Awards, Knives, and High School: How I found my passion for writing

They say hindsight is 20/20, and I guess it would be pretty easy to wax poetic about how I always knew I wanted to write growing up. I never really had a knack for science or other subjects, and I always preferred the expressive freedom of a writing assignment over the confines of a rigid math problem. But the reality is that I never really acknowledged writing as a passion of mine until recently, a few years ago during my senior year of high school.

I had taken my high school’s yearbook production class in 10th grade, and my teacher was the same one who ran the Advanced Journalism course that put out the school’s monthly newspaper. She had a huge influence on me. I signed up for Advanced Journalism, and as my senior year rolled around, I came to find that I really enjoyed not only the creative process of writing but also the impact that writing for a news production provides. Here was I place where I could hone my craft doing something I enjoyed while at the same time bringing meaningful writing to my high school peers.

Unfortunately, the start of that year was marred by a lot of crazy things going on at my high school. One mid-October night, a 15 year old freshman girl at our school was convinced by her 23 year old boyfriend to attempt to kill her entire family so that they could continue their relationship in peace. She stabbed her younger brother in the throat with a fish knife before her parents woke up and interrupted her attack, causing her to flee with her boyfriend.

I got the opportunity to cover the story for our newspaper. (Page 2) But I had no idea what I was getting in to when I set out to start reporting. The nature of the crime, the age of the girl, and the fact that high school administration tends to tread very lightly around things like this all combined to make for a pretty tough assignment. My interview with the principal was attended by legal counsel, and quote gathering from other students was often uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was super stoked about the impact of the story.

When I finally presented my draft to my teacher, I was a little worried that she might axe the whole thing due to the controversial nature of the piece. We sat down and made some minor revisions, and then decided to run the piece in the next issue mostly unchanged.

And there it was, a few days later, my very own Dateline-esque piece of reporting staring back at me in ink. I was really happy with myself for following through and writing an article I could be proud of.

A few months later, at the end of the calendar year in December, my class submitted my piece and several others to the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association for their yearly awards ceremony. My story was submitted under the ‘Hard News Reporting’ category. And it won! I still have the little piece of paper commemorating my award hanging on my wall at home.

This entire experience made me realize how much I enjoy writing, writing quality journalistic pieces that about things that are relevant to readers. Throughout the process, the encouragement of my teacher, my family and friends, and finally the award spurred me to really reconsider writing as something I might want to pursue.

Two years later, here I am at Mizzou. I’m looking forward to the opportunities in the J-School and beyond to keep doing what I love.

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