A final farewell

Over the past three years, journalism has played an important role in my high school career


Photo by Mark Hilburn

The staff and I show off our newly-printed Volume III Issue II edition of the CATalyst Newspaper. Although stressful, designing the newspaper was always so rewarding when the final product was put together and printed.

Kaitlyn Willard, Editor-in-Chief

As my senior year comes to an end, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the past four years. Three of which I was heavily involved in journalism.

During middle school, I started taking an interest in photography. My mom mentioned this to one of her friends who worked at Millard West. This landed me the opportunity to take pictures of my peers on Freshmen Day. I was ecstatic. Despite only being enrolled in Intro to Journalism at that time, this sparked my initial interest in Journalism as a whole. 

When the time came around for enrolling in my classes for sophomore year, without a second thought, I signed up for Advanced Journalism for the full year. Looking back, that was the best decision of my high school career. 

I finally found my ‘thing’. Sure, I was involved in sports and clubs, but journalism was my new-found passion. As mentioned before, in my sophomore year I was more into photography, but I started to appreciate the art of storytelling. I remember writing the front-page story, Re-NEW-vations, in the first-ever CATalyst Newspaper. I was so proud of that story: it was about all the new renovations done over the summer of 2017. Since then, I have grown immensely, and I began to work towards the position of Editor-in-Chief, even though that would come two years later.

It wasn’t until junior year that I really started to realize my true potential as a student-journalist. I began to produce work that I was super proud of. I believe the turning point in my high school journalism career is when Gabe Paredes and I started preparing a broadcast that would be submitted to a national convention. This story was about a freshman Camille O’Neil, who stayed involved in countless activities while also facing an incredible amount of adversity. For about two weeks, Gabe and I followed Camille around to all her in and out of school activities. We wanted to do her story justice, so we put so much effort into the creation of this broadcast. We submitted this broadcast to the NSPA Fall Conference in Chicago, IL. and won a Superior Award–the highest-achieved award in the nation. This broadcast also won 4th place at State for Broadcast Feature Story. 

From there on, I wanted to continue to make work that would make me proud, and I’d like to believe I have done that. I realized how much I really wanted the role of Editor-in-Chief my senior year. Finally, after two years of journalism, I reached my goal. I knew this would mean I would have to put in a lot of work into this class and prioritize journalism. Not going to lie, this position was a lot of work, but I loved every second of it. I loved getting to help my classmates, edit everyone’s stories and create the quarterly newspaper. If I had to choose one thing that made my senior year as great as it could be, it would be being Editor-in-Chief. 

Of course, when COVID-19 struck Nebraska and the governor decided to cancel school for the remainder of the year I was bummed about missing many aspects of senior year, but I was most upset about missing the competitions, awards and opportunities in Journalism. My staff and I had worked so hard this past year and I knew it would pay off in the UNO Contest and State competition. The last nine weeks of my senior year were going to be jam-packed full of memories, much of which included memories from journalism.

Journalism has not only taught me about how to tell the stories of others, but it has taught me so much about myself as well. Coming into my freshman year, I didn’t feel like my voice and opinion would matter or make a difference. Journalism has taught me just the opposite. It gave me an outlet to speak out about issues that were important to me, tell the stories of my peers and inform others about important news happening in the school and community alike. 

Before devoting three years to journalism, writing and taking pictures was simply something I liked to do. Now, I know my work can make a difference. Rather than just being a fun hobby, I want to continue journalism in the future. I wanted to take my two passions — the environment and journalism — and incorporate them into my career. That way, I can help make a difference in the world and continue to use my voice to inform others about the earth.

This isn’t the way I wanted to thank everyone, but since I cannot do this in-person, I would first like to thank my staff. You all are so talented. Receiving 20+ stories to edit once a week was quite daunting, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your stories because they were also so wonderful and impressive. Millard West Journalism continues to do well and it’s no wonder why: the work we put out is making a difference. I can’t wait to see what you all do next year.

Next, I would like to thank all administrators and teachers who always worked with us journalists. I am so lucky to have gone to a school where journalism was valued by faculty. The fact that everyone I have worked with for stories has been more than willing to give us the best information and insight is incredible. On behalf of the CATalyst staff, I would also like to thank everyone for reading and supporting our work. It means so much to each and every one of us journalists. 

Finally, I would like to thank the best adviser ever, Mr. Hilburn. You have shaped me to not only be a better journalist, but a better person as well. You have such a passion for us students and journalism combined and it shows through your classes. I learned how to take criticism and continuously improve my work. Without you, I don’t think I would have realized my true potential as a student-journalist. Joining your class was the best decision I made in high school and I’m going to miss it the most next year. Being a part of your first Newspaper class was an honor, and It’s so impressive to see how much our publication has improved. Thank you for all your do for all of us. You are teaching future journalists of the world and making a difference. Thank you for all you have done for me and every one of your students.

Multiple years down the line, high school may become a blur, but I know I will cherish my memories from journalism forever. Journalism has shaped me more than I have ever thought, and I cannot wait to see where my high school career as a journalist will take me in life.