#StudentSpotlight: Students Spotlighting Students

Today’s spotlights feature two groups who are making it their missions to shine the spotlight on their fellow students. Both @StudentsOfCresskill and @behind_the_artist are working to share the stories of their peers, and to highlight their stories and talents. For me, these two groups exemplify so well the value of what these kids are doing: giving voice to the voiceless. Here they are!

Let’s go @behind_the_artist…

We are Mackenzie Cardo, Nairi Arslanian, Sabrina Oppenheim, and Amanda Barbarise. We created an Instagram to showcase up and coming artists. One of our group members, Amanda Barise, is an artist in the making, and we feel that this artist needs more attention. 

Instagram is the easiest and most readily available form of social media in this day and age. Our group saw this opportunity to shed some well-deserved light on the arts, and our own friend. By using Instagram it’s easily accessible by our four group members, and we are able to post videos and pictures of Amanda’s past singing events as well as current projects she is working on. By having short descriptions accompanied by interesting visual media, we are able to grasp the reader’s attention and keep them engaged until our next post. Social media has forever changed the way stars are born, humans interact and is a huge part of our everyday livesInstagram allows us to show the world Amanda’s talent while simultaneously keeping in touch with our peers and target market for our end goal of “going viral.” This task is a lot harder than it seems and we work very hard to condense our thoughts into short Instagram posts.
Our first installment of our four part story was how Amanda started her singing career, speaking about some of the first events she ever performed/participated in. Our second installment discussed the many challenges she faced while pursuing her dream. Our third installment shows where Amanda is now and what she is currently working on. Our last installment will be her plans for the future and what she hopes to achieve career wise.
Feel free to check out our account for behind the scenes of Amanda and other talented artists… FOLLOW – @behind_the_artist on Instagram!

Meet the @StudentsOfCresskill…

Students of Cresskill is a collective of four students from Cresskill High School who are telling the stories of REAL high school students through the use of photos. Our group is currently made up of four seniors who have found their personalities over the past four years: Jason Ross, Sarah Moldt, Jeremy Nazario, and Shakira Villaquiran. If there is one goal we wish to achieve, it would be to spotlight a wide range of perspectives and characters to represent the high school student of today.

When we were first trying to brainstorm our project, we kept talking about how each one of us became a different person over the past four years of high school. Through these discussions, we realized that there was nothing out there that truly represented the spirit of high school students in 2016, especially the tight-knit community of Cresskill, NJ. All representations of high school in the media are mostly negative and reckless, portraying it as overflowing with drugs, sex, and a lack of respect for authority. Although these seem to exist at every school, it’s easy for one to forget that there’s so much to high school than that.

Through @StudentsofCresskill, we, REAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, are writing the narrative of current students through the use of social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram. Every week, we spotlight a new student with one of the four questions of high school. Each question comes together to shape the personalities of high school students and changes them from naive, confused children, to confident, strong adults. We hope this can actually represent high school students for years to come.

Aren’t they incredible? Both groups have been humble about their work, but @behind_the_artist has graciously shone a light on so many talented young people – not just Amanda, who’s their featured artist, but their peers as well. Their generosity has been so beautiful to see. As for the @StudentsofCresskill, I simply couldn’t be prouder. They’ve opened up such important conversations, and the featured students have bravely shared everything about who they are. In fact, the students here have responded to it so strongly that juniors are asking about whether or not anyone has been designated to take over the account when these students graduate, so that the sharing lives on. Even if they don’t “go viral” more broadly than our four walls, knowing that they’ve opened up a space where kids can talk about themselves and feel heard and valued has made me happy beyond measure.

We’re only halfway through the student blogs, and I’m happy to say you’ve got some really great stuff coming your way. Have a great weekend everyone, and …

Until next time,

Mrs. K



#StudentSpotlight: Humans of Bergen County

Here’s what I love about today’s Student Spotlight group – they’re keeping things light! They’ve taken the form popularized by Brandon Stanton and Humans of New York and putting a fun, silly twist on it. We start the year by studying comedy, and so their decision to create something spoof-y and satirical feels really appropriate and fresh. Check them out below!

