Elementary student who started school newspaper to receive Arkansas SPJ’s first Diamond in the Rough Award

By Maggie McNeary

Arkansas SPJ will present the first President’s Diamond in the Rough Award to a Greenbrier Eastside Elementary student who started his own school newspaper at the chapter’s Diamond Journalism Awards, set for 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.

Israel Bollinger, who was a fourth grader when he helped create What’s Up Eastside, works with a staff of second through fifth graders to make the monthly publication, Eastside Elementary Principal Mandi Dunlap said.

The 10-year-old, now a fifth grader, said he got the idea to start the paper while reading The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz by Alan Silberberg. The characters in Silberberg’s book had a school paper, which made Bollinger realize that his school lacked one – a problem that he soon solved.

“I couldn’t help but be impressed by this kid’s gumption,” Arkansas SPJ President Jennifer Ellis said of Bollinger’s accomplishment.

Israel Bollinger, 10, holds a copy of the newspaper, “What’s Up Eastside,” he started at Greenbrier Eastside Elementary in January. Arkansas SPJ will present Bollinger with the first President’s Diamond in the Rough Award at the chapter’s Diamond Journalism Awards, set for 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Flying Saucer in Little Rock. Photo courtesy of Jason Bollinger

After a conversation with Principal Dunlap, and the recruitment of about 16 elementary students, the publication started production in January.

“Israel had asked me about it back in the first semester and I began to think about how to make this happen,” Dunlap said.

Sherry Hogg, the school counselor, helps the students during their 30-minute daily production time. The students compose their stories in Google Docs, the principal said, and printed copies are distributed throughout the school.

“This has been a great creative outlet for a lot of students,” she said. “They not only learn literacy skills of writing articles, but also the power of networking with a group to produce a product! The kids absolutely love this!”

Students voted to name the paper What’s Up Eastside and decided on its topics together. Bollinger’s favorite part of the paper is the “Crackups” section, which features jokes from students.

Eastside students
The staff at Greenbrier Eastside Elementary’s school paper, “What’s Up Eastside,” are hard at work. The paper was started by Israel Bollinger, third from left, in January when he was a fourth grader. He will receive the President’s Diamond in the Rough Award from Arkansas SPJ Thursday. Photo courtesy of Mandi Dunlap

Bollinger plans to continue working on the publication for the rest of the school year.

“I really like working on the paper,” he said. “It’s fun.”

In the future, he said he might even start a middle school newspaper if next year’s campus doesn’t have one. And he’s looking even further than that.

“I think that when I grow up I want to be an entrepreneur and maybe own a newspaper,” he said.

Bollinger said he had been surprised by the media attention to him and the paper, and that he was excited to receive the Diamond in the Rough award.

“It’s going to be quite an honor,” he said.

Bollinger’s parents, Kerrie and Jason, have also been surprised by all the interest. Jason Bollinger said that his son has many good ideas and that, just as importantly, he sees them through.

“He sees a problem and he works to fix it,” he said.

Join Israel Bollinger and this year’s Diamond Journalism Award winners from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 in the private party room downstairs at the Flying Saucer in Little Rock, located at 323 President Clinton Ave. Tickets are $15 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres and libations.

For more information on the event and Arkansas SPJ, visit the chapter’s website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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