Tired of hearing the girls she mentored at the Wheeler School complain about being bored after school, Amie Darboe ’10 decided she wanted to give her students an outlet to express themselves. Near the time of her graduation, she took a leap and launched her own business venture — “High School Pieces,” an online magazine for young women written by young women.
“There are a lot of websites out there that target high school-aged girls but are not written by them,” Darboe said. “I wanted to give the girls a chance to speak for themselves because I knew that they were intellectually capable of doing that.”
The site has several different sections on issues including relationships and college. It also features pictures, songs and interviews with other high school bloggers.
Darboe designed the website herself and first recruited writers through girls she had met at Wheeler, who referred friends interested in blogging.
Now, the site has writers from across the country and globe, including contributors from India and Malaysia. Darboe currently has a waitlist of interested writers, all of whom must go through an application process, she said.
Emily Campbell, a high school senior from Leesburg, Va., started writing for the magazine after being recruited by Darboe, who had read her personal blog. Campbell said she enjoys the editorial freedom the site permits its writers and likes receiving feedback from her readers.
“We just write about anything we really feel because we’re high school girls, and we want our readers to relate to us,” Campbell said. She also listed college as a big “stress-factor” for her readers.
Working with high schoolers, who often have strong opinions, presents challenges, but the familial atmosphere and rewards of working with the girls make the job worthwhile, Darboe said. Darboe mentors the young women through the writing and editing process but also reaches out to her writers in other ways, such as tutoring one girl online for the SAT.
Rory Finnegan, a high school sophomore from New Jersey, found “High School Pieces” while looking for a “creative outlet outside of school” for her writing. Working for the site has inspired Finnegan to join her high school newspaper, she said.
She described High School Pieces as a “laid-back” working atmosphere and “an inspirational place.”
Darboe’s interest in media developed after taking film and popular culture classes in the American Studies department at Brown. Being a teaching assistant for ENGN 0900: “Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations” also helped her prepare to work full-time as a young entrepreneur and gave her the confidence to start “High School Pieces” without prior business experience, she said. She credited the Brown alumni network for helping her with start-up funds and marketing advice.
“High School Pieces” recently garnered the attention of larger media outlets and began promoting contests, such as a Princeton Review-sponsored competition to win a free SAT tutoring session, Darboe said.
The site’s next step is to launch location-specific branches, including a Rhode Island section Darboe aims to unveil in January.