Talon thrives despite quarantine

Clayton Valley revises journalism program online.


When the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close on June 2, so will the first year of the newly revised The Talon at Clayton Valley Charter High School.  I would like to take this time to reflect on the steps I personally took, reflect on some hardships we had faced, and share what team members thought about their experiences regarding their first year.

My role as a journalist began at the dinner table, eating udon noodle soup with my mom, dad, and brother,  just before Thanksgiving break of 2019.  We were discussing the latest stories in the New York Times and brainstorming new ideas for a club that I wanted to begin.  Ideas and thoughts clouded my brain as I thought about a new way to create something substantial that students would actually enjoy.  Then, the idea landed: a news organization.

A clueless sophomore searching for help for his lofty goal, I was determined to find someone to be of aid.  My search found its target, landing me in room C-10, home of the past journalism teacher, Nick Hansen.

Journalism wasn’t new for Clayton Valley.  Hansen had taught the journalism class for a number of years before it was shut down at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.  The final issue was published on May 30, 2018.   Although there was no official statement for why the journalism program ended, Hansen surmised that it was because the class had fewer than 25 students.  

The Talon had become an idea of the past, but for me it was now my idea for the future.

I started learning the nuances and foundations of journalism, preparing myself for the next step of putting together a team.  I tracked down peers I thought would be eager to lead the new journalism program, bringing together a new leadership team of students: Ada Fong (Vice President), Isabella Monet Mendoza (Secretary), and Vinny Iachella (Treasurer).

From there, we started to recruit more students.  We printed out flyers to post around the school and started a social media campaign.  In about two weeks, the new Talon had seven staff writers, four editors, and one photographer..

We held weekly meetings following winter break where Hansen brought out the dusty journalism lessons and taught us critical information on what a journalist does.  In addition, we discovered old prints of the old Talon, adding to our inspiration on how we should run this new club.

However, this effort came to a standstill when COVID-19 hit and school shut down on Mar. 13, 2020. The open campus became a shadow of the past as students left and took refuge in their homes under lockdown.  Students were confused and teachers were in a frenzy after hearing that school would be shut down for two weeks more.  Nobody knew how long it would actually last.

The idea of The Talon was becoming distant as more and more students seemed to forget the once exciting tale of a new club.  However, I was determined.  With the help from Hansen, we negotiated the purchase for a $600 website start-up.  I took it upon myself to develop and design The Talon Website in June of 2020.

Over the summer of 2020, I continued to communicate with Hansen and sought out the original leadership team.  Fong, Monet Mendoza, and Iachella were all excited that The Talon was continuing.  Together again, we began to promote the project through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, hoping to find students who were eager to participate in student journalism.

By last August, The Talon had grown to 20 members.  We held biweekly meetings via Zoom during which we prepared articles in anticipation for our publication.  After months and months of preparation and creation, the beginning of the journey of The Talon was coming to a close.  That clueless sophomore finally succeeded by making his goal to start the journalism program a reality.  The team sat together on Zoom, eyeing the publish button as my cursor loomed over it for more dramatic effect.  As I counted down — “Three, two, one …Press!” —  Sept. 19, 2020, marked the official debut for The Talon.  We did it.

Since then, the Talon has drawn attention from local news organizations such as the Diablo Gazette and the Clayton Pioneer, and we began contributing stories to CC Spin, the Contra Costa High School journalism website. We gained hundreds of followers on our social media accounts and had more than 50 posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  We published over 40 articles with original photographs, and that number is only going to grow.  Now, The Talon holds 30 active members.

“The Talon has been such a great experience. It has been amazing to see how it has flourished since February of 2020,” said Management Editor and Secretary Monet Medoza, a junior. “Not only has each individual developed their writing or editing skills, but we’ve learned to take the reins and jump into  experiences and opportunities.” 

Monet Medoza added, “I’ve learned so much, even throughout the pandemic. It’s crazy to think that a little over a year ago, this newspaper was being revived. Now, it’s not only just a part of our school, but our community as well.”

Hansen said, “First of all, it’s great to have The Talon back. I miss having students who are involved in journalism on our campus. At its heart, journalism brings a community together by informing people and giving them a voice. The revival of The Talon has brought that back to our campus.”

In looking ahead, Hansen was positive: “We can grow going into the future and help future students at Clayton Valley feel like they have a voice and a possible career path. I hope that we can continue to improve not only this year but next year as well.”

I could not be prouder of this first year of The Talon.  I have been able to provide a platform for student voices, discover my own voice, and lead my fellow peers to find theirs.  It is because of this progress and excitement that I know The Talon will continue to thrive in the 2021-2022 school year.

The article was written for The Talon, the student news site for Clayton Valley Charter High School in Concord.