From left to right, advisor Leslie Appelbaum, Archer Isgro, Reme Isgro, Calla Stark, Sophie Kilbreth, Ida Leavitt, Jo Ellis, Maggie Ellis, Olivia Chong and Sophie Gavin. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

“The Blue Heron,” Casco Bay High School’s student literary magazine, has been recognized as a First Class magazine by the National Council of Teachers of English. It is the only student magazine in Maine to receive that top honor.

“Having outside validation feels really uplifting,” said faculty advisor Leslie Appelbaum.

“The Blue Heron” was launched in 2017 and is a yearly print publication featuring a variety of writing forms, from poetry to short stories to essays, as well as artwork and photography.

“It’s cool to have this kind of thing at our school, and a great opportunity to get published. It promotes reading and writing in the digital age,” said Ida Leavitt, one of the magazine’s editors.

“The magazine supports budding writers and allows them a space where they feel comfortable sharing their work, and creates a pathway to a larger audience,” said another editor, Calla Stark.

Magazine board member Jo Ellis likes the connections the magazine forges among students.


“I came into Casco wanting a place to work on my writing and connect with people who love writing,” Ellis said. “It’s a great community of people who love writing and art.”

The group submitted their magazine to the national council’s Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines contest in June and learned about their win this month. They’re hopeful the REALM accolade will encourage more students to submit their work for the next publication.

Work is submitted to the magazine’s student board, which makes collective decisions about what will make it into the print, what needs more editing and what art and writing pieces will pair best together.

“It taught me to think about the ways in which different perspectives interplay, and how rewarding it is to make something that reflects the thoughts and feelings of so many individuals,” said Mali Jones, last year’s editor.

Maggie Ellis said she especially enjoys the task of “pairing writing with art,” because it “broadens the meaning of both pieces.”

Reme Isgro said students on the board get the opportunity to learn more about their peers and see a new side of them through their art and writing.


“I am always amazed at the level of consideration students give to each step of the process,” Appelbaum said. “It has been a joy watching students inspire others to submit their work, then decide what should go in the magazine and why, and how it should be put together.”

Many of the magazine’s students said it was Appelbaum who originally encouraged them to get involved, noticing their passion and talent for art and writing and nurturing it.

“We love the variety of voices in the magazine,” Appelbaum said. “The magazine really is a reflection of the work students are doing across subjects and grade levels.”

The magazine has continued to grow over the years, and the board has found ways to make it more fun and appealing to the student body. One of these strategies has been an event called “lit match,” where the magazine releases a survey for students and pairs them with a “perfect match,” either romantically or platonically. Students pay $5 for the survey, which goes toward publication costs.

They’ve also offered on-the-spot poems at school events, and hosted visiting authors and open mic nights.

“Out of the magazine has come this whole world of reading and literacy,” Appelbaum said.

“Our students are dedicated to all things related to reading and writing: They schedule writers to come to the school and share their work; and they create a monthly newsletter with book reviews and what’s happening in the literary world,” she said. “This group is so committed to celebrating literacy.”

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce said the school is proud of the magazine and all involved.

“This is an exquisite magazine and a well-deserved honor,” he said. “We are so proud of our writers, artists and editors.”

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