you?

Ariel: The Beacon is meaningful to me because I feel like it is a good opportunity for students
who have something to say and can express it in an impactful way.

Lucine: To me, The Altamont Beacon is meaningful for many reasons. First of all, it allows any student from 8th to 12th grade to submit their pieces, meaning that students from all kinds of life situations and experiences can have their voices heard, and I always think it’s important to support those who want their voices listened to. Also, it accepts many types of student work, which I think is a good thing because other school publications don’t necessarily do that. Plus, each year, the Beacon has a certain topic that focuses on important world issues but also gives students room to add their own creative spin to what they choose to write. 

What are your roles for the Beacon?

Ariel: My roles for the Beacon are really just working with the other people on the board to figure out how to get people to enter, what the beacon will look like, what topics it’ll discuss, etc. I don’t have any roles specific to me, but like all other high-schoolers, I can enter a piece myself if I so choose.

Lucine: I have just become one of the student editors of the Beacon, and I’m very excited to be able to read all the students’ work. 

How has your experience been so far?

Ariel: It’s been great! Last year I got to submit a reflection to the Beacon, and I learned a lot from that process. This year, I am very excited to see everyone else’s entries and I’m honored that I get to help make some of the decisions that go into The Beacon.

What has been your favorite part about this experience?

Ariel: Getting to see the final project last year. I know I, along with many other students, worked really hard on our pieces, and it was really nice to see it all come together as a physical copy that I can always look back on.

Maya Davis contributed to this report.

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