After years as a graphic designer, Rachel Switall set aside her career and decided to stay home with her children. But when they started school in Chicago, she began trying to figure out how to combine her love of parenting with her desire to design again.
The result: StudentsXpress, a magazine of writing and artwork by Chicago Public School students that just hit the street this winter.
Ten schools participated in the inaugural edition of the magazine, which is printed on newsprint and is slightly larger than a traditional magazine. Five of the schools are from the north side and five from the south side, but Switall says that in spite of the differences in neighborhoods, the kids have a lot in common.
"I didn't put school names (with the author's name) and if you read it, you wouldn't know which school they're from," Switall says. "They're really going to be surprised how similar they are."
Each issue will have a topic; the first issue's theme was "what makes you special." The second issue will highlight courage.
"It's just to get them motivated to write or draw something. It's poems and short essays, one-liners," Switall says. "One has turned in an essay about her mom having a baby; another girl was going to her uncle's funeral. It's a nice variety."
The magazine is funded completely through advertising. Switall hopes to have even more advertisers and student work featured in upcoming issues.
"If this could just be a free publication that's out in the community for everyone to read, that would be ideal for me," she says.
Student author Sophia Mastroianni of Nettelhorst would probably agree.
"When I saw the finished magazine with my work in it, I felt like I had accomplished something great," she says. "I have never seen my work published, so I also felt pleasure blooming inside me. I was very excited and it made me motivated to write more!"
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.