Recently, I took part in a discussion in my AP Literature class about existential thought and the concept that nothing in life contains any meaning unless a human finds that meaning in it and makes an approach with the right attitude. This is an avenue of philosophy that I do not often have the time to ponder with my work as a full-time journalist at my school, but to me the lesson was clear: Life will only be meaningful if I make it so.

The reason I wake up to get to school early every morning is to pursue my passion in journalism as a co-editor-in-chief of Mountain Vista Media (MVM). Over the course of my three years in the program, I have received the opportunity to cover an innumerable amount of school events and individuals, utilizing every single form of journalism possible and constantly learning how to tell stories in the most powerful and accurate manner. As my adviser, Mark Newton, frequently encourages, my goal is to be good at everything and great at something. Through my experience as a journalist, I have become well-versed in photography, writing, design and multimedia as well as applying each story-telling method on any platform. Whether I am publishing in our print “Aerie” yearbook or “Eagle Eye” news magazine or online on our website and social media platforms, I have gathered the skill set necessary not only to operate as a reliable and powerful source of information for the school, but also to guide every member of the staff in reaching their potential to do the same. The source of my motivation in life is having the ability to empower the students at my school with my work as a journalist as well as motivating others through respectful and earnest leadership to realize their potential as a journalist to make an impact.

My journey with MVM and the journalism profession began my sophomore year, when I joined the staff as a reporter. At this point I had not even a remote idea as to what I wished to pursue as a profession in life, but I was drawn to the staff because of an interest in the opportunities that it presented to me. As I became accustomed to the atmosphere and operation of a news room, I challenged myself to try new things and to improve with every story I wrote, to dig deeper into what it meant to be a journalist and to make a difference. During this year I had the opportunity to cover the men’s soccer team’s run to the 5A state championship game, and it was extraordinarily powerful to be a witness to that moment and to report on the game as a part of a team. Seeing the emotions of the players as they unfortunately lost the game was a large learning curve for me because I needed to understand that it was my responsibility to document the moment despite the fact that I was uncomfortable shooting photos of players in such an emotional state. Looking back, I realized that photographing those few minutes of shock from the players was more valuable than the entire game combined because of the significance of the moment in the players’ lives and the story that it illustrated to the audience. From then on, I was hooked on covering every moment I possibly could because I wanted the audience to see what was going on in the community that really mattered to students and become more educated as people about every aspect of the school. I began to understand what it meant to report a powerful story.

I stepped into an editor role my junior year because I was eager to expand my ability as a journalist but also because I was confident enough in my knowledge of every aspect of the profession and what my role in society as a journalist was. Being more in control of the development of each of our publications was both humbling and engaging because I began to be more aware of the bigger picture. I discovered more significant stories that I had been incapable of seeing before and began to truly think like a journalist at all times. It was important to me to constantly be in this mindset because it allowed me to pick up on the stories of individuals that often went unnoticed and provided a powerful opportunity to make an impact. It allowed me to appreciate the professional journalism world around me and apply what I learned in my direction of staff members. As I oriented myself in the mentoring process for the reporters, I was challenged to find the best method of motivating people to widen their own skill set and work towards excellent work as journalists. As we progressed towards the end of the year, it became clear to me that my number one priority as a leader should be to build strong relationships with each and every staff member because the building blocks of a cohesive staff start with the connection each member has with its leaders and each other. Promoting a positive bond within the staff leads to a program that works to push each other to improve, fail and succeed as a team.

I have uncovered meaning and widened the bounds of my passion for journalism the most, however, during my final year in the program. I spend two, occasionally three, class periods every day working with my fellow editors or staff members as well as the entirety of my off period and lunch working to keep our progress on the coverage of our school for every medium of our comprehensive, converged program up to date. I then move to my home after school to continue working to challenge myself and the program to reach excellence in our work as journalists to update the community. Spending this much time every day is not a task or “must do,” but an absolute joy, honor and epic opportunity to pursue my passion surrounded by a staff of the best students and most meaningful people in the school. I think I have learned more from supporting the staff in reaching its goals than it ever has or will from me, and my passion for journalism, empowering students and exercising the freedom of the press to be a source that students look to for information has grown exponentially because of it.

I have come to appreciate even more thoroughly the power that journalists wield through my reporting of local politics and major events at the school, and I constantly seek avenues by which to gain more demanding experience as a journalist. My school recently hosted its biggest event of the year, Wish Week, a time when the entire school comes together for a single cause. I made it my mission to cover every single event of the week and use each of MVM’s platforms to tell the story of each day with my content as well as that of the staff. This took me hours of work every night to accomplish as well as one day-and-a-half of following our school’s Wish Kid as her wish to be famous was granted. When it came to a close, the influence of our program on the school had never been so clear to me, as we received a great amount of appreciation for and consumption of the stories we shared. Most valuable to me, however, was how inspired each member of the staff felt to continue finding stories just like they uncovered that week, and I knew that, beyond a doubt, this demonstrated that the power of the public lies in the hands of journalists so long as they share its stories. I strive to do this with every day I spend working as a part of MVM.

So, when people commonly ask me why I “have to” spend so much time inside and outside the school newsroom working for the program every day, I try to explain why it means so much to me and that I actually do it because I love to. Journalism is not about being recognized or taking the easy way out, it is about digging deep to share relevant stories that make an impact wherever and whenever they matter. Providing students with a voice is what means the world to me, and it is that philosophy which I take into every high school morning and every moment I spend as a journalist. I would not want it any other way! Thank you for taking the time to view the impact I have made on my school with my work.

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