“It’s all about letting that little light bulb go off,” says co-founder Winifred Macleod.
More than 15 years ago, Nina Catalano was a smart sixth grader at Mill Valley Middle School who had a difficult childhood and limited expectations for her future.

Then she found out about Fast Forward, the for-kids, by-kids Mill Valley newspaper created by Winifred and John Macleod out of the rubble of the now-defunct Mill Valley Record in 1991. Within months, Catalano was interviewing the likes of Kobe Bryant, Anne Hathaway and even local legend Robin Williams, whose lightning fast tongue and massive, multi-syllabic vocabulary didn’t faze her.

Now Catalano is an Associate Deputy Public Defender at Alameda County Public Defender’s office, a recipient of a scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School and one of Fast Forward’s most devout alums.

But Catalano’s experience is far from an anomaly. In fact, Fast Forward alums have gone on to a variety of incredibly interesting jobs. Former editor Stephanie Foo helped create the acclaimed Snap Judgment podcast in New York City and is now a producer for Ira Glass’ This American Life. Former reporter Kevin Blum is the North Bay community Manager for Yelp, often appearing in KRON-4 television segments about the best restaurants in the Bay Area.

“We try to teach student reporters how to think critically about their environments – we encourage them to follow their curiosities,” Winifred Macleod says. “They all have their own voice and just need to understand how important it is for them to express themselves. That curiosity – and the ability think critically and quickly – has served them well as they’ve moved into their careers.”

Entirely written by kids and for kids, much of the editorial content focuses on interesting careers and the most innovative companies, Macleod says.

“Kids research and go behind the scenes of what the companies are like,” she says.

Fast Forward turns 25 this year, and it owes its existence to another inquisitive kid, then-11-year-old Kendra Macleod. Her parents John and Winifred, serving as the interim publishers of the Mill Valley Record, were trying to determine what, if anything, would be their next move as the local newspaper of record was on its last legs, Kendra Macleod asked, “Why can’t kids have their own newspaper?”

The answer, as Fast Forward’s existence and success can attest, is: “Indeed they can.”

The MacLeods named it the Mill Valley Student Record for its first few issues before moving onto Fast Forward, and the monthly publication, which shifted to a magazine format three months ago, is a Marin institution.

It reaches students at public and private schools all across Marin, rotating from school to school each month and working with students who attend weekend Fast Forward journalism club workshops.

“Mostly it’s just sort of exposing kids to interesting people and putting them in situations where they have to be critical thinkers and quick on their feet,” Macleod says.

Fast Forward subsists on revenue from advertising and sponsorships from the likes of Mill Valley Market, Marin Horizon School, Marin Theatre Company, MV Code Club, Pacific Union, Alain Pinel, Good Earth, MMWD, The Redwoods, Frantoio and the Greenwood School.

The publication is distributed at public and private schools throughout Marin, with a 20,000-copy run each month. Fast Forward has garnered a Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association and has been honored by the Marin County Board of Education.

In addition to the aforementioned, the list of people interviewed and featured in it over the years is staggering, a who’s who that even national publications would be proud of: Al Gore, Gen. David Petraeus, Jerry Seinfeld, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Chris Rock, Carlos Santana, Channing Tatum, the cast of smash Broadway musical Hamilton, Sammy Hagar, ABC-7 anchor Cheryl Jennings and executives and creative designers at Pixar, Google, Facebook and LucasFilm.

And Kendra Macleod? She’s gone on to a successful career as a TV producer, working for the likes of MTV, Viacom and Sharp Entertainment.

“It’s all about letting that little light bulb go off,” she says.

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