DEARBORN, Michigan – The idea for starting a publication dedicated to sharing the stories and achievements of students and staff in the local school district came to Dearborn resident Raad Alawan long before he published the first issue of “School Life,” a monthly newspaper that is distributed free to schools and businesses throughout Dearborn.
Alawan, a graduate of Fordson High School, attended Central Michigan University where he earned a degree in journalism and broadcasting. His first jobs were in television, working as a reporter, anchor and producer. In 2002, he moved back to Dearborn, working for Channel 7 on air and as a writer. He also wrote articles for “Community Voice,” another local publication which helped him realize an opportunity to fill a unique niche.
“I noticed that all of the articles I wrote about students and teachers received the best response and the most comments,” said Alawan.
With approval of the Dearborn Public School district, the first 10-page issue of School Life was launched in November 2009.
“I remember struggling to fill the first issue because no one at the schools had heard about us,” added Alawan. “Fifteen issues later, that’s no longer a problem. We consistently print 36,000 copies of a 24-page tabloid size newspaper, thanks to the tremendous response from schools, families and advertisers.”
School Life is distributed to the 20,000 students and staff of the 34 schools within the district as well as to more than 32 high traffic locations throughout Dearborn. Papers are pre-sorted by teacher and class count so that each student goes home with an issue at the end of the day.
Each issue includes human interest stories and photos that feature local school children and staff as well as a message from the superintendent, highlights from school board meetings, lunch menus and a district events calendar.
“School Life does a great job of recognizing individual achievement in our schools but more importantly it captures the overall success of the district,” said Brian Whiston, superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools. “I know that staff, students, parents, and community members look forward to each monthly edition of School Life. The color photos, articles, and monthly features all contribute to telling the story about the success in the Dearborn Public Schools.”
Julie Konchal, a Dearborn resident and mother of three children who attend Howard Elementary and Bryant Middle School, shared that she enjoys reading about what’s going on in all the schools—not just on her side of town.
“Our kids are involved in lots of sports and have gotten to know a lot of kids throughout Dearborn,” said Konchal. “They look forward to reading about their friends from other schools, seeing their pictures and even finding their own pictures in the paper.”
While the schools and district’s communication department submit a lot of the stories, Alawan also encourages students to write for the paper.
Mariam Jalloul, a junior at Fordson High School, is a regular contributor and reporter for School Life. “I enjoy giving back to my community and sharing all the outstanding accomplishments that are happening in our schools every day,” said Jalloul.
Sponsors and advertisers, including Dr. Ghada Saad of Premier Dental Care, have helped the paper grow. “As a Dearborn resident, I strongly believe in supporting the local schools,” said Dr. Saad. “It’s also a great way to let the community know about the quality services we provide and welcome them to our practice. The publication is great because it’s family-friendly and easily accessible for all in the Dearborn Public School system.”
Each month, the back page features snapshots of students from a selected campus. MemberFocus Community Credit Union sponsors a “Teachers of the Month” page and the Detroit Medical Center sponsors a “Student Athletes of the Month” page.
Alawan’s staff has also grown to include his wife Patricia who serves as editor, a graphic designer and several professional photographers. School Life and the district’s communication staff work closely to ensure accurate information, and both parties review each edition before an issue is published.
According to Alawan, School Life is unique because everything is in a single condensed format and no other community in southeast Michigan is served by a similar publication. With increasingly tight school and municipal budgets, a monthly publication like School Life helps enhance communication between the schools and the community-at-large.
“Our relationship with the district is priceless. We have worked together to spread the good news and to create a first-rate newspaper that keeps district staff, students and parents all on the same page,” added Alawan.
For more information about School Life email Raad Alawan at [email protected].