The Nest Builders

Kristina Sokourenko '11 and Sunny Lyon '11  started the Cardinal in 2010 when they were juniors at SAAS. The current staff of the Cardinal explore our roots and learn more about the publication’s history as we plan for the future. Kristina and Sunny worked hard to create the publication, and we are working hard to keep it moving in the right direction. The Cardinal’s flight pattern has changed since 2010, but the overall vision of its founders remains. In an interview with Kristina and Sunny, I asked about how the nest for the Cardinal was built and the path that the Cardinal has taken since its inception.

 Sunny Lyon '11

Sunny Lyon '11

 Kristina Sokourenko '11

Kristina Sokourenko '11

What were some of the challenges that you encountered when starting The Cardinal? How did you overcome them?

Kristina:
First off, getting the administration on board wasn’t the easiest. Some of our initial supporters turned out to be our hardest critics, and this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it confronted us with a ceiling. If this paper wanted to carry the school name, we couldn’t just write about anything we pleased. We constantly had to get our subject matter approved and it was difficult to relinquish that sort of control. In the end, however, it showed us a valuable lesson about representing an institution. As editors-in-chief of The Cardinal, it was just as important for us to cooperate with the administration as it was to fight for students and their voices. It taught me compromise at an early age and to this day, I feel extremely grateful for it.   

Sunny:
The main challenge that we faced in trying to start The Cardinal was that we had no guideline or set of instructions, and we really had to start from scratch in terms of our plan of action. Neither Kristina nor I had any idea how to use InDesign when we started, so that was challenging as well. Another difficult element of the project was trying to get others (both students and administrators) to trust our vision and dedicate their time and effort to a project that had yet to fully materialize.

What was your inspiration, if you had one, for creating a school newspaper?

Kristina:
Personally, my inspiration was Garfield’s Messenger. The whole thing was (and definitely still is!) so impressive. The articles were controversial, but extremely well-padded with excellent writing. The paper covered every corner of the school and featured an unbelievable cadre of illustrators, photographers and editors. All my friends were reading it; I was reading it. It carried a huge readership, both in print and online. Most importantly, I felt that it captured the spirit of the school better than anything else could. I wanted to recreate this at SAAS.

Sunny:
Our inspiration was the creativity and passion in our student body. We wanted to create a place for students to share their stories and opinions, and also strengthen the connection between SAAS and the community via ads, local distribution, etc.

What did you see for the future of the Cardinal?

Kristina:
I wanted it to be a place for students to put their thoughts on paper. Teachers like Alison Ray made me fall in love with writing, and during my SAAS years, I remember being surrounded with an incredible class that really had a way with prose. One thing that truly frustrated me, however, was the divide between the kind of writing you did in class, and the kind of stuff you’d see on Facebook. Blogs and journals were close to the middle ground I craved, but these mediums had always carried a private sentiment and I wanted something more social. A newspaper seemed fitting- a place to express your ideas, but not one where you felt pressured to show off your SAT vocabulary. When you write for your peers, you find that your writing becomes more true to yourself and your values. In the end, I wanted The Cardinal to complement students’ writing talents with a relatable, human vibe.  

Are we fulfilling that vision?

Kristina:
It doesn’t matter. Change is a beautiful thing and I can only hope the Cardinal’s vision changes radically with every cohort of students who write for it and run it.

Sunny:
That's up to you guys! We expected our vision to change over time, as each group of SAAS students added their own ideas.

What did you learn about working with and for other people?

Kristina:
When you launch a project, it’s easy to get caught up with what YOU want. You have a dream and a vision and you want others to carry you towards it. But after working with 30+ people, you begin to realize that the opinions around you matter just as much, if not more, than your own. Working with others taught me to ALWAYS check in with the people around me, both formally and informally, and feel out the temperature in a room before carrying out some pre-planned agenda. When you manage a group of people your age, you have to strike a middle ground between being a leader and being a friend, and I believe that The Cardinal showed me where this lies.

Sunny:
The most frustrating part of my experience was definitely trying to get our writers and editors to stick to deadlines. I learned that if you are patient and understanding with people they will be much more likely to cooperate with you. Getting angry when people failed to meet deadlines never worked as well as open communication and setting reasonable expectations.

How has founding and working for The Cardinal affected your life? What have you taken away from the experience?

Kristina:
After successfully publishing our first issue, and the second one, and the next one, and seeing the student body behind it double, it seemed like anything was possible. In less than a few months, we learned to run giant meetings, work with faculty on a whole new level, coordinate deadlines, raise funds, negotiate with printing companies and learn Photoshop from scratch. It was a lot at once and there were definitely sleepless nights, but it taught me the power behind a professional approach to things. Getting people to take you seriously starts with having a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and then some. Things will go wrong and you need to be prepared. People always want details and every situation demands answers and The Cardinal taught me how to deliver, and on time!

Sunny:
By founding The Cardinal, I realized that when you see a need for something important in your community, don't rely on others to make it a reality. Even if it seems like an incredibly daunting task, taking things one step at a time can really make you realize that anything is possible. Although we faced a lot of challenges in getting our idea off the ground, accomplishing our goal was even more exciting as a result.