Two new clubs at the Homewood Center, a specialized Howard County school, are giving student voices a larger presence.
The Rising Phoenix, an online independent publication from the new journalism club, and the Rainbow Youth Advocates Club, which was established as a safe place for Homewood students of the LGBT community, were created in September.
“It’s really awesome that Homewood now has these two clubs,” said Anne Reis, Homewood’s media specialist and a staff adviser for The Rising Phoenix. “Now everyone can tell their stories.”
The Homewood Center, which is part of the Howard County Public School System, is for students in sixth through 12th grades. Located in Ellicott City, the center offers two programs for students: Bridges and Gateway.
Bridges supports students in complex Individualized Education Programs, which are for children who require specialized instruction. It is more difficult to implement their IEPs in a comprehensive school. Gateway students receive additional support for behavioral needs.
The two clubs met during second period on a Thursday in February, where the group of students discussed the importance of student voice and learned about photography.
At the beginning of the meeting, the students sat in a circle and discussed student voice.
“I feel that student voice is important [because] without the students the school wouldn’t be important,” said Chloe Thomson, an eighth grader and a member of the Rainbow Youth Advocates Club.
Leeann Baniqued, a senior and a member of the journalism club, said student voice is “a good way to express what you want to say to the school.” She wrote an opinion piece in the Phoenix’s first issue, saying that filling Homewood’s hallways with art and encouraging quotes would create positive change in the school.
Rainbow Youth Advocates Club
Sandy Fishbein, a licensed psychologist for the Bridges program and the rainbow club’s adviser, saw the need to bring the club to Homewood.
“We have kids in Bridges that are out [with their sexuality] or nonbinary, so I thought it was important to offer an opportunity to have those discussions,” Fishbein said.
Gale Freeman, a senior and a member of both clubs, is glad to see the rainbow club is raising awareness around the LGBT community.
“The atmosphere around the LGBT community isn’t the best at Homewood,” Gale said. “It’s a good school, but being bullied or something for being gay or [transgender] shouldn’t even be thought of in a place like this.”
The group discussed attending the first-ever Rainbow Conference at Hammond High School in May. The conference, created to discuss and celebrate diversity in Howard County, is open to students, staff, parents, community members and allies.
Homewood students expressed interest in attending and potentially designing a T-shirt to wear to the event as well as around the school.
Developing relationships with students allows for clubs like the Rainbow Youth Advocates to exist at Homewood, Fishbein said.
“The big thing is how can we meet the needs of the kids here,” she added.
The Rising Phoenix
Gale is not only a staff writer for The Rising Phoenix but also the designer of the paper’s masthead. It features a phoenix on both sides of the name of the publication. The paper is named after Homewood’s mascot.
In the first issue, Gale wrote about back-to-school night and interviewed the class president of the Gateway program.
“It’s fun. I enjoy writing; it comes easy to me,” Gale said.
The inaugural issue featured interviews with school officials, opinion pieces from students and a story about the rainbow club.
The club allows students to provide their perspective on news and events at Homewood, Reis said.
Reis, who said she is “very passionate about the news in general and digital citizenship and media literacy,” wanted to be part of the journalism club.
For The Rising Phoenix, students do not have to publish an article until they feel comfortable putting it online.
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“It’s got to empower you,” Reis said. “I know it’s empowering them.”