Max and Sam Strickerberger: Uplifting voices through cultural dialogue in Washington D.C.
Max and Sam’s Venture at a Glance:
InLight Magazine, a by-student and for-student publication, features the perspectives of young creatives across the United States.
The magazine has featured over 350 distinct student voices, hundreds of articles and artwork, published 30 individual issues and received national awards in journalism and diversity.
Contributors and young creatives from 30 schools connected to produce 2019’s spring intra-school issue.
Read their team's work here.
Changemakers challenge the norm; they refuse to conform to the status quo once they have identified a problem and internalized their spark. Twin brothers Max and Sam recognized their changemaking power as freshmen in high school and have felt compelled to create change ever since through a publication they co-founded, InLight. Together, they harness the collective power of storytelling and young voices through co-leading a network of students across Washington D.C. to “expand the cultural lens of their readers, provide a shock to complacency, and an antidote to intolerance.”
“Everyone's an expert in their own identity,'' says Sam Strickerberger as he explains the idea that inspired himself and his twin brother Max to create the diversity magazine InLight.
InLight Magazine serves as a forum to share the diversity within a school community, including diversity of religion, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual identification, gender, race, and political ideology. The spring 2019 publication contains stories ranging from critical insight on toxic masculinity to tokenism to intersectionality through introspective pieces, creative writing, art, and poetry. The goal of the magazine is to explore cultures and lift young people’s voices, especially those facing current and/or historic discrimination.
“The inequalities that exist outside of the classroom don’t stop at the walls of the school,” is a line from one of the magazine’s first faculty advisors that has remained with Max ever since. Centered around students narrating their own stories, InLight does not tell the story of the “other,” but instead “attempts to tell the story of the self,” the brothers explain. Max and Sam believe that the sharing of personal stories plays an essential role in “instilling empathy in readers while creating more inclusion” across school communities.
The two brothers discovered the need for such a platform after transferring to a new school, Sidwell Friends in Washington D.C., where diversity was a priority yet students did not have a student-led publication to tell their own stories and share their unique perspectives. When 14-years-old, they created a diversity section in their school newspaper, and then expanded to a full-fledged magazine with seasonal releases with themes such as education, struggles and triumphs, and consciousness. After realizing other area schools similarly lacked a platform to discuss issues surrounding identity and social inequity, they ventured to expand their idea.
Since inception, the magazine has featured over 350 distinct student voices, hundreds of articles and artwork, published 30 individual issues and received national awards in journalism and diversity. Today, InLight operates in two ways: it empowers students to connect with other area high schoolers through a joint-school issue and offers them the tools to create an InLight Magazine at their respective schools. Contributors from 30 schools connected through 2019’s spring intra-school issue, and individual InLight magazines have been established at eight high schools and two middle schools in the DC area. Sam and Max developed a multi-step manual to aid the creation of InLight in new schools and an annual August inter-school conference to kickstart each year.
The future of InLight includes involving countless more young people so the magazine can become a “connective tissue” across DC area schools for students dedicated to inclusivity, diversity, and empathy building. This expansion will help InLight scale from student storytelling to young changemaking within their communities and, eventually, to other regions around the country.
Sam credits the success of the diversity forum to the impact that both a physical magazine and online portal have for outreach. Furthermore, he emphasizes that InLight would be nothing without the countless contributors, talented facility advisors, and tireless high school staff whom continue to lead the mission after Sam and Max’s graduation from high school. Above all, both Sam and Max continue to be impressed with the eloquence and scope of diversity that the contributors of InLight share in every article.
Readers can access InLight Magazine at their website, http://www.inlightmagazine.org.
Max and Sam interned with Ashoka during the summer of 2018.
Jaclyn Dyson contributed to this story.
Subscribe to the LeadYoung Stories Series