Dear Almost High School Saba,

Today I wrote this article like I write most of my pieces, late at night, drowsy on my lack of sleep and half-baked ideas. But whether it’s a news brief, thorough feature or rambling opinion, each piece begins the same: at some obscene hour in the morning, with a blank page and my Spotify playlist crooning softly through my headphones.

I drew my blanket closer to my chin and found myself enveloped in the warm embrace of my stories.

Your flip flops slapped noisily against the stone steps as you scrambled up the staircase. You kept waiting to see a stampede of boisterous seventh graders or a pair of sauntering teachers, but the campus was deserted.

It was a sunny August day, a week before your first day of ninth grade, and you were at school for your first layout on the newspaper.

Being a part of a publication has not been a light undertaking; there isn’t only pressure to succeed as a collective, but individual responsibilities. My weekends are a blur of layout meetings, impromptu photoshoots and phone-call interviews. At night, I dream of deadlines and picas. For all its trouble, however, being a part of publications has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Besides allowing me to educate readers about importance issues, reporting gives me the opportunity to express others’ perspectives and connects me to a larger community.

You knew some of the students, of course. But seated in a circle on the floor of the Publications Lab in Hazy, introducing yourselves to the new faces and describing your summer misadventures, it felt like you were meeting everyone for the first time.

There was an excitement in the air, an awareness that moment marked an important milestone. From this day forth, you are going to be a part of your very first high school publication.

Journalism isn’t simply a matter of penning pieces at midnight. Reporting requires patience and empathy. To create compelling pieces and an inviting team, journalists have to practice these virtues both on and off the paper. So even when my story gets cut or I come home late after layout, when neighbors welcome me at community events, juniors seek my advice or shy sophomores wave to me in the hallways, I can’t imagine high school without reporting.

That day, you learned more than the basics of journalism, Saba. You experienced lessons that you would remember for the rest of your life.
AP style: just the facts, no editorializing. Inverted pyramid: the most important information comes first. But you learned that for every word came the blood, sweat and tears of an entire team, a family with distinct voices.

As you discussed newsworthiness and headlines, laughing through bites of Big Mama and Papa’s pizza, you looked around and simply smiled.
For once, words couldn’t communicate what you were feeling.

This year is my last year writing for a high school publication. But it’s not the end of my story. My six years at Harvard-Westlake have taught me that.
There’s always more we can do learn and grow and improve; there’s always a loved one we can help, stranger to befriend or new hobby to try.

It’s almost daybreak, but I won’t shy away from looking back and reflecting on all the moments, light and dark, that led me to where I am today. It’s what has allowed me to find the right words, nearly four years later, to describe what it feels like to be on the cusp of something new.

Love,
Almost High School Graduate Saba

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