An open letter to the media from Bolton
By Lily Donaldson (Bolton High School)
To the Mid-South news agencies whom this may concern:
The recent journalism coverage of events at Bolton High School has harmed its reputation as a place of learning, and wrongfully denied the public of being fully and completely informed of the successes of its students.
Due to one-sided, negative reporting, the Mid-South is under the constant impression that Bolton High School is a drug infested, gang-overrun place of violence and prostitution, and nothing could be farther from the truth. This false idea has been spread across the community so often. One cannot wear a Bolton t-shirt in public without being harassed with questions about the latest sensational yellow journalism coverage of an actually minor event.
We as a community have a right to be informed about both sides of every story, and you as credible news organizations have an obligation to give it to us without bias or sensationalism added in for good viewing figures or readership.
Increasingly, it has become obvious that news agencies have ignored this important ethic when it comes to Bolton High School. A simple Google search turns up practically no news coverage of the wonderful accomplishments of our students, only misleading reporting of events reflecting a small part of the student body, thus denigrating the school as a whole.
As an aspiring journalist myself, I have done the work for you and gathered up a few recent accomplishments of our school worthy of news coverage. First, all five of our choirs received ‘Superior’ awards with Jazz choir and Show choir also receiving ‘Best in Show’ awards at the Festival Disney vocal competition in Orlando, Florida. Students Brent Russell and Brynna Williams advanced in the final round of the National Merit Scholarship Competition as National Merit Finalists. Students Lawrence Guyot and Andrew Farris recently became official members of Shelby County Election Commission. Bolton’s Hot Rodders of America chapter placed fifth at the national competition, and Bolton’s Stagelight Theatre received 12 nominations from the Orpheum’s High School Musical Theatre Awards for its spring production of “Lucky Stiff.”
In addition to those recent awards and accomplishments, Bolton has remarkable programs that would make timeless news stories. Some of these include the International Baccalaureate program, an elite, internationally recognized program available in less than one percent of schools in the United States that not only promotes excellence in academics, but also in the arts, community service, physical fitness, and an understanding of world cultures; the Advance Placement and Dual Enrollment programs, the former being a step up from honors coursework with regulations and exams from the national College Board, the latter being an opportunity for students to be enrolled in college level classes while receiving college credit; well established theatre, art and graphic media departments and auto-mechanic, cosmetology, health occupations, childhood development and vocational training programs. Bolton is an optional school, meaning that any student wishing to pursue our three optional school programs, International Baccalaureate, Automotive Service Technology and Informational Technology, may transfer here to do so.
Bolton has also always been community minded, encouraging students to make a difference in their community. Bolton’s National Honor Society granted its 25th wish for the Make a Wish Foundation this year. Bolton is the only school in Shelby County that maintains a food pantry to support families struggling to put feed themselves. In addition, Bolton’s students have raised money to build wells for elementary schools in Uganda and for the American Heart Association, supported families with chronically or critically ill students through the Links of Luv program, held fundraisers for LeBonheur hospital, built houses for deserving families, raised awareness for fighting domestic violence and conducted a campus beautification event. As you can see, there have been, are, and always will be positive news items worthy of media coverage at Bolton High School. In fact, I think that the evidence above suggests overwhelmingly that Bolton is not only a good school, but it distinguishes itself as a great one.
With optimistic hearts and rational minds, we acknowledge that we are in no way perfect, that we can improve, and that we must, as students, as faculty, and as Wildcats, take responsibility for this. We recognize that we are not only fighting for ourselves, but also waging a cultural war against sensational reporting and that this war will be a long one. We only ask that those local news outlets mentioned also take responsibility for their one-sided reporting and wrongful portrayal of Bolton High School and make a reasonable effort to improve. Bolton may have its faults, but it also has its fair share of victories that deserve to be shared with the community.
We love our school, and, with your help, hopefully the public can too, once it sees what it means to be “Bolton strong.”