Dear high school newspaper,
Thank you for giving me a purpose. When I took my first journalism class in the second semester of 10th grade, I worried that it would be another course with too much homework that I struggled to keep up with. I loved to write, but school caused a lot of stress for me. As sophomore year unfolded, sixth period journalism turned out to be my number one source of stress relief. Before the newspaper, I felt like a zombie as I stumbled undead through the monotony of everyday life. Once I became engaged in newswriting, I felt alive. When I took a month-long leave from school in order to seek full-time treatment for anxiety and depression, the one thing I missed wasn’t hanging out with my friends, it was spending 42 minutes
every day in Room 111 where I felt like, for once, I was doing something important. Most teens would jump at any opportunity to miss school, but my experience taught me to savor every moment of time and every word I had the privilege to write.
Thank you for giving me a voice. When I returned to school my junior year, I was terrified both of the daunting social climate and rigorous academics of high school. More than anything, I was lonely. Rather than wallow in self-pity, I poured every ounce of effort into my articles. Whether it was my home or the halls of high school, I often felt as if nobody heard me. In journalism, I learned to verbalize my thoughts, which allowed me to better understand and appreciate myself as well as communicate with others. Most importantly, I found a community. I don’t think any of my peers considered the newspaper to be such a core part of their identity, but I felt as if our staff gave me a home within the walls of the high school even when I didn’t have a lunch table.
Thank you for hearing me. Even if nobody read my articles, I relished in the opportunity to receive feedback from my peers and teachers. It meant that not only did someone hear me, they were listening. They took what I said seriously, and they wanted to help me articulate it as accurately and clearly as possible. When I found out that I won a journalism scholarship, I knew that my passion for the newspaper had not gone unnoticed. My teachers might not have known how writing for the paper healed me, but they noticed that I cared so much about it when I felt that I didn’t have much to care about. This isn’t something I forgot after graduation. As I sat in my college dorm, doing homework and talking with my roommate, I opened an email informing me that our paper was awarded a Gold Medalist rating by Columbia Scholastic Press Association. I jumped for joy at what we achieved as a staff.
Thank you for giving me a future. You listened better than any therapist, and you’re the reason I survived high school. You’re also the reason I’m in college and the reason my world revolves around words. I continue to mention our newspaper in job interviews. Many employers are impressed when I say that I took journalism as an academic elective for three years and wrote for the only uncensored weekly student publication in New Jersey, which is how I got my job as a Teacher’s Assistant at a summer writing program for high schoolers. I owe my present as an English major and future as a teacher to my past in journalism.
A college student who owes it all to her high school newspaper