Rhino Press

By: Jessica Jin

Information Access , Techie

Student voice is defined as "the individual and collective perspective and actions of students within the context of learning and education." When students feel "heard," they're more likely to participate civically and in partnership with their communities.

The challenge is, enabling student voice isn't simply one of opportunity, it is also one of access.  In order to be connected with what matters in the world, young people need to have the same technology and information access as every other member of society.

Nevertheless, there are repercussions associated with too much technology use. Teens always seem to have prolonged interaction with devices, rather than people. As a result, our social and communication skills develop differently than previous generations. Although 53% of GenZ (my generation) prefers in-person communications over instant messaging, Robyn Liedtke, an educational psychologist says "technology has impaired the development of age appropriate social skills in adolescents. Students need to speak directly to each other." Moerover, it's genreally accepted that the use of slang, emoticons and text abbreviations are interfering with the ability to write properly.

That's why I founded Rhino Press, to revolutionize the way students can use technology to have a voice. We provide students professional online exposure and skills in digital journalism, media, and business leadership. For photography we also have the visual arts platform, Canvas. Currently, we have a staff of over 150 journalists, editors, photographers, and board members and are distributing relevant, high-quality content through cutting-edge social media.

In a world of Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, and other egocentric platforms, my aim is to utilize technology to build a communication network that gives voice to the community, beyond sharing status updates. I believe our current technology has disrupted our lives to an extent that we do not even realize. While we are driven to connect virtually, human-to-human interaction is what we seek most. 

In 2014, I launched Rhino Press with only three students attending the first meeting.  The school administration was understandably skeptical of my idea. After all, I was a soft-spoken underclassman without any experience in journalism, web development, or leadership. While only a few students initially joined, they were driven by passion to write. A few sports fanatics took turns to report every game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Some covered campus stories, others created student life polls and surveys. Through word-of-mouth and social media, Rhino Press became a popular site for students, staff, and parents. Students from all backgrounds and interests joined to share news, opinions, and personal stories.

We are now known as Houston’s largest interscholastic news organization with 16,000 student readers, a staff of over 150 journalists and a network of passionate high school students in Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Jersey City, and the UK.

Team Members

  • Jessica Jin

    Founder

    When I was a high school sophomore, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my school lacked a platform where students could share ideas and voice their opinions. I decided to build one for myself and my classmates. I was buried deep in schoolwork and extracurricular commitments, and I had no experience in journalism or web development. I had no idea of the challenges I would face. I began building the platform from scratch. I did not have any experience in web development and and had no one to teach me. On my own, I learned HTML, CSS, UX/UI design, graphic design, online marketing, website analytics, social media integration, and backend process workflow. Through a steep learning curve, Rhino Press was born and grows to this day. The biggest hurdle for me, however, was the “social” aspect of entrepreneurship.To fulfill my mission of providing a voice to my peers, I had to engage students to use the platform. At first, the idea of speaking in front of a classroom was intimidating. What was even more terrifying was picturing myself trying to persuade my classmates to join Rhino Press. After countless rehearsals in front of my bedroom mirror, I began to give my pitch to classrooms. With each pitch I gained confidence and generated interest from students.

Impact

Meet Our Founding Team!

Oct. 21, 2015

Growing with Rhino Press has not only developed my skills and helped me discover my passions, but also has opened doors for my staff in the media industry. Two of our journalists, without prior experience in journalism, have been offered jobs by Sports Illustrated due to their involvement in Rhino Press. Three other students published on the Houston Chronicle.

And many more engaged in their passions, voiced their opinions to be heard, and shared collaborative ideas. The idea that I could be part of their success gave me an incredible feeling of joy.


Emily Hwu is our SOCIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR.  Emily has a passion for theater, journalism and multiple forms of social media.  Emily crafts the hook to draw in thousands of readers on various platforms of social media.


