I grew up 20 minutes south of downtown Kansas City with a family of history dorks, music lovers and role models who never shy away from pandemonium. Picture your classic, perfectly dysfunctional Kansas family — with a heavy emphasis on knowing your history and always having a book to read.
Building a story is a skill that I didn’t know I’d be capable of learning until I asked my first interview question. Those questions — the ones where you get a true snapshot of the subject, an amalgamation of the losses and struggles and triumphs — are what keep me putting pen to paper every day for hours.
The reporting process has built an ambition in me, which translates to a means to find problems that prompt pain and loss in people, and to pinpoint what went wrong for them. It’s caused a relentless drive in me to shed light on issues that deserve to be heard, discussed and dealt with — whether it's the deaths of dozens due to gun violence on an August weekend, the broken promises of a school district to families of students requiring special education or how heavy the dollar weighs in the college admissions process.
And once the reporting’s done, I work hard to promote the stories in effective and modern ways, and advocate for journalistic independence, in ways that have resulted in my school and district's actions to fix some of the problems I’ve addressed in my reporting and in public.
Beyond reporting on pressing social issues, I’m always interested in the stories behind a person’s way of life. I’ve worked to make sure that a variety of people’s stories are told in ways that help you understand them — it’s a look at the people whose stories change your lens of the world forever, the ones with aching problems and bittersweet love. It's the transgender boy's experience at a school that won't look at him normally. But it's also the six boys reviewing school lunch pizza each day at the middle table by the column.
That first interview question even paved the way for my interest in a slew of other journalistically important actions — redesigning The Harbinger's website, producing and anchoring live broadcasts, shooting galleries for stories, creating multi-layered web packages for special projects and recording and editing podcasts for topics best served with dialogue and voiced lines of reasoning.
Living as a high school journalist has taught me the indispensable virtue of respecting others' realities with persistent empathy, no matter how fine they may seem on the surface. It's my sincere hope that the efforts I've put forth and the stories I've written have positively impacted the incredible people that so truly deserve it.