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Danville Independent Schools

DHS literary magazine students

Danville High School’s literary magazine has been awarded a grant through the University of Kentucky’s Center of Excellence in Rural Health Health WAY initiative, which is “a leadership development and research training program designed to empower rural Kentucky high school students with skills to identify and develop solutions to health and social issues at the school and community level,” according to the UK College of Medicine website. 

Lois Sepahban, English teacher and literary magazine adviser, and junior Chloe Strysick applied for and were awarded the grant. Sephahban said Chloe did the bulk of the grant writing. Sepahban said Chloe’s mother, Karen Roper, is a grant writer, so when Chloe was talking to her mother about how the magazine needed more money, she mentioned the grant, and Chloe went for it. 

The $1,000 through the grant will go toward printing the magazine and other costs. The magazine, Undertow, has a theme of contained escape, and is focused on mental health. Chloe said when her mother first introduced her to the grant, she said some schools chose vaping and smoking as the focus of their projects. 

“When I heard about it, I really thought about mental health because that’s a serious issue, especially with COVID,” Chloe said. “There’s been a huge decline in interest in sports and other extracurriculars, so with the Undertow magazine, in combination with Healthy Way, we really just wanted people to have an outlet.” 

Chloe is in charge of interviews for the magazine. The other students involved are senior Mac Perry, editor-in-chief; junior Bella Sepahban, art and photography editor; junior Ramona Pierce, poetry editor; sophomore Matthew Gover, nonfiction editor; junior Mike Suarez, who is handling music reviews (the magazine will also include book reviews); junior Kira Pusateri, short fiction editor; and freshman Benjamin Tibbles. 

Mac Perry

Senior Mac Perry, editor-in-chief of the DHS literary magazine, uses Adobe InDesign for layouts.


Matthew gave an outline of what a typical work session for the students involved in creating the magazine looks like: for example, that day they were going to select winners for a poetry contest they organized and complete other tasks. 

The magazine is accepting submissions from students around the school. For example, there was recently a poetry contest for students, and winners’ poetry will be included in a preview edition of the magazine to be released before the full edition, which will hopefully encourage more submissions to come in after DHS students see what the magazine will be like, Sepahban said. 

The students are also set to give a presentation on the project at Appalachian Research Day, which is tentatively scheduled for September. 

The students have regular meetings with the Healthy WAY program leaders. Ramona said about the Healthy WAY program leaders, “It’s been a really helpful thing to work with them. They’ve been very supportive … We’ve been able to talk to them … about what our magazine should look like, but also the process of forming the magazine, how we’re going to connect mental health with our magazine, and … ways we can make it better.”

With the idea of “contained escape,” Kira said, “We’re trying to emphasize, we’ve all had to create our own little escape to kind of escape the fear of COVID and all the chaos that has come into our world recently, especially as teenagers, because it’s such a crucial time for us to grow up in, and we need to figure out how to get through it together.”

Mike said, “I think it’s just important for people to not feel alone because I feel like a big problem, especially with COVID … people have a really hard time feeling like they matter … I think this is cool because it lets people know they’re not alone.”

Benjamin said it also provides a creative outlet, since loneliness can be difficult to portray with words, and “using art and poetry helps express that.” 

Mac said before the project, he did not know how to use Adobe InDesign, a design program, but he’s been learning how to use it, “And this magazine’s actually helping me get better at a skill I want to get better at.” 

Sepahban said Assistant Superintendent Sheri Satterly and Principal Chad Luhman have been very supportive, as well as Art Teacher Shelly Stinnett, “who really encouraged her students to enter our contest and even created an assignment out of it. So that’s been wonderful. We wouldn’t have all the art submissions we got if it hadn’t been for her support.”

Bella said the scheduled publishing date of the full, completed magazine will be around May.


Group photo: Back row, from left: DHS English teacher and literary magazine adviser Lois Sepahban, junior Bella Sepahban, junior Chloe Strysick, freshman Benjamin Tibbles, senior Mac Perry, sophomore Matthew Gover. Front row: Junior Kira Pusateri, junior Ramona Pierce, junior Mike Suarez. 

  • Danville Independent Schools
  • dhs
  • grant
  • literary magazine
  • mental health
  • undertow
  • university of kentucky