By Abby Hoover

Students at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy (LCPA) recently began publishing a magazine, “The Cricket,” with artwork and creative writing from the student body, interviews, fashion, pop culture and school news.

Junior Magnus Fraipont, co-founder and chief editor of The Cricket, and Black Student Union (BSU) co-founder Ross Brown, floated the idea after visiting a mutual friend at Pembroke Hill School. 

“We went to his school to watch one of his performances and then afterwards, we’re walking around and he showed us one of their school magazines and I was like, ‘Oh, this is super cool,’ and I was thinking this creative group of people at Art Club, we could totally make something like this,” Fraipont said.

The purpose of The Cricket is not just to keep students updated about what’s going on at the school, but it’s also a platform for members of Art Club and their peers to display their art and creativity. 

“Over the past couple years, there has definitely been a big decline at school for recognition for that stuff,” Fraipont said. “It’s very sports centered – which I’m so glad that our sports get as much support as they do – but it still kind of sucks that there’s not equal representation for the arts. So we wanted to have some kind of publication that lets anyone submit stuff.”

They took the idea to their teacher, Shellie Kacillas, who was thrilled. She had been waiting for students to find the initiative to start a program like this for years. Kacillas shared the idea with the administration, who helped find funding to cover the first few issues.

“It feels really good, it’s like something to be proud of and it’s something that keeps the kids motivated,” Kacillas said. “If I want them to be making more artwork in Art Club, I could be like, ‘What are you contributing to the magazine?’ There’s more incentive because people get excited to see their artwork out and about, floating around in people’s hands. I think that’s the coolest part about it and it’s also nice to have a little tangible thing that shows off how creative the Lincoln kids are because they’re so goofy and silly and creative and fun. So it’s fun to see their humor, their intelligence, their creativity, like all of that come together into one thing.”

Brown shared that the BSU was considering doing some kind of zine – a self-published, non-commercial print-work that is typically produced in small, limited batches – so instead of competing for funding and readers, they decided to merge the two ideas, giving the BSU a permanent section in the publication.

“We try to get them out every month, but we haven’t given ourselves a super strict deadline,” Fraipont said. “It’s kind of difficult to gauge how long each issue will take, some are bigger than others, but we try to get it out at least a month after they submit something for the issue.”

For the first issue, they used nearly everything submitted to them. However, now that word is spreading and creative students are becoming interested, content is chosen on a first come, first serve basis.

“The whole emphasis is that you don’t have to be good at art, you don’t even have to be in Art Club to submit something,” Fraipont said. “So it doesn’t matter how good or bad something is, we put it in. Some issues we’ll have some very, I guess, like simple drawings. We put them in there to show that we don’t have any sort of like, I guess, standards or a set definition of what can be entered in there as long as they want to display it.”

The magazine provides a platform for all sorts of students. 

“I think it kind of provides a voice and allows you to be heard with pictures, with your art and even like with your poetry, with words,” freshman contributor Morgan Wafer-Lyman said. “I do the teacher interviews and it allows the kids to get to know the teachers, as well, and maybe form personal interests with them.”

Wafer-Lyman is interested in being a reporter or working in marketing someday, and is already gaining experience – and getting a byline – as a freshman.

“Right now, since I take graphic design, I think advertisements and marketing sound interesting, and maybe I want to go to that,” Wafer-Lyman said. “As a hobby I would just like to do art on the side and maintain that, and then I would also like to go into journalism. My mom wanted to be a journalist. She was like, ‘I don’t have the guts to do that,’ so it was like okay, I kind of want to do that.”

Fraipont is very interested in creative writing, and for a while he wanted to go to school for some kind of art and considered pursuing animation. He writes a lot of the Dungeon and Dragons Club at Lincoln.

A wide variety of interests and talents are pulled together in The Cricket, which features different student organizations and clubs in each issue.

COVID-19 influenced this project because when Art Club went virtual, fewer people showed up. A small group spent two hours each day on Zoom, and that’s where the idea started to blossom.

“I think that COVID has definitely helped shape this year because I feel like we’ve had so many people this year – not just more people in numbers, but so many more people like super involved this year – and I think it’s because we were virtual for most of last year, like some of the new people didn’t really get that extra social interaction,” Fraipont said. “So now that it’s back, I feel like a lot of people are a lot more willing to participate in clubs and like, be a part of it. So that’s great.”

They’ve seen big improvements between their first and second issue, making some crucial changes like spending more time editing and making earlier deadlines since certain pages take longer. Submissions usually fill up quickly for art and writing.

“I would say also just really exploring what you can do with design and stuff like that,” Fraipont said. “I feel like our pages have definitely gotten a lot more interesting from the first edition to the second edition – and then now even from the second to the third, I feel like a lot more interesting – but also like not being distracting from the actual content.”

Senior Mion Charity taught herself how to upload the magazine to a website so students could share a digital version.

Charity isn’t headed to college after graduating this spring, but she plans to come back to help Kacillas with Art Club every chance she gets.

