As a 12-year-old, I sat on the bathroom floor at school with my best friend Mary Hierholzer, ’12, the day of sixth grade graduation. I told her that I wanted to be a journalist, but not just any kind of journalist — a famous one on “The Today Show,” like Katie Couric.

Two years later, I joined The Feather staff, and my adviser, Greg Stobbe, was intimidating. He often talked about complicated grammar rules and the paramount importance of spelling names correctly. But most importantly, he desired that, with each piece published, the staffers must learn something new.

In class I sat by Chelsea Joy, ’09 alumna, then the editor-in-chief. I had recently met her because we had band class together. I thought she was the coolest person I had ever met; she had the perfect boyfriend, she was an amazing writer and was a great musician. She is who I want to be as a senior.

Yet when I entered the journalism room, all of the bliss disappeared. Journalism became very difficult, very quickly. In the past, my writing was always praised, but in this new setting, my articles kept getting handed back to me for revision several times before they were published online.

I became discouraged and wanted to quit. However, Joy noticed me and told me that this is how everyone starts out, which encouraged me to stick with the class.

Despite this, my first semester in journalism was a struggle, and I did not finish my required 10 articles — but it was a start. Every day when I worked, I asked Joy for help, which greatly improved my writing skills.

In May 2009, however, Joy graduated, changing everything. Whenever I used to disengage in class, she would re-focus my attention on work; but with her no longer there, slacking was easy. The standards rose for a second-year journalism student, and I was not nearly reaching them. This required lots of alone time with Stobbe and the new editor-in-chief, Suzanna Quiring, ’10 alumna.

I shed many tears as they criticized what seemed like nearly every sentence, which destroyed my self-esteem as a writer. Yet, after every emotionally-exhausting session, they smiled at me, asked if I learned something and said that they could see improvement in my writing. This never made sense, because how could so much criticism have a positive twist? But when they said they saw better work, a smile on my face always followed.

In addition, my other classes become more difficult and I began to frequently become sick. Stress levels rose, which led to breakdowns at school. Barely reaching the status quo and not impressing anyone with work, I usually frustrated Stobbe and Quiring and I worried they might fire me.

I had hoped to become an editor my junior year just like Joy had, but this did not happen as a result of my past years of poor performance. In fact, most of my close friends became editors instead.

I still returned despite my disappointment because after two years of struggling with a class, I cannot give it up until I feel I have conquered it.

Within the first month of school, Stobbe said he wanted to have the staffers write about more community events. I decided to volunteer, since in the past I never tried anything new. Plus, with the pressure of going outside a high school environment, there would be a good motivation to write quicker and more effectively.

The event I covered was the ArtHop, a twice-a-month program that promotes art venues in the Fresno community. The venture was originally difficult — in fact, I got lost downtown trying to find the venues. As I was desperately trying to please Stobbe and the other editors, failure was not an option. To avoid embarrassment, I proceeded to call everyone who was not on staff for directions.

After such minor difficulties, the art events became incredibly enlightening and very enjoyable to experience as well as to write about. As the months progressed, I loved to take pictures of each piece of art, impressing the editors and Stobbe. They were amazed with the pictures, and a few were published in the Photos Section.

This experience made me ask myself, Why am I trying to be like Joy? We are two different people, each with our own strengths and each trying to add to an award-winning newspaper. Not only has journalism refined my writing skills, but it has enabled me to pursue a greater sense of individuality, rather than aspiring to be like other people.

So, why am I still in journalism? It started as a 12-year-old’s wish and has transformed from a hope of being like my high school idol into something I truly love. Some teenagers may find television or reading as a way to relax, but for me it is taking pictures and finding creative ways to improve my skills and The Feather Online.

For more content related to Scholastic Journalism Week, read the Feb. 22 article, Scholastic Journalism Week: Discussing journalism.