From left: Marissa Mercurio and Julia Magdei holding a Baler Gazette sign. Photo courtesy by Julia Magdei.
From left: Marissa Mercurio and Julia Magdei holding a Baler Gazette sign. Photo courtesy by Julia Magdei.

After the impacts of COVID-19 and being diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, Hollister High School senior Julia Magdei is turning digital pages through the Baler Gazette, the campus’s first student-run news website.

Established as a 20-member student club, the Gazette aims to share current events and encourage students to voice their opinions and spread school spirit. The site covers categories from academics and art to student concerns and world events. So far it has published 19 articles. 

Magdei, 17, had originally planned to start the club in 2020, but delayed it because of the pandemic and her health condition, which was diagnosed when she suffered a stroke in 2021. In 2022, the club returned, after electing officers and holding its first fundraiser last September. The Gazette’s first article, “A Look Back at the World Cup Winners,” was published on February 16.

“Our club is pretty small, but we start every meeting with brainstorming ideas for stories,” said Magdei, who serves as club president and editor-in-chief. “After our first fundraiser in September, we raised enough money to build the website and write various stories.” 

  • Julia Magdei. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

Magdei spoke of the difficulties she faced while recovering from her stroke in a Gazette article. In it she describes the impact the illness had on her mobility and coordination, turning once-simple tasks into major obstacles. She reflects on the extensive rehabilitation process she undertook, and her commitment to regain her physical abilities. 

“In the first weeks after my stroke,” Magdei wrote, “I had to relearn to swallow, chew, drink, eat, speak, and more. When I came home almost three months later, I was only able to sit in a wheelchair. For the last year and a half, I had over 500 doctors’ and therapists’ appointments. I have worked extremely hard and for many, many hours to regain functions of my body. Even though I still have no feeling in my right arm, hand, and foot, I am walking with a cane.”

Through all her challenges, Magdei, who was a top-10 student in her class and recognized by the Association of California School Administrators Region 10 for her academics, continued to work on the Baler Gazette, which met at lunchtime once a week during the school year. 

Julia Magdei (center) accompanied by her mom (third from the left) recognized by ASCA Region 10 members and by Hollister High Principal Adrian Ramirez. Photo courtesy by Adam Breen.
Julia Magdei (center) accompanied by her mom Andreea Penieoara (third from the left) recognized by ASCA Region 10 members and by Hollister High Principal Adrian Ramirez (left). Photo courtesy by Adam Breen.

Recent graduate and club member Zitlaly Ceballos, said she was recruited to the Gazette by Magdei. 

“She came across to me with this idea,” Ceballos said, “which was to get a group of friends, because initially it was just a small group that wrote articles.” 

Ceballos highlights the difficulties the club encountered while bringing the Gazette online. 

“The process of getting a website was quite a challenge,” Ceballos told BenitoLink. “We were just able to figure out the in’s and out’s of how one becomes a writer and editor, and how to get a website going and an audience.” 

The Baler Gazette exceeded Ceballos’ initial expectations.

“It just became something that we did for fun, like a side project,” she said. “Then it expanded a little bit. More and more people decided to join which was exciting. It allowed us to see how a small idea become much more.” 

San Benito High School District Public Information/Communications Officer Adam Breen said the school used to have a newspaper. 

“This is the first student-run publication,” said Breen. “Six years ago the Baler newspaper stopped printing.” 

No one is sure when the newspaper began publication, but Breen guesses it started “around the late 1960’s. It stopped because it didn’t have a pathway, and the digital world is better for a newsletter.”

The BenitoLink Internship Program is a paid, skill-building program that prepares local youth for a professional career. This program is supported by Monterey Peninsula Foundation AT&T Golf Tour, United Way, Taylor Farms and the Emma Bowen Foundation.