Photo of the Coal Cracker Kids staff on Railroad Street in Mahanoy City, PA.

Five Years in Print

Marking a Milestone

Photo of Coal Cracker editor Serena Bennett.By Serena Bennett, Editor





I have been a reporter for Coal Cracker since its beginning in 2014, and I have watched it grow exponentially ever since — 2018 will be our fifth year in print.

While our editorial team used to meet at the Mahanoy City Public Library, we have since acquired our own building, the former Mahanoy City Lumber and Supply Company, which we are in the process of cleaning up and making our own.

We’re Growing

Photo of the Coal Cracker launch party.

In December 2013, we held a launch event at the Mahanoy City Public Library to tell people about Coal Cracker and invite young people to participate. L-R: McKenna Cavenas, Serena Bennet, Joei and Emma Shaller, with Krista Gromalski and Angelina Fritz.

We have also expanded from a small group of participants to an actual 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Coal Cracker Kids. These achievements have not only benefited today’s Coal Cracker staff, but will benefit all of our future young writers and photographers.

Coal Cracker has helped me to improve my writing ability and to see things from a new point of view. I’m sure my English teachers appreciate that! I have gained editorial experience that I would not have in a regular school setting, as well as knowledge about our community and its history.

Coal Cracker has not only assisted me in my studies at Mahanoy Area High School, but will also help me when I’m writing college application letters and thesis papers. Best of all, I get to apply my newly refined skills and knowledge to a newspaper that people both in and outside of our small area read and enjoy.

Through Coal Cracker, I have met a wide array of people, whether they be new members of our staff or someone I’m interviewing for an article.

Thank You

Photo of the Coal Cracker staff celebrating publication of the first issue.

The first issue of Coal Cracker was published in March of 2014. Celebrating it at the Mahanoy City Public Library are, front, from left to right: Emma Shaller, and Elizabeth and Sarah Matz. Back, from left to right: Joei Shaller, Meredith Rhoades, Justin Rivera, Serena Bennett and Amber Lawrence.

All of us at Coal Cracker Kids thank you for helping us to make these achievements possible. We hope you enjoy this look back at some highlights of our first four years in print.

We look forward to serving you in the new year!

And, if you feel inspired by our work, please consider making a donation to help us print our paper, fix up our building, maintain our website, and continue to grow. Tax-deductible gifts of any amount are welcome, and much needed!

Thank you for supporting Coal Cracker in all its aspects!

Read on!

On a chilly spring day in 2014, Coal Cracker reporters visited Centralia. Front, from left to right: Emma and Joei Shaller, Ashley Stetson, and Rhiannon Barkus. Back, from left to right: Serena Bennett, Elizabeth and Sarah Matz, author Trebbe Johnson, Krista Gromalski, journalist Meg McGuire of the Community Reporting Alliance, and Meredith Rhoades.

Photo of Coal Cracker and Manor Ink journalists at the original Woodstock site.

During the summer of 2014, Coal Cracker reporters visited Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, in Bethel, NY, at the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert. There, they met up with colleagues from Manor Ink, a youth-led newspaper based in Livingston Manor, NY.

Photo of a meeting with Senator Argall.

Coal Cracker reporters kicked off 2015 with an editorial meeting at the office of Senator David Argall (R-29). Here, John Wiekrykas asks some questions.

Photo of Schuylkill County Commissioners and Coal Cracker Kids reporters at the 2015 youth summit.

Reporters Emma and Joei Shaller represented Coal Cracker at the 2015 Youth Summit at the Penn State Schuylkill Campus, where they met with Schuylkill County Commissioners Gary Hess, left, and George Halcovage, right.

Photo of newspaper distribution.

Our reporters take on many aspects of creating the paper, including distribution. Back in the summer of 2015 Amber Lawrence, Rhiannon Barkus, Nicholas Kies, and Taylor Walsh helped to deliver our summer issue.

Photo of a newswiting workshop.

Journalists Meg McGuire and Chris Mele met with the Coal Cracker staff in 2015 for a newswriting workshop at the Mahanoy City Public Library.

Photo of Garry Pierre Pierre and Serena Bennett.

Journalist Garry Pierre-Pierre of the Community Reporting Alliance led a 2016 smartphone photography workshop for the Coal Cracker staff at the Teen Canteen. Here, Editor Serena Bennett discusses her work.

Photo of Jack Rhoades on a ladder painting the Coal Cracker Kids headquarters.

In September 2017, Coal Cracker Kids hosted a Fresh Paint Days event during which volunteers helped us to spruce up the exterior of our headquarters at the former Mahanoy City Lumber and Supply Company. Here, Jack Rhoades paints the Railroad Street entrance.

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© 2014 - 2017 Coal Cracker. All rights reserved. A project of Coal Cracker Kids.