High school student’s newsletter helps connect immigrants

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With her feet planted in two worlds — that of a local immigrant community and of the journalism realm she has recently joined — Saideepika Rayala was able to see a problem in the way immigrants get their news.

And she was uniquely positioned to solve the problem.

The 17-year-old wanted immigrant communities in central Ohio to be able to get local news that they could understand, in their native languages, so she created an email newsletter called The Columbus Civic.

Each month, Rayala, a senior at Olentangy Liberty High School near Powell, gathers news that she thinks would be of interest or relevant to immigrants living in central Ohio, and she works with a team of translators and editors to tell the stories in three languages: Telugu, Tamil and French.

“I hope because of this newsletter, immigrant and refugee people can say they feel more connected to a city,” she said. “I hope they feel they have more of a voice and they’re included.”

Rayala first noticed that her parents, who emigrated from India and speak Telugu, a south Indian language, were getting their news only from Indian news sources.

“I thought it might be because of the cultural and language barrier,” she said. “I really wanted to break down that barrier.”

She also teaches citizenship classes as a volunteer at US Together, a local refugee-resettlement agency, and noticed that some of the immigrants and refugees she worked with lacked access to news of any kind.

“My freshman year of journalism (class), I remember talking about the importance of local news to democracy,” said Rayala, who is also the editor of her high school’s student publication. “There were these gaps where pockets of the community weren’t engaged in civic issues here.

“I thought those kind of gaps were harming how our community works.”