When I first joined the South Lakes Sentinel my freshman year, I had a singular goal: to write. I didn’t know what kind of publication or staff I would find, but I knew that I wanted to pursue my passion and see my work published. I unfortunately discovered that the paper was essentially stagnant and enthusiasm levels were low. Each time I shared with my classmates that I had joined journalism, they would respond with the same question: “Oh, we have a newspaper?” I took that as a challenge, and my goal changed: I wanted to leave behind the legacy of a stronger Sentinel.
I immediately threw myself into the class, and I focused on trying to tell stories that I felt were most pertinent to the community. I also found myself having meaningful conversations with my advisor Ms. T about journalism, politics and my goals. I set to work learning everything that I possibly could about journalism styles, history and ethics. I also attempted to learn newspaper software and formatting. I became the only member of my graduating class to be a published staff writer during their freshman year.
I met the editor-in-chief at the time, though she was in a separate journalism class period from me. I would pitch her my vision for what the paper could become and comb through the archived articles available on the site. I made it my mission to spread awareness about the paper and to grow the publication as a whole.
By my sophomore year, I was the news editor and assistant-editor-in-chief. I would come after school to work with the editor-in-chief and the lone other staff writer she could wrangle to come help. I began ramping up efforts to generate content on the website, frantically fundraising to get broadcasting equipment and launching campaigns to grow our readership base. I continued these efforts through my senior year.
A great deal of my time at South Lakes was spent flying around the school delivering newspapers, getting interviews and taking pictures. I was often encountered by other students, hunched over quiet corners I could find, recording podcasts. Meetings with editors, spread out across the linoleum hallway flooring, became a distinct part of my four years in high school.
There are moments that were difficult and felt thankless, but I got the opportunity to write, grow as a leader, learn about the community around me and even make deep friendships. Though there were frustrating moments I spent up at ridiculous hours of the night trying to publish articles, there were also times when I laughed so hard I nearly cried while working on articles with one of my best friends, saw my name in print, watched the staff bond at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association fall trip, used the video camera I worked so hard to get for the first time, or even overheard classmates discuss a quiz on the Sentinel’s Instagram page without realizing I was the person who made it. I also got to watch staffers’ writing and love for journalism improve, thanks to high standards and stringent editing. Knowing that this publication is going to offer more students opportunities is one of the most gratifying aspects of my high school career and my time with the Sentinel.
I poured a lot of myself into The Sentinel, and I’m deeply proud of the strides made. Milestones like reaching nearly 4,000 site views per month (growing from essentially none), having consistently updated content, developing a social media following, redesigning the site’s appearance, growing the class sizes, holding the (current, I know my assistant editor Marc is coming for the title next year) record for most pieces published, launching the broadcasting department and watching the publication flourish in the way I described to the former editor-in-chief back when I was an excited freshman, has pushed me through my high school career. I have confidence in my assistant editor-in-chief Marc Goldstein, and I know that he shares a similar passion and drive when it comes to writing and the Sentinel. We even got the publication to a place where we are able to submit the Sentinel to the VHSL awards, a goal of mine since freshman year.
I do believe I have reached my goal from my freshman year: I can leave behind not only my profile of articles, but also my love for something that can continue to be nurtured well after I leave the halls of South Lakes High School. I am so grateful to have had this experience — thank you for reading, following, listening, watching and supporting the Sentinel!