Humans of Bergen County is a four person team that takes pictures of people from the area and makes jokes and funny captions about them. Our team is Daniel Bronstein, Ryan Nolan, Thomas McDermott, and Sean Choi. Our goal is to portray the differences of unique people in Bergen County. Viewers can expect diversity and different types of people, other than students.

Social media is vital to our project since we are posting to Instagram weekly and it’s vital to our lives because that’s what we look at everyday. We choose Instagram because it’s easy to use and also easy to access. Our group wanted to use Instagram because it worked the best and also had the best chance of getting the most followers, likes and views on our posts. During the process, our group has learned to work together and also work with other students outside the classroom in order to take pictures and come up with funny but yet creative captions. The role of social media in our project is all about sharing.

hobc blogWhen people think New Jersey, they usually think about the Jersey Shore, and bagels. We are showing the world that New Jersey is much more than that. We are sharing to the world how diverse and special Bergen County really is. From this experience, we’ve learned that no matter where you go, you’re going to meet unique and diverse people from all walks of life. We’ve learned that each person has something that them “them” and have something no one else has. This helps us with our storytelling and opens many doors for opportunities. For example, we used a quote from a kid’s favorite video game as his caption. In the coming weeks we will probably use slogans that relate the students in the pictures; even if it’s video games, captions regarding college or just a quote that they say a lot. Our main goal is to connect the pictures with the captions in order to capture the attention of our viewers.

Well, there they are! I love that they’re being fun, while also sharing a sincere message. We’ve got some really great stuff in the works for our Friday installments, so be sure to check back!

Until next time,

Mrs. K

#StudentSpolight: Animal Edition!

Ladies and gentlemen, today was a good day! I say good, but really I mean great, because in addition to two really great blogs to share with you (featured below), we also had two major breakthroughs:

  1. HS Promposal – Nina & Andy, whose project features different couples’ promposals, have been tirelessly promoting around school and on Tumblr. They very wisely decided that, for their project and audience, Tumblr would be the idea medium. Right they were, because today they got a video submitted to their email (hspromposal@gmail.com) from A TOTAL STRANGER! You know what that means? THEY DID THE THING! They told a story, and people listened, and now they’re participating. I’m so proud.
  2. Students of Cresskill – These guys were featured in our first spotlight, and their method of storytelling, specifically in the way that it values and honors the high school experience, has reached so many students that now they’re fielding requests to be featured on their page! REQUESTS! I’m insanely excited for them.

Alright, now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Lizard Wizard Racing Championship

Since the lizards are the stars of this video we decided to let them write their thoughts and opinions and how this experience has changed their life. We let them loose on the keyboard, and this is what happened:

Yjiyk6otggggggggggggggkkm6m 6tf’6 ,1m   ;/’

5555555555555555555+qwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqwqw v0v4\]32

We then realized that was a terrible idea since lizards can’t type, so we scrapped that idea and started anew. So we are Evan Carroll, Mike Eng, and Phillip Raspe: three high school seniors who have nothing better to do with their lives than play with lizards (just kidding,  we’ve had a very difficult time scheduling times to film and get together). Our original idea was to do something about beatboxing and electronic music, since Mike is into that sort of stuff, but later realized it was too hard to make a story to go along with it. We were then brainstorming new ideas, and something that came up was slug racing, but slugs are lethargic and boring so we thought, “what is just as small but more energetic and exciting?” We decided on lizards, and thus the Lizard Wizard Racing Championship was born. We then decided the best way to tell this story was by recording the lizards and their races and posting it on youtube, because any other form of media without  continuous video would be boring for a race.

lizard blog

For the project:  Social media is pretty important because that is the purpose of the project and without it we would just be three losers taking videos of lizards.

Phil:  Social Media has absolutely no bearing on my life, and aside from using Facebook, Steam, and Google Plus for communication, I don’t use any other form of social media.  

Mike: Social media is very important in my life, because it keeps me updated with what is going on in the community, and amongst my friends. It also helps me learn more about other people and vice versa.

