The Best Story I’ve Written

Current Events Feature- November 11, 2013

Growing up in a time of intense college and career competition, high school students today are constantly pressured to perfect their transcript. Focused on grades, extracurriculars, and ACT scores, students often neglect the education of common current events. Living in a democratic nation, it is necessary to have citizens who know what is going on around them. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.”

At Prospect High School, a survey with eight questions on current events was distributed to 191 honors and regular students from all grade levels to discover how prepared students are to do so. According to their grading scale, Prospect students are failing when it comes to knowledge of current events as the overall average for the survey was a 51.8%.

Only 12 out of 191 students got a perfect score. Furthermore, only 46% of students know Vladimir Putin, the Russian President who has been in the news frequently for his heavily increased involvement in U.S. foreign affairs. 16% of students are under the impression that our national unemployment rate is close to 20%, a rate so high that the only time it was ever attained in the past century was during the Great Depression. With that, 15% of students could not identify the currently serving (and two-time) Vice President of our country.

Some students added comments on their survey sheets. One wrote at the bottom, “What is this? I’m not Einstein.” Another put in the margin next to number two, “Could be any of them. But we shouldn’t care either way.”

Although it was a hard survey, students do not have to be Einstein to answer some of these questions. Current events are on every news television station all day long. Tuning in once in a while would have made this survey much easier for a student, and, according to Law and the Individual and Psychology teacher Jay Heilman, tuning in is a necessary thing to do otherwise.

“It’s important to be informed on what is happening in the world because at some level it’s going to affect your life,” Heilman said. “It’s going to impact you whether if it will be financially, with a job, or with friends.”

AP Human Geography students stood out on the survey. Although they are only freshmen, they had the highest overall score on the survey compared to all other grade levels averaging a 62%.

“Human Geo is a more current event type class,” Social Studies Department Head Gary Judson said. “When it comes to World History, it would be hard to relate what’s going on in Syria to whatever you’re covering from the Middle Ages.”

The trouble that both Judson and Human Geography teacher Jim Adair expressed is that current events are tough to relate to tight-scheduled curriculums.

“I mean I would think maybe a dozen [current events occurrences] could apply to something like British literature,” Adair said sarcastically.

Another problem that teachers face, according to Judson, is an overall lack of interest among students.

“It’s the age old issue that they’ve been dealing with since the age of democracy,” Judson said. He believes that teachers do talk about current events, but students simply are not interested enough to listen.

“At this moment in their life, it’s not something that is affecting them so they’re not really worried about that … If all of the sudden the state was going to say something like the driving age is now going to be 18, the drinking age was going to be lowered, or the military draft was going to be brought back, then I think all of the sudden students would start to know and care about that,” Judson said.

Sophomore Garrett Strother finds this lack of interest in current events to be “sad.”

“Even though it might not affect them directly, it still will affect the way they think of the world either socially or even the way they approach homework,” Strother said. “Like in AP US and AP World, kids are able to see trends of the past repeating itself and then can relate it to stuff that’s happening today.”

Junior Clifford Arnoux suggested for teachers to set aside time in the classroom dedicated to discussing current events as an effort to change the low statistics and lack of interest.

AP Government teacher Mike Sebestyen responds to suggestions like this by saying that teachers already do talk about current events in their classes and, also, this type of education is not one hundred percent in the school’s hands.

“For you to truly get an understanding for what’s going on you need to be able to look at it yourself because you’re just going to get one view in the classroom. You have to have multiple views,” Sebestyen said. “So yeah, it requires some responsibility from the student. You’re not a child. You’re in high school. You’re an adult. It’s going to require you to act like an adult, which means taking responsibility for your own learning.”

Reflection

The best story I wrote during my first semester as a journalism student was also the first feature story I ever wrote. I believe the reason the story was so well-developed is because of the first decision I made in the writing process: the topic. I am passionate about the issue of students neglecting the importance of being aware on what’s going on around them. Because of this, I was naturally curious to find out why people thought this happens, which made it fun to research and write for this story.

My favorite part about this story was the effort I put into the research. I started out my research by creating a well thought out survey with realistic and comparative questions. I then distributed that survey to one honors class and one regular class for each grade level. After that, I tallied up the results and did all of the fun math (that is not sarcastic, I actually love math), which is where I believe my dedication to this story showed most as I was curled up in my room creating statistics for an entire day. If I could do the research again, I would have distributed the survey to four classes per grade instead of two just because I’m a girl who loves accuracy.

