Senior Column | What S103 means to me

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about the consequential effects of this draining year of online learning; naturally, those thoughts come first. Nonetheless, as my time at ETHS is ceasing, the more meaningful, prevalent and emotion-sparking thoughts are the reflections propelled by the last layout sessions I spent with the Evanstonian. 

Nearly four years ago, as a first-semester freshman, I slowly strolled into S105. Wide-eyed, I scanned through the room quickly but cautiously and found myself in a class full of strangers. I wasn’t a particularly strong writer, and my own social anxieties created even more intimidation than I expected prior to moving to Evanston from the city. 

I walked through the halls struggling physically and mentally; with my head locked, staring down, backpack unzipped and shoes untied, I was soulless for much of my first year as a Wildkit, particularly for the first eight periods of the day. But something was just different about the last one—it might have been Mr. Lowe’s exuberant energy towards journalism on the rare days he was present; maybe it was the light-hearted feel that the classroom community had built. In all honesty, I’m not sure why I was so captivated by the intro to journalism class, but I was, and from 2:53-3:35 of each day, I was rejuvenated.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a space I wanted to contribute to, and somewhere in which I hoped to spend a lot of time. Unfortunately, though, the door separating S105 and S103, the one that bridges the classroom to the extracurricular, was so out of reach for me at the time. With Lowe being absent more often than not due to his health, and with all he had on his table when he was present, I wasn’t able to wiggle my way in right away, and joining the Evanstonian became a strenuous process.

Even then, when I had no idea how much this space could impact me, I felt it was worth the effort. Part of this has to be due to the fact that I was still striving to find myself, continue growing and to simply have any positive experience. Having struggled socially in the years leading up to high school, I was craving a group of peers who I could connect with, work with, and ultimately learn with—to be clear, not just learn to write but to learn about myself, learn about people, learn about relationships and learn what a good time is.

When Lowe retired after the first semester, I felt a little bit of dejection. Despite him not being present all-too-often, when he was, I felt comfort in S105. Sadly, I also no longer took the intro to journalism class, which meant despite getting slightly more accommodated to the colossal halls of ETHS, I was pessimistic about finding my space.

Luckily, that pessimism didn’t last too long, and just a few weeks later, I was able to wiggle my way into the mix of things. For the following few weeks, I’d occasionally drag myself out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual to go to S105 during A.M. support, where I’d meet with my mentor/editor, who is now someone who I consider to be a lifelong friend. More impactful than learning A.P. Style, or how to condense my wordiness, I began getting a feel for the Evanstonian while at those mentor meetings.

In one corner, you’d see myself, a timid freshman beginning to grow while developing the fundamentals of journalism. In the others, there were other students chatting and snacking, completing homework and interviews being conducted for articles. Then, between it all, of course, would be the superhero adviser, Ms. Delacruz, running all over the place, trying—and usually failing—to get organized for the day.

When my freshman year concluded, I was thankful for my opportunity to work with the Evanstonian but knew there was much more I could do. In an effort to improve journalistically, I took a couple days out of my not-so-eventful July to work on my rather unpolished writing at a journalism program at the University of Iowa. To my pleasant surprise, when I got to Iowa City and began to check-in, I was met in a lobby-esque room by four members of the Evanstonian, one being my mentor, and the other three being complete strangers at the time.

The following days were filled with laughs, smiles, games and lots of journalistic improvement. The four people changed from mentors and strangers to four close friends, all serving a unique and complicated, yet remarkably important role in my growth as a human being.

When my sophomore year began, I had hoped the four friends I had met would all remain close as a group, but it was a little more complicated than that. Unlike myself, those people had already found their group of people, and while the Evanstonian offered them another space, it felt like outside of S105 and S103, the friendships were less of a group, and more so individual connections.

When I left school every day, I knew my socialness for the day was over, because all I had were those connections in the journalism room. Because of that, I always deferred my five-block walk home. For hours after the final bell rang at 3:35, I would sit in S103, whose doors were newly opened to me at the beginning of that year, taking me in as both a contributor and a community member.
On some of those days, I smiled, laughed and shared joy with other members of the Evanstonian. On other days, it was less laughing and more serious talks, as the relationships made were ones that were so deep and meaningful to the point that I felt comfortable talking about anything to these people. Oftentimes, however, there was none of the above. Other people were living their lives, and after a hard day of school, many times topped off by health issues, I would have the whole room to myself.

Sometimes I’d chat with Delacruz, whether it be about life, journalism, school or anything in between. Others, I’d sit in front of my computer, wishing I had someone to talk to while writing an article. Occasionally, I wouldn’t sit, and instead would lie down under a table, tears streaming down my chubby cheeks, wondering why I felt so alone.

Part of the truth about the Evanstonian is that during my time here, there wasn’t a lot of consistency. The Evanstonian had a whirlwind of issues, both related and unrelated to journalism. Despite it being inconsistent, it was always there, always a significant part of my life.

Some days were filled with the tension of a crucial story dealing with logistical problems. Other days, two editors could have bad blood toward one another. To give a gist of it, there were a lot of days that provoked anxiety and stress, something to expect when in a pre-professional space, albeit to an extent that was rather strong.

To most, this sounds scary or like a deterrent, but in actuality, it was quite the opposite for me. The challenging days were the ones where I learned the most about myself. By seeing the struggles, I learned how I wanted to be a problem solver. I learned how to be a good friend. I learned how to be a leader. The stress of those days made them painful in the moment, but looking back, I am beyond grateful to experience that pain, as it propelled my growth as a human, friend, leader and editor.

After my sophomore year, one that was pivotal to my personal and journalistic growth, I was named an assistant editor for the sports section, which was shortly followed by a promotion to sports editor. I found myself on the other side of the table for those mentor meetings, and instead of being the timid freshman, I was guiding them—I took what I learned from my mentor and tried to teach it and apply it to newer writers. I tried to reciprocate and do more than the warm welcome I received in the latter half of my freshman year. Most importantly, I tried to continue the work that was done before me to build a community where people like myself, who had struggled before and during high school, could find a home like I did.

With only half-a-dozen days of school left, and one more issue to produce until I graduate, the reflection of my experience with the Evanstonian is at an all-time high. With the Evanstonian, I saw myself grow significantly (both figuratively and literally). I developed into the human being I am today, in large part because of the meaningful relationships I made. Even the bad times, which were plentiful given how many hours were spent in S103, shaped who I am. Throughout the past four years, I’ve made countless friendships, and even lost a couple in S103. S103 was a place I felt at home in. S103, despite having an unpredictable mood, was the one consistent thing in my life during high school, just because it was always there, and always a source of comfort. 

To anyone who’s been a part of it, no matter the extent or overall experience, I want to say thank you for having a large impact on me and contributing to the publication that was the most vital part of my time in high school.

With much love,