“I definitely have a lot more self work to do and just like relaxing that I haven’t been able to do all these years now,” Charity said. “So definitely just figuring out what I want to do.”

Their hard work is paying off, and this time they added credits on the back cover to highlight those who are working on the magazine.

“People who actually work on it can use that for any sort of resumes or college applications,” Fraipont said. “Before, half of the pages didn’t have anyone’s names on it. So that’s definitely a small thing that was good.”

Someday, they’ll all graduate, but the legacy they hope to leave behind with The Cricket will live on. They hope the magazine will bring recognition to the value of the art department and showcase the creative students at Lincoln.

“One of the things that definitely sparked the magazine project, I kind of felt like Art Club was getting a little stale,” Fraipont said. “It started turning into like, we weren’t really making a ton of contributions, and then we were wondering, why aren’t we getting funding? I feel like this is a way to spark a little bit of recognition and then get the wheels moving to start working on other projects that we kind of had started on and then kind of trickled into nothing.”

The group has made sets and props – even a giant papier-mâché horse – for school productions, posters and banners for senior sports nights. Their work-in-progress is on a huge “Zoom” screen of famous artists.

The Cricket has been a conversation starter and a comfort to those who have felt lonely since the pandemic.

“We didn’t want it to just focus on the arts because we wanted it to be kind of like something that anyone could pick up,” Fraipont said. “And also, we had a lot of ideas and we didn’t really want to limit ourselves because if we had just done it as a publication that kind of showed off art and writing, it would have been fine, but everyone has a ton of ideas.”

At first, it was just going to draw attention to their club. Then, they noticed the sports got more recognition in the yearbook so they decided to dedicate space to recognizing other school groups and clubs. The latest issue highlights theater.

“All of them play an important role in the school’s diverse community of students and stuff like that,” Fraipont said. 

One thing led to another, and now the BSU has permanent pages, along with fashion and teacher interviews, but there are plenty of open pages to fill with submissions and new ideas. The sense of collaboration and pride in the magazine has brought students together in an organic way.

“We didn’t want it to get repetitive,” Fraipont said. “We wanted to keep people’s attention and we want it to be able to have all our ideas. The film page, it’s always done by Emma. The fashion page is always done by Jamie, and a club highlight – that changes but we always have a club highlight – and the teacher interviews are always done by Morgan.”

The students who work on The Cricket have seen other bursts of creativity throughout the school since they started printing, and they like to think they had something to do with it. Their first issue was released in January, and they’ve now printed two more.

So far, the magazine has been funded through the school’s activities fund, the Booster Club, and the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) district, which offered to pay for two of the magazines.

“So it’s just been like emailing people trying,” Kacillas said. “Yeah, the money’s there. It’s just like finding it. Getting it.”

Kacillas has taught at Lincoln for seven years. When she started, there wasn’t an Art Club.

“There hadn’t been for some years and then when I got here – I only had two classes here when I first started, and it was a sixth grade class and a Foundation of Art class – and the sixth graders were just so much fun. Mion was one of them, and then another one was a girl named Samira, and they really wanted to have an Art Club, and I wanted to do that as well. That just kind of took off and just has been going and growing ever since.”

Art Club is every Tuesday and Thursday after school. Tuesday’s the quieter day, especially because many Art Club members attend Film Club on Tuesdays. On Thursdays, every seat is filled and there’s a buzz of productivity and collaboration. Art Club isn’t just about productivity – it’s a place where students can come unwind after a long day of classes, catch up on homework, or let their imagination roam.

Each day, a different student writes a prompt on the board for those looking for inspiration. When the weather warms up, they’re supposed to be painting a mural on a fence. The design and planning phase has taken them a long time.

As a freshman, Wafer-Lyman is excited to be involved with Art Club for years to come, and she hopes to see an expansion of large, visible projects like murals. 

A few years ago, the Art Club painted ceiling tiles like flags from each of the nationalities represented at Lincoln.

“That was fun because we painted it all by hand, like they took down the giant panels for us to paint, and we unveiled them,” Charity said.

As students push through the semester, attendance has been dwindling. While deadlines approach and other obligations prevent many from attending regularly, the group fluctuates between 50 or 60.

Kacillas hopes someday the students can take over the administrative and design processes fully so they can continue building their skills and she can be more hands-off.

“I am starting to see more in the BSU sections, like they have their own meetings and they decide what they want to put in there,” Kacillas said.

She has seen Art Club, and The Cricket, help students de-stress and work together during the pandemic.

“This year has been a weird year, it’s been like more – I don’t know what other word than drama – there’s just been a lot more bullying and racism and fights and stuff that I’ve never seen before here,” Kacillas said. “But anything that brings the student body together, anything that’s positive and uplifting, I think it’s really helpful during this time. It’s just like a celebratory thing for kids to just be happy being at the school and being around each other.”

The Cricket is printed locally at ADCO Litho Plate, a woman-owned small business on Truman Road.

“I’m really happy with what it is, I want to keep uplifting their voices,” Kacillas said. “This has been a really positive thing and it’s just fun to see.”