Evan: Social media has a larger grasp on my day to day life than both Phil and Mike combined. I have a Facebook, Steam, Instagram, Google Plus, Snapchat, Tumblr, and a Youtube. All of these I use almost daily and although I may not always post things on them, I am almost always lurking on them. So whenever I am bored or decide to procrastinate doing something I will probably be on one of these social media platforms. As you can tell, social media has more importance in my life due to the seemingly pointless nature of it.

We have learned that taking care of lizards is a lot of work and the day we bought them we weren’t really prepared, needing to get a new tank, a new light and a humidifier to make them comfortable, but we were able to manage with what we had until we could procure the necessary replacements. Also, we learned how difficult it is to make a weekly story with three people, three entirely different schedules and camera equipment that isn’t always available. In our next installment will be the first actual race between the lizards, our first installment was a bit of a hype trailer video, so this week we will actually start the tournament and have the beginning of our plot.

Pet Shelter Stories – on Instagram @PShelterStories

Good Morning, fellow followers of TheStoryProject Blog. Our names are Lauren Orta, Dania Rochdi and Hayden Swan. We are currently Seniors at CHS and are working very diligently on bringing awareness about animal shelter/ adoption centers and telling stories of those who have adopted animals. We post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook weekly with updates on our progress with this project.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 7.6 million animals enter shelters nationwide every single year. 2.7 million are euthanized, which is one of the reasons why we started this blog. Not only to help bring attention to the euthanasia problem, but also to share information on the owners and workers in the industry. People who work everyday to provide for animals, spread awareness, or foster shelter dogs should be respected. It’s tough and has a lot of requirements, which is why we look up to such people. People who adopt animals are also important because not only did they help save an animal from certain death, but gave it a new happy life to live.

dog blog

Many ask why would we choose this topic when so many people are already working to spread such awareness. Our blog is different because we are high school students, students who took the time out of our lives to help to give a new and interesting perspective on animal shelters, adoption and awareness. We are ultimately preparing for a future ahead, but took the time to tell these stories.

We took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram because social media is paving the new ways in terms of learning and content. Social media has thousands of people log in each day who could potentially see our blog and be affected. We all know how important pets are; they help to improve our mood through comfort and help to form an unbreakable bond. Through this experience we have learned the difficulties that are faced in shelters, the different effects pets have on their owners, the thoughts of those who work with animals and, most importantly, the stories. Millions of animals around the world have their own stories, they just needs to be told.

There you have it, friends! Week one of student blogs down, three weeks to go. There’s so much more great stuff to see and so many more great stories to hear…

Until next time,

Mrs. K

Welcoming Sunz! #StudentSpotlight

Please welcome our very first student-bloggers, Susie & Hyeyoon! As promised, I’ll let them take it from here…

A Sunz Story

Hi, we are Sunz, which is a combination of our names: Susie and Hyeyoon. We named our shared Instagram account @a_sunz_story. We are discussing a true friendship.

First, we decided to put the sun as the symbolic terms for the change of time. Dawn represents when we did not know each other, in other words, our background stories, which are very unique between us. Noon represents when we were not very close to each other, because at first we had prejudice towards each other and it took time for us to get closer. Sunset represents our relationship now, when we are able to tell each other deep thoughts and share what are truly in our hearts.  

Social media is very powerful; it can make a certain thing or person go viral. Just like that, we hope to inspire many viewers on our perception of what a friendship truly means. We chose Instagram because of its popularity and what an innovative program it is. Not only does Instagram allow us to present our personal lives in words, we also have the access to images. Because most of the teens in America are using Instagram as one of their main social media outlets, we have a huge group of audience. Furthermore, that group of people, who are most likely to all have friends, will able to relate to our story. There were many ideas floating in our heads that seemed wonderful, but sometime
s they did not work out in a way that we wanted. We are learning that it’s sunz blogvery hard to grab people’s attention merely through pictures and words.

Everyone is different, and everyone will have at least one conflict with his or her friends. So did we, and it took us a long time to start building the relationship, and even when we started we had troubles; however, we believe that that is part of a true friendship. Overcoming conflict makes a relationship stronger.


