By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Priyanka Vijay would like to know your opinion on pretty much everything — especially if it’s different from her own.
The year before she entered high school, Vijay became interested in current events. At first, it wasn’t by choice; her parents made it her summer homework to read and watch the news, then develop her opinions on happenings around the world.
Soon, it became a passion all her own. Now a junior at Niskayuna High School, Vijay enjoys debating her opinions with others at every opportunity.
“If I see something controversial, I talk to my dad,” she said. “He has pretty opposing views.”
She loves to engage in intellectual debate with her parents and grandparents, who live with her at their Avon Crest home, as well as her older brother, a physician.
Since middle school, when a teacher helped her see the value in creative writing such as opinion journalism and poetry, Vijay has enjoyed putting pen to paper about her perspective on the world. As a freshman, she began doing so as a contributor to the school newspaper, The Warrior.
“With an article, you have to be open to different viewpoints,” she said.
She relishes the opportunity to write thoughtfully about important local and global issues.
“You’re putting out something for the entire school to read,” she said. “You have to make sure what you write down there will stick for years and years.”
This year, the 16-year-old student co-edits The Warrior Magazine, a creative supplement that is released biweekly along with the school newspaper. During her first two years of high school, Vijay was a writer for the magazine, expressing herself on subjects like teamwork in tennis and which books and movies are worth students’ attention.
Now, she helps plan, assign and design content for the entertaining newspaper supplement.
Vijay is involved in a huge range of clubs, from Robotics to Chem Demos, a club that does science demonstrations for kids, and Raise and Give, a charity group.
Vijay was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from India for graduate school and professional opportunities. She dances in classical Indian style, which she says connects her to her heritage. She also volunteers at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital.
But when it comes to communicating, nothing has helped her grow more than working on the schoolwide magazine.
“The Warrior has helped me with my writing ability,” she said.
It has also made her better at managing her time and working closely with others.
Vijay works alongside co-editors Emily Morra and Madison Schmitt, as well as assistant editors Anjali Tangirala and Laura Labate. “It’s kind of a big job,” she said. “It’s a big commitment.”
Vijay’s responsibilities include helping to come up with story ideas, inviting students to write for the magazine, and laying out the final product in a neat design. The group publishes biweekly and spends Monday afternoons working hard on the next edition until dinnertime or later.
“It takes all five of us on the magazine staff,” she said.
The job isn’t easy, but Vijay said it’s worth it to spark dialogue about important concepts among students. She already notices conversations popping up about topics she thinks are crucial, but she wants to bring those discussions to the surface of her classmates’ consciousness.
Right now, she’s particularly interested in her peers’ thoughts on a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who shot a black youth in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Everyone has their own viewpoints on that, and I think we should be discussing it in class,” she said.
Another priority of hers is to clear up misunderstandings about students’ views on feminism. “We’re more for gender equality and I think that’s something that really needs to be known,” she said.
Already, The Warrior sparks some of those crucial conversations.
“I do hear people either agreeing or disagreeing with the articles,” she said. “Not enough people read it.”
Vijay said the paper is distributed every other week in homerooms, with the Warrior Magazine tucked inside. She’s sometimes frustrated to see multiple copies dropped into recycle bins.
She acknowledged that her taste for current events is uncommon among her peers, but said she hopes The Warrior and The Warrior Magazine will serve as a bridge to understanding world events.
“Reading the news is not something kids find fun or interesting,” Vijay said. Still, she thinks people should give it a shot.
Despite her affection for opinion journalism, Vijay hopes to pursue a career as a chemical or mechanical engineer. Though both of her parents are engineers, she became interested in the field independently, as is her style.
During a summer day camp through RPI last summer, she was able to tour General Electric and realized some of her assumptions about engineering had been inaccurate.
“I thought it was like a cubicle job,” she said.
After seeing 3D printers, model cars that ran on carbon dioxide, and a host of other fascinating projects, Vijay changed her tune.
“I just knew then that I wanted to do engineering,” she said.
But in the meantime, Vijay and her fellow magazine staff have an issue to plan. The upcoming edition of The Warrior Magazine will focus on winter holidays around the world, which Vijay hopes will help people gain a more diverse understanding outside of Christmas and Hanukkah.
“There has to be one article in there for everyone,” she said.