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Arden Advocate

San Juan Unified Celebrates First Student-Run Literary Magazine

Jun 11, 2024 01:59PM ● By San Juan Unified School District News Release

A San Juan Unified student reads aloud a piece she wrote. Photo courtesy of SJUSD

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - San Juan Unified School District celebrated its first-ever published student-run literary magazine on May 17. This opportunity, driven by passionate students and mentored by educators, gives young writers a platform to share their creative works and showcases the power of creative writing in promoting identity, equity and educational justice.

Julia Clauson, founder and editor of the San Juan Unified literary magazine, brought the idea to district staff to give fellow students a space to express themselves freely. Clauson chose "Identity" as the theme for the first issue to explore what identity means and how it evolves through personal experiences and external influences.

One of the student writers, Ava Commandatore from Rio Americano High School, wrote an essay about identity that was featured in the magazine. The piece explores the complexities of identity and how it is perceived in today’s life.

“I wrote my essay based off my opinion of [identity], how it reflects in our everyday life, how others perceive our identity and how it can alter your identity or make you want to change your identity just for someone else,” said Commandatore.

Reflecting on the journey that brought the magazine’s vision to life, Rachel Nguyen, a teacher on special assignment and co-facilitator of the magazine, shared, “A few years ago, I started a writing club at Bella Vista High School. Students were writing such interesting and exciting fiction that I saw a need for an outlet for creative writing.”

Nguyen emphasized that the literary magazine was a joint effort, particularly highlighting Julia Clauson's important role.

"Julia arrived at the Writing Club last year as a sophomore. It was our first full year of the club and Julia had an idea: a vision to start a literary magazine for the entire district to give all students a chance to contribute to a shared writing community,” said Nguyen.

Az’Jah Jones, an Encina Preparatory High School student, found joy in expressing herself through her poem, “My Honest Poem.”

"I felt really happy writing it because I was getting a lot of emotions out that I didn't really know I had," Jones said.

Students were encouraged to submit various forms of writing, including short stories, poetry, comic strips, essays, scripts, and novel excerpts. Submissions in languages other than English were also welcomed, reflecting the rich diversity of San Juan Unified’s student body.

“One of the best memories of my entire school experience is the Literary Magazine reading day,” said Clauson, “We were 10 students from different high schools gathered at the District Board Room to go through all the submissions together. We were so surprised at the number of submissions there were and how wonderful, incredible and diverse they were.”

After months of preparation and hard work, the Literary Magazine was published in March 2024, showcasing the incredible talent and creativity of San Juan's young writers. During the May 17 ceremony, student writers read their literary pieces in the presence of district leaders, staff and family members.

Looking ahead, the team plans to publish the magazine annually with the goal of eventually turning it into a bi-annual publication. Clauson hopes the magazine remains a platform for students' creative writing at the district level and continues long after she graduates.