Thinking about the memories we have made us very amazed at our friendship. It’s very hard to meet someone you can trust to tell your biggest secrets. The fact that we built that trust in a relatively short period of time was a first for both of us. We also learned that it’s very hard to tell a well-developed eye catching story.

We have just uploaded the differences between us. On our last post we showed that although people stereotypically think that we are alike because we are both Korean girls, we are two very different individuals. Our next story is going to be about how our difference interfered our relationship and what we thought of each other at first. Come and see how we judged each other at first, and how the misunderstandings got resolved. Follow us at @a_sunz_story on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr!

So, there they are!

These lovely ladies volunteered to post first, and in addition to being so proud of them, I’m so excited that they’ve gotten to share their voices with you! Be sure to check back on Friday when you’ll hear from TWO more groups about what they’re up to!

Until next time,

Mrs. K


I kind of can’t believe we’re finally here, but today the students have officially launched their first installments of #TheStoryProject! YAY!

I know, I know – I’ve been MIA for awhile. (Mental note: add “update blog more regularly” to my “What I need to work on” list.) We had Spring Break, and then when we returned there was PARCC testing, and we’ve been reading Wicked, and talking about Serial, and then, all of a sudden, it was LAUNCH DAY! This time of year goes so fast.

Next week I turn the blog over to our storytellers, and they’re more than ready to take on the challenge; I truly cannot wait for you to meet these wonderful young people.

So let’s build a little suspense, shall we? Here’s a preview of who you’ll be hearing from next Wednesday and Friday:

Susie & HyeYoon – on Instagram as @a_sunz_story:

sunzThis is the most lovable pair of best friends ever. Susie & HyeYoon will be telling the story of their friendship and how they found one another, while at the same time challenging stereotypes about Koreans, Korean-Americans, and Asians more broadly.Friendship AND advocacy? It’s a beautiful thing!

Their 4-part series has a really lovely visual theme to it, too – see if you can guess at what it is, starting with this photo!


Mike, Evan & Phillip – on YouTube @ Lizard Wizard Racing Championship

I’m going to be completely forthcoming about this one and say this: I’m not entirely sure what these guys are planning. Here’s what I know: there are lizards (one named Cricket), they will be racing, and their tails may or may not fall off. Another thing I know is that Mike, Evan & Phillip are going to have a fascinating story because they’re fascinating guys. (Note: no lizards were harmed in the making of these videos. Also, they’re being loved and cared for.)

Lauren, Dania & Hayden – on Twitter AND Instagram @PShelterStories

shelter storiesHere’s another one that’s really close to my heart – Lauren, Dania & Hayden are working to bring attention to animals in local shelters in the hopes of increasing pet adoptions. No group so far has worked harder at making contacts for their story. Surprisingly, it’s been pretty tough for them to get access to shelters and rescues to photograph animals to feature – perhaps it’s because they’re kids and no one is taking them seriously enough, or maybe it’s just indicative of the larger animal homeless problem that we have (my bleeding heart is showing through, I think). In either case, I so admire their tenacity; they’ve been on the phone, scouring the Internet, and I think they’re poised for a breakthrough. Maybe by sharing their work here, we’ll find some people willing to help them, and the animals, out.

Well, there they are! They’ve been doing their part to get the ball rolling, and in writing this I’m hoping to do my part in building their online profiles, so please, PLEASE check them out. They’ve impressed me tremendously, and I know they’re going to impress you as well.

Until next time,

Mrs. K


#StudentSpotlight – Round 1

Now that we’re well on our way and the countdown has begun for the student takeover (April 29th – put it in your calendars!), I wanted to start teasing some of the material these amazing students of mine are working on. I figured I’d do that through a series of student spotlights, so that you can be introduced to who they are and what they’re up to. Each spotlight will feature two groups, and I’ve chosen two really spectacular groups to share with you today.

