Kingwood High School Rho Kappa
Rho Kappa Advisor Bryan Henry from the Independent School Disctrict in Texas shared with us a multidisciplinary honor society journal called Virtu that his chapter created. The initial idea was to have a Rho Kappa journal that would showcase student writing about politics, history, and current events, but the project evolved into a larger effort involving other academic subjects. The entire project was led by Rho Kappa members and was executed by Rho Kappa officers. Bryan answered some questions about the development process, challenges faced, and more relating to Virtu and the Kingwood Chapter:
What was the development process for Virtu?
The process of creating the journal was very organic and collaborative. We began with the basic idea of having a platform to showcase student work and the students had a variety of proposals for the types of articles to include ranging from commentary on current events to short stories. For the first edition, students just volunteered to produce specific types of articles. I think because the desire existed to include creative writing, it naturally led to a consideration of whether to invite other academic honor societies to participate as well. One of our students already wrote short stories about historical events, so that naturally led to the question of whether poetry and literary analysis would make the journal even more interesting. Additionally, some of our students were also members of math and science honor societies so we ended up at a place where we were pitching the idea of a collaborative student-led academic journal to other organizations.
What were some of the challenges that students faced while creating the journal? Do you think these challenges attributed to their growth and development?
Some of the challenges that the students faced were coordinating a time for the different organizations to meet and discuss the logistics of the project. The students had to navigate disagreements about deadlines, revision processes, publishing standards, etc. It forced them to really think through the steps in a long-term and professional manner. This wasn’t a project that was being thrown together quickly and the final product needed to be worthy of their effort and the reader’s time. It was important to the students for the journal to be worth reading and they had some difficult conversations about whether certain articles would be approved. I think they definitely grew as individuals having to express honest and respectful opinions in the name of a larger goal.
Where did the idea for the journal originate? What inspired them to pursue creating a journal?
The idea for the journal originated out of a brainstorming session between me and the students. We were proposing a variety of activities that the chapter could pursue and I mentioned a journal that would allow them to showcase their writing. They immediately embraced the idea, I think in part, because it would allow them to express opinions and provide an opportunity to “publish” something for the first time. The larger context and motivation, for me as a teacher, was to promote civic dialogue on campus about important current events. I wanted to create something that would bring some civic seriousness to the campus. On college campuses you have students writing articles about politics and you have serious debates taking place about current events, and I wanted to bring some of that civic activity down to the high school setting. The journal also had an obvious substantive and aesthetic contrast to the digital and social media productions that saturate young people’s daily lives. What could be more different than tweeting or snap chatting about something than writing an article that would be peer-reviewed for a journal? It was almost retro in that respect.
Did any students take leadership roles during the development process?
The president of our chapter definitely look the lead in terms of coordinating the logistics of planning the production of the journal. He brought all of the different academic subjects together, followed up with other chapter presidents about deadlines, and took the lead compiling and formatting the submissions. The submissions came from many different people and there was definitely a group effort in producing a well-rounded and diverse array of articles.
Have the students mentioned anything about the next edition?
The first edition was completed in early January and printed in February. The students decided to produce a Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer edition. Submissions for the second edition were due in late April and the journal went to print in early May. Our campus is fortunate to have a new print shop where high quality banners and pamphlets can be made very quickly at a reasonable price. This year we printed enough copies for each contributor to have a copy and then we distributed extras to administrators and faculty sponsors.