History of Setting Stone

What is Setting Stone? This student run group advised by Matt Aerni and Clare Squance, both English teachers at Talwanda High School, offers a creative outlet for students to have works such as poetry, writing, and photography published for others to see.  Both advisors help in ways such as organizing and printing the magazine, setting up meetings and going through submissions. Although the advisors offer tremendous amounts of help, the idea for Setting Stone came from a completely different individual.

Setting Stone originally began in 2001 when Brooks Vostal, a Creative Writing and English teacher at Talawanda High School, put in the time and energy to build the club and magazine. Vostal said he decided to create the club because there was no vehicle for students to share their work in the school community at that time. “I envisioned a place for writers to share their work among the school community,” he said.


Matt Lykins, English teacher at THS,  originally teamed up with Vostal to act out this vision. In 2002 Vostal passed the club on to Aerni, where he and  Lykins worked together to keep the group moving.

When Lykins became the English department chair position in 2005, he decided to step down as an advisor of Setting Stone. “I felt like doing both was too much,” he said, “especially with two kids at home.” Lykins said Setting Stone just seemed like too much to handle at the time.

Soon after Lykins stepped down, Squance stepped up as the group’s co-advisor. Though the dynamic duo of Aerni and Lykins had faded out of the picture,  Aerni and Squance continued to keep Setting Stone successful.

Over the years, Setting Stone has won recognition from The Columbia Scholastic Press Association in New York, including two gold medals and one silver.  The group has also been recognized by the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), earning a “Superior” rating and being nominated for their highest award.  “The CSPA gold medal rating was really exciting for us,” Aerni said.  “We worked really hard to get to that point as a publication.”

When Setting Stone started it was released twice a year. Both in the spring and in the winter. There had also been a time when more than two issues had been released.  “Two years into my involvement with Setting Stone we tried to release three issues a year,” Aerni said.  “It turned out to be too much, so we scaled back to two, then to one issue in the spring.”  The change to once a year was made because student submissions began to decline.  “We wanted to maintain the quality of work included in the magazine, as well,” Aerni said.

The magazine takes submissions from students, including writing, photography and art, then bundles them into a whirlwind of creativity for others to enjoy. Setting Stone is organized by students, using student writing and artwork for its content, and is released each Spring.

Many people affiliate Setting Stone with the Coffee Houses that take place at Talawanda High School on Friday nights throughout the year. Coffee Houses were originally, and still are, held to fund the printing of the magazine. “It was meant to be an open mic, but turned into a kind of concert-ish thing”, Aerni said.  Coffee Houses have remained this way with students and bands performing in the same “concert-ish” style.

As of today, Setting Stone seems to be thriving. Coffee Houses still get a big crowd, and, though the group has shrunk in size over the years, Setting Stone continues to create a high-quality publication each year.