Students of Cresskill – Jason, Jeremy, Sarah & Shakira

blog screencapWhat are they up to? You know what really sold me on this group? When we were tossing ideas around, Shakira said to me, “People always think that high school kids’ problems are small, and they aren’t.” And it occurred to me: she’s right. We can’t tell kids their problems are small without telling them that they’re small. The whole idea of this project was to let them know just how not small they are, and this just seems like a great way of doing it. So the Students of Cresskill team has a simple goal: interview their peers to get candid thoughts and reflections as to what it’s like to be a high school student in 2016.

How are they going to do it? They’ve decided that images are important to the story they’re trying to tell – to put real faces to real problems. So they’ll be using Instagram to publish and publicize their ideas. Follow them on Instagram at @StudentsofCresskill – they’ll be introducing themselves in the coming days, and I know you’re going to love them the way I do.

Perceptions of Beauty – Alvin, Jared, Kristen, Minji

perception blog screencapWhat are they up to? These guys are my social crusaders – out to challenge cultural beliefs and change lives. These four are planning to explore beauty standards, and how they’re defined, and by whom. I was won over by the idea immediately (there are few things I find more endearing than young activists), but it’s their fearlessness that really drew me in. When I asked them how they were going to explore this idea, they pitched a plan for “man on the street” interviews. I wanted to know what kinds of questions they’d ask, and Kristen told me she planned on asking total strangers, “Do you think I’m pretty?” WOAH. Bold. We discussed the possibility of the Internet not always being a nice place, but Kristen is unflappable – she’s in because she thinks it’s an important conversation. She, like the others, is a ridiculously cool kid.

How are they going to do it? This team will be using video as their main platform. Jared is a truly talented video editor, and so his YouTube channel will host their videos. They’re also using Twitter to promote, so please follow them at @StandardsofB so that you’re kept in the loop about all the cool stuff they’re up to. Keep an eye on their hashtag, #PerceptionofBeauty, so that you can be involved in the conversation!

So…What do you think?

I mean, are you as excited as I am?  And this is just the beginning, ladies & gentlemen, because we have a whole bunch of additional teams to meet! Check these guys out on social media – they’ve got amazing stories to tell.

Until next time,

Mrs. K

One Week In

I am very happy to report that our pitch meeting was an unmitigated success! WOO! (Literally, I was so excited about how well they were doing that I did, in fact, shout “WOO” more than once in 90 minutes.)

Not only were students prepared for their pitches, but their classmates gave them meaningful evaluations and honest feedback. They asked compelling questions, ones that I never would have thought to ask (“How will you differentiate your stuff from other content on Buzzfeed?”, “There are thousands of posts a minute about this topic – why would anyone listen to you?”), proving my theory that the digital world belongs to these students.

Even more than that, their self-promotion abilities are EXPLOSIVE – one group created an Instagram account that had over 150 followers by the end of the day. Other groups are following suit. They’re cross-promoting each other’s work. It’s ALL HAPPENING!

What’s even more exciting for me is the fact that no two groups pitched the same idea – each group has something completely different to say, different ways of wanting to say it, and different ways of promoting their ideas. They were professional, and prepared, and I am so excited for what’s going to happen next.

Each class had two pitch meeting “winners” – one group with the highest overall score (next year I am definitely doing this in Google Forms so that Sheets can analyze the data for me – this English teacher spent a LOT of time checking and re-checking her math on Friday), and another group with the highest Idea score. Each group will get to choose a project privilege; I’ve floated some ideas (veto power for the rubric, getting to choose their dates for taking over this blog), but I’m also leaving it to them. By Friday they’ll have decided, and I’ll share with you! This element of student voice and choice definitely comes from my reflections on my last PBL – I’ve found that loosening the reins is less exhausting for me, and also more empowering for them.

I’m so glad that you’ve all tuned in so far, and I’m so excited for you to see what’s coming. As the students build their online identities, I’ll keep sharing them with you. Follow us on Instagram (link on the right!) to be connected with their accounts so you can see what they’re up to. Starting next week I’ll be highlighting different groups so you can get a look at them before they really take the stage.

Keep an eye out – they’re savvy, and they’re coming for all of you!

Until Next Time,

Mrs. K