Personal Narrative 

For the first 12 years of my life, I was certain my destiny would play out on stage. After my breakout role as Toto in an elementary school production of “The Wizard of Oz,” I knew I had found my calling.

Following my theatrical debut, I participated in every other musical my school produced. Over the years, I brought to life fan-favorite Disney characters like Tinker Bell and the Cheshire Cat, telling stories to entertain, amuse and captivate.

As fifth grade came to a close, I was ready to leave my 100-seat auditorium for the bright lights of the Kealing Middle School theater department.

And then came Tuesdays.

At Kealing, Tuesdays were news days — it was the phrase I repeated weekly as the anchor for my school’s broadcast news show, KBTV, and the philosophy I took on after later being selected as the program’s station manager. 

Initially, I joined KBTV because the co-adviser was also Kealing’s theater director. And honestly, the skills required of being an anchor for a broadcast news show were not that different from those required of an actor.

My confidence performing in front of a crowd of hundreds made talking to the camera a breeze. My understanding of the elements of an engaging plot helped me in the scriptwriting process. My hours on end practicing tongue twisters helped the flow and delivery of my voiceovers and anchor performances.

Every week, I’d don a red blazer and trek across the school to the sixth-grade science wing where we recorded the anchor portion of the week’s news show. 

Anchoring for KBTV was like another form of performance, where I was playing the role of a journalist. When the camera started rolling, I assumed my character — Alice Scott: reporter. As the words “Thanks for watching KBTV, Kealing’s number one source for news and information,” left my mouth I transformed back into my true self.

Every Tuesday, I’d watch the newest episode of KBTV that was aired to the entire school during homeroom. I didn’t watch as the segments played on the projector screen — I’d already seen them when compiling the episode together the day before. Instead, I tuned in to my classmates and watched their reactions to the stories being told.

The more time I spent working on KBTV — as an anchor, reporter, videographer and leader — seeing the impact our stories could have, I realized that I didn’t just want to play the role of a journalist. I wanted to be one.

The shift wasn’t difficult — theater and journalism are not so different.

Actors and journalists both impact and engage their audience, do meticulous research and preparation and strive to be truthful and accurate when representing a character or situation. But most importantly, they both tell the stories of others, which really is what I’d always wanted to do.

But now it wasn’t the fictional tales of L. Frank Baum that I wanted to share. I wanted to tell stories about real life. Stories that made an impact. Stories that changed lives.

And the place where I would do this over the next four years would be McCallum High School, as a writer, reporter and leader for The Shield newspaper.

As a freshman on staff, I learned to tell stories through multiple different formats — video, print articles, podcasts and, my personal favorite, The Shield’s Tuesday Top 10 photo essay. This weekly fixture posted to The Shield Online features a gallery of 10 images from the biggest event of the week, each paired with an in-depth caption. Although my work for these photo essays was supplemental to my print stories, I found that they were what connected me most to the McCallum community — an impressive accomplishment in a school year spent completely online. 

But it was true. One look through my Instagram DMs and you could see the question “Could you tell me what is happening in this photo?” sent to athletes, artists and academics, and the subsequent interviews that would be the source material I used to crank out my weekly captions.

My work on the website during my freshman year, a large part of which was my contribution to Tuesday Top 10s, earned me the role of online-co-editor-in-chief, which put me in charge of managing The Shield Online.

In my new role, I spent every Tuesday night waiting for captions to come in and building web drafts in WordPress. It was a race against the clock each week — but I recognized the pressure of needing to meet a Tuesday deadline. 

There was just one issue. With school back in person, my other activities had resumed. I was busier than ever. As a performance theater major within McCallum’s Fine Arts Academy, I was required to participate in a minimum of two shows a year while also keeping up a distinguished academic record.

There was one silver lining. When I was in a musical or play, there were never shows on Tuesdays.

Despite this, I began to face an unfortunate truth: I would never be able to walk the red carpet at my debut film premiere while simultaneously writing hard-hitting news stories for The New York Times. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t do both — a fact that only became more clear when I was selected as editor-in-chief a year later.

Previously if I accidentally left information out of my caption, I could submit my page and trust that, when the issue was printed, there would be an updated caption on my page. I didn’t really have to check and double-check my formatting against the style guide because someone else would. Just like magic, any errors on my part would be fixed before printing. 

That year, I realized that all those things that “magically” got done behind the scenes were now my responsibility. I also had to lead class, foster a positive work environment and pass on my knowledge to new staffers. All of it in preparation for Tuesday nights. Because on Tuesdays, The Shield goes to print.

But those Tuesday evenings editing pages bled into Wednesday mornings conducting interviews which bled into Thursday work nights after school which bled into Friday football coverage. 

It was like my whole week was made up entirely of Tuesdays. But it didn’t feel stressful. It felt right. Because now, I was telling stories, inspiring staffers and making magic.

My commitment to The Shield had shifted theater to the back burner. But I didn’t mind. My desire to perform had dissipated but I knew that it had left an undeniable mark on my journalist approach — looking for stories — that ultimately drove my most meaningful work.

Like when I interviewed McCallum alum Sam Eiler who handmade puppets for an exhibition at Sage Studio, a gallery for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Or when I talked to two students, Jake and Wednesday, about growing up transgender in a state unsupportive of their identity. Or when I wrote about history teacher Jennifer Richter who works a second job as a cashier at Central Market to make ends meet.

They were people with stories to tell. 

When I wrote these stories, I wasn’t focused on going viral, breaking records or uncovering a great conspiracy. I wanted to share stories that matter. Because all news doesn’t have to be hard-hitting. Some stories are about everyday life, and that is interesting enough. 

Everyone has a story. I want to tell them.