SN&R’s 2012 College Essay Contest honorable mention
I sat quietly in the backroom of Room S206, my school’s journalism classroom. It was a place I was becoming accustomed to spending countless hours in, working devotedly on the school’s newspaper, The Titan Times.
Except today, in this particular meeting, I sensed something was different. My two editors-in-chief had called me in to speak to me alone. One of them finally began to speak up, and—to my complete shock—they told me they took note of my dedication to the newspaper, and decided it was my time to shine. They were formally asking me to step up as the new editor-in-chief, a position I’d been craving ever since I was a freshman.
I barely had time to go into shock. As seniors, they were both stepping down, and as a junior, I had absolutely no time to waste. I had to step into my new role immediately, for the paper was a running machine: It does not stop for you; rather, you stop for it.
I hastily consented to learn the mechanics and skills of an editor-in-chief: leadership, communication, professionalism, making deadlines—the list of learning tools seemed to never end. Day by day and issue by issue, I witnessed myself transforming. Through my contribution to The Titan Times, I eventually found myself growing mentally, my capabilities stretching farther than I’d ever imagined.
What struck me most about myself was my growing ambition as a leader in my role as editor-in-chief. I learned how to become the most organized I could possibly be, rather than tossing and turning in bed at night over unfinished plans for our next issue. I learned to work with and administer deadlines, which taught me harsh lessons of time management that other teenagers typically do not have to experience. I learned to deal with colleagues that I did not necessarily agree with, which caused me to be more open-minded to others’ opinions and new ideas.
It was obvious, though, that no one besides my staff really understood my passionate dedication to The Titan Times. My friends and teachers would hear about me leaving school at 9 p.m. every single Tuesday, after what my staff and I learned to call “work nights” to make sure we always made deadline, and ask why I still did it. I lost count of how many times my mother kept dinner waiting for me on those nights. I had to ignore my friends’ countless disappointed, sidelong glances after I continuously declined their offers to hang out on the weekends, for I had work to do for the paper. My teachers would shake their heads after I told them I’d stayed up till 4 a.m. the previous night trying to finish the rest their homework after “work night.”
It truly didn’t matter, though, because I knew it was because none of them had ever felt what it was like to be editor-in-chief. I was the only one to understand that moment of complete, genuine satisfaction the last Friday of every month after we distributed the paper.
I got to watch the entire school body walk around with my newspaper in their hands, all reading and noticing my hard work. That feeling of knowing so many people appreciated the one thing I poured my heart and soul into made everything so completely worthwhile. Now, my staff and I joke around that taking on editor-in-chief is more of “real world” experience than anything else. And it was and will always be just that: an experience that pushed me to be the best editor-in-chief I could be, as well as the best person I could be.
Under my watch, The Titan Times is now an upgraded, 20-page black-and-white edition that has been nationally recognized by the prestigious Columbia Scholastic Press Association Silver Crown award in New York. As we head to New York again this year in March—fingers crossed for another Silver or Gold Crown award—I’ve come to realize that none of the lessons that working for The Titan Times has taught me could be taught in any other ordinary classroom. Newspaper is different; being an editor-in-chief is different. It taught me real-world things in a real-world environment, where I learned to grow into a person I’ve become genuinely proud of.
That’s most likely why I hold my contribution to the paper so near and dear to my heart. It truly did change me for the better.