Nato Sandweiss is our WORLD NEWS SECTION EDITOR. Nato is responsible for ensuring high-quality, objective coverage of U.S. and global events. As an avid news follower, Nato almost never misses an episode of the Daily Show.


Cole Bennette is an ENTERTAINMENT SECTION EDITOR. Box office analyst and music buff, Cole is an aspiring artist with a flair for writing. As co-head of the entertainment section, he seeks to keep readers on the front line of popular culture.


Nico Michel is an ENTERTAINMENT SECTION EDITOR. Nico dedicates his spare time to acting and working behind the scenes of a state-chanpioning high school theater department.


Ishaan Chatterjee is a SPORTS SECTION EDITOR. Ishaan is dedicated to churning out high-quality articles that rival those of major sites such as ESPN or BleacherReport, where he has previously contributed as a guest-writer.


  Lucas Pringle is the FIRST UK-based CORRESPONDENT and a Current Affairs journalist at the UK publication Beyond The Bubble. He has a keen interest in politics, world news and literature.


Jonathan Deng is our HEAD COPY EDITOR. Jonathan is responsble for selecting upcoming stories, helping produce high-quality and relevant coverage, and raising junior editors in copy editing. He is also passionate about number theory, theoretical particle physics, cosmology and computer science.


Besty Goodfriend is a SPORTS SECTION EDITOR and works to deliver stories that take a new perspective of the sports we love. She has a passion for covering college football, and her work has been featured on SB Nation's College Football blog.


Eliav T​erk is our ADVISER. Eliav is a frequent debater on the subject of Israeli policy. His interests include tennis, finance and political science. Eliav's expertise has shaped the decision-making of the Rhino Press start-up team.


 

I’ve learned three lessons growing with Rhino Press:

  1. I first learned how rewarding and fulfilling it is to pursue my vision in improving my community.
  2. The second lesson I learned is the importance of building a team. I learned how vital it is to delegate and entrust my company's success.
  3. The last lesson I’ve learned is to not let anyone else’s perceptions of who I am as a young female of color hinder my pathway to success.

Building Community

Oct. 19, 2015

Building community for a venture is humbling. When I began developing Rhino Press, I wasn’t always taken seriously due to my lack of experience as a high school sophomore. But I didn’t let that hinder me from implementing my vision of success. I hope to inspire other young women to pursue their dreams in the world of entrepreneurship.

  1. Gaining page views and readers: Word-of-mouth has been our main method of gaining readership. For example, one opinion article that proposed a new campus dress code went viral among students and caught the attention of the school administration. Students chattered on the issue, and the campus dress code even became a debate topic in one of the school’s weekly student body debates. In addition to content, the website’s design has also drawn attention from students. The modern, color-coded site layout serves to display large graphic visuals and interactive content, creating content our student readers enjoy reading.     
  2. Incentivizing writers: Our volunteer staff of 150 journalists are driven by their passions, not a paycheck. They are motivated to voice their opinions and engage discussion with thousands of other diverse, passionate high school students. Rhino Press also provides journalists with their own professional profiles and archives.
  3. Road-map SEO: We use Google Analytics on our dashboard to improve SEO and track metrics. We also use Facebook Insights.
  4. Money making: We plan on generating revenue with advertisements and corporate partnerships with local businesses in Houston by next spring.

The role my heritage played in my journey as an entrepreneur

Sept. 10, 2015

I come from a family of immigrants from China who were extremely poor. For the longest time, my father was a student getting his Ph.D under a student visa in Hawaii, and my miother was working as a salesperson to sustain the family. They naturally prioritized financial security above anything else. That’s why when my brother and I grew up, they prioritized entering an industry that’s safe and secure.

Through starting my own business, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is the key to becoming fiscally abundant, not just secure. It’s more important to me to thrive and do what matters to me. My success as an entrepreneur depends solely on my talents, ability to strategize, drive, to lead a team and turn passions and vision into a viable business model and create leverage and provide utility to others.

The Houston Chronical did a story on my entrepreneurial journey, which you can read here.


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