Another wonderful aspect of this story was the multitude of interviews I collected with valuable sources. I absolutely nailed it when it came to that aspect of the writing process, and acquired some fantastic quotes because of it. Humbly, but honestly, I don’t think I would include any more interviews/sources if I did this story again other than maybe another student source.

A final part of the story that I am proud of is how I organized it. I included survey results in the perfect amount: enough effective statistics to contribute to the main idea, but not too much so that the entire story was all numbers. Wonderful transitions helped the entire story flow as well as accomplish the “so what?” factor I was trying to get across the readers’ mind. The part I would definitely change in the story, however, was the lead. I am disappointed in my past self for having my worst lead be present in my best story. The lead was very vague and obvious, and I could have come up with something much more creative.

The Worst Story I’ve Written

Partner Profile- September 8, 2013

Gianna Honchurak, a sophomore at Prospect High School, found herself this July at an airport in Florence. Ready to explore Italy for the next twelve days, Honchurak started to look around. The airport resembled O’Hare to her because of all of the little shops and tourists walking around, but when she stepped outside she knew that she wasn’t in America anymore.

“I wasn’t overwhlemed by the new culture and people because I have always been interested in traveling and exploring these types of things,” Honchurak says.

“The foreign language was kind of weird, though, because I always felt like they were talking about me.”

Honchurak wasn’t just there to explore the beauty of Italy, however. She was there to visit family members she’s never met before. She was meeting about thirty second cousins of hers. You’d think this would overwhelm her, but it didn’t.

“I wish I was better at Italian so I could have talked with them more,” Honchurak says. “I would have asked them what it was like growing up in such a small town and never leaving.”

The coolest part of the trip for Gianna Honchurak was going to the house where her grandpa grew up. She loved seeing him so happy, and seeing her family’s history meant something to her. Afterwards, her family visited the church and the cemetary by her grandpa’s old house. When looking back at the whole vacation, Honchurak says that the cemetary was the most different aspect when it comes to comparing Italian culture to American culture.

“The cemetary in Italy didn’t have an eerie feeling to it like how ours do in America. Everyone’s tombstone was decorate, and people were smiling and celebrating life. It had a positive atmosphere.”

Although Honchurak is still only a sophomore in high school, she has had many memorable experiences like her trip to Italy. Just this summer, her and her friends saw about ten to fifteen bands live in concert. She got to meet her favorite band Atlas Genius at Summerfest Music Festival for only eight dollars. Honchurak recalls that when she saw them later in the day, the band remembered who she was, which she thought was pretty cool. Also, this past Saturday, September 7th, Honchurak was able to meet another one of her favorite bands Walk the Moon through a connection of her friend’s.

From meeting long lost relatives to hanging out with famous people, Honchurak can say she’s had a few pretty cool life experiences. At the age of fifteen, Gianna Honchurak already has a ton of killer stories to tell her kids, which is a rare blessing.

Reflection

The worst story I wrote during my first semester as a student journalist is the partner profile story. With limited research, dull word choice, and numerous spelling errors, just reading this story in the comfort of my own home is an embarrassing experience. The great part is, however, that I can learn from my mistakes. Before I do that, I must break the mistakes down one-by-one.

First of all, I spelled my subject’s name wrong the entire story. THAT is unbelievably embarrassing, especially because I sit next to her in class. In my defense, it was still one of the first weeks of school and I barely knew her, but with Facebook and Twitter that excuse does not make up for it. Along with that spelling error, I had at least five other careless spelling mistakes throughout the story. These could have been fixed by a simple spell check on Google docs, but I clearly was too lazy to go through that process. I’m proud to say at the end of the semester that I have beat this lazy mistake by making it a habit to spell check every single one of my papers before I send them in.

Another poor aspect of this story was the lack of depth. I could have asked much better questions to give myself and the reader a much more detailed grasp on who Gianna really is. My angles weren’t too bad, but I could have developed the music one much better. Questions I would ask if I could do it again would be, “When did you develop your love for music?” or “Do you think your musical interests have affected the way in which you choose your friends?” I would also interview her best friend Molly Mueller on Gianna’s musical taste and how she thinks it shapes her overall personality.

A final weakness of this story was the clincher. It was phrased very awkwardly, and it sounded very cheerleader-ish. I clearly had no idea how to end it. Thankfully, later this year I learned that whenever you don’t know how to end it, find a good quote to use as a clincher.