Being at a high school when the bell rings is like sticking yourself inside a beehive, the hallways are crowded and everyone is buzzing. Here at École Alpha Secondary in Burnaby, it is no different. When the lunch bell rings, kids swarm the hallways, making their way to lockers and meeting up with friends. However, while many make a beeline for the cafeteria, a group of dedicated student journalists make their way to an empty classroom and begin planning their next issue. Grade twelve student Katharine Zhang, editor-in-chief, stands at the front of the room. Her long, straight black hair covers her face as she leans over a laptop screen, typing journalists’ article ideas into a spreadsheet. The group is full of energy; conversations overlap each other and snacks are eagerly passed around. Despite the chaos, everything is organized. There’s an ease, a rhythm the group has developed, that can only be compared to that of a family get-together.
“The Alpha Photojournalism team is a big, tight-knit family that all provide support, encouragement, and depressing humour to uplift each other,” Zhang tells me, a small smile forming as she mentions the “depressing humour” the club seems to be fond of. That’s one of the reasons why she loves being editor-in-chief.
“[It’s] allowed me to work with some amazing individuals and foster lasting relationships [and] I genuinely enjoy managing and connecting with diligent people who share passions with myself.”
But taking care of a family can be exhausting. Zhang learnt this quickly.
“Overlooking the entire team for each publication definitely takes a toll on you, especially close to release day,” she reveals. Katharine admits to underestimating the workload. “[Running the Alpha Centauri has] led to a few sleepless nights, but it’s nothing I’m not used to,” she says with a laugh.
Despite the lack of sleep, Zhang couldn’t be more grateful for her place in Alpha’s photojournalism club.
“[I’ve been] surrounded by influential people and met with ample opportunities,” says Katharine on how her role in the club has affected her life. “Being Editor-In-Chief has already taught me so much.”
In 2018, the Alpha Centauri received second place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s annual Scholastic Newspaper Awards, giving them international attention. Along with the certificate, the club was given a helpful sheet of feedback on how to further improve their newspaper. Zhang, taking the suggestions to heart, has made some changes since then, strengthening headlines and cutting coverage on school spirit days to make room for more local and international news. However, it’s not just the American Scholastic Press Association that Zhang is seeking approval from. Preceding her as editor-in-chief was Victor (a.k.a. Ricky) Yin, who was also the club’s founder and the one to appoint her as his successor.
“I admire Ricky,” Katharine was quick to tell me. “[He’s] influenced my leadership capabilities and he’s generally taught me a lot about graphic design, photography, and writing. I only hope that he doesn’t hate the direction I’ve taken the newspaper this year, [it’s] changed since his reign.”
You can view the latest issue of the Alpha Centauri–which was submitted for ASPA’s 2019 awards–by clicking here. As well, you can stay up to date on all things APJ (Alpha Photojournalism) by following their Instagram account. The club is vying for first place this year (“or at least second again,” says Zhang) and after reading the Alpha Centauri’s January edition, this author believes they have more than a fair shot.
Cover image taken by author