Etched in Stone

Editor’s Note: Everything I have learned from journalism

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Imagine a very small, very scared nine-year-old girl sitting alone on an elementary school playground, crying, because she is so afraid to talk to new people that all she does during recess is wait for it to be over. Now imagine that girl, nine years later, approaching strangers to ask for interviews, or standing in front of a class instructing other students. I find it hard to believe, even when that girl is (not surprisingly) me. High school does not define you. At the moment it feels like it is all we have to our lives, but in reality it is only the beginning. Despite this, high school is the perfect opportunity we have been given to discover ourselves, to grow as people, to find what we like to do and who we want to be. It is by no means the end of this journey, and it certainly sounds ridiculously cliche and cheesy, but, as I remember Mr. DeGear consistently telling us, cliches are cliches for a reason – they reign true more often than not. Etched in Stone and the Fossil Ridge High School Journalism program has been the most distinct aspect of that journey for me, and I see no better way to end that journey than by sharing what I have gained from the experience as my final article.

This may sound dramatic. It may seem over-exaggerated or unnecessary or might make you ask, “Serena, why are you writing this, does anyone even care?” It is no secret to me, or anyone on the journalism staff, for that matter, that half of the school probably does not know that we have a school newspaper. That for those who know, few of them read our articles on a daily basis and many of those who do only want to ridicule us, spread spam or hate, or comment on our opinion articles about our bias. It gets frustrating when you receive almost nothing but negative feedback, but in the end that does not matter. What matters is the work we put into the program, the growth we push ourselves to, and the friendships we have made along the way. I have struggled with how to share this, as I am not one for crying in front of the class or randomly hugging my staff members, but I hope this proves to be a worthwhile expression of what Etched in Stone means to me.

Etched in Stone gave me a voice while learning about how to give a voice to others as well. I will always believe in the good of journalism, even amidst its faults, because of its ability to tell stories. The most powerful thing we have in the country is the freedom of speech, of the press. There is a reason it was written down as the very first amendment. Reading about other people’s lives is one thing, but it becomes an entirely different experience when you get to uncover that story for yourself. We learn to search out stories when someone reaches a major accomplishment, wins an award, or an event around the school happens. Often, however, it is not the actual event or accomplishment that forms the story, it is the people and the journey they took to get there. I have had the chance to see people who are so passionate about theatre, for example, that they have dedicated their entire lives to it. When you interview them, you see the excitement in their eyes, hear it in their voice, and start to wonder what makes you that excited too. Obviously, for me, I found it in journalism, but I have discovered it in other places as well.

In writing, I gained my own voice after finding the best ways to portray someone else’s. But my experience with Etched in Stone also helped me find my voice when I speak, which is the best thing I think I could take away from it. Getting involved with anything in high school opens you up to new people and experiences. For me, it forced me out of my comfort zones, for which I am forever grateful. The people in the journalism program revealed to me how easy it can be to find a place where I belong when I stay true to my sarcastic, book-loving self. They, and the social skills I had to gain when I needed to interview strangers, taught me to not be afraid of speaking out about things I care about. Not only have I learned what it is that I care about, but I know how to express it, which can be even more important.

Journalism has given me a family, as cheesy as it sounds. I have so many memories that still make me laugh, that I hope I will remember forever. From going to two journalism national conventions, with Kathleen Lee jumping over a fence to meet Nick Cannon in Los Angeles and our group drawing on a table at a fancy restaurant the next year in Seattle, to playing team-building games right outside the classroom at Fossil, the memories will be with me even as I enter college. The fun we had covering the Model United Nations crisis council, Ridge Games, and state meets and assemblies cancel out the bad experiences of high school and leave me feeling bittersweet for leaving.  

From the technical side of things, I additionally wanted to share what I have learned from leading a class and helping grow a program. It can be hard, but for me it also feels really easy at the same time. Kind of like jumping off a diving board, you just have to do it, and by the end of the year everything seems to come together. The number one thing I have learned is that the most difficult part of trying to improve a program is sticking with your goals. We create goals at the beginning of the year, we alter them and our processes throughout the year, and then at some point after spring break, we tend to forget about those goals as life catches up with us. One of my biggest regrets is not implementing my ideas for improved productivity right away and not continuing to stay on top of our plans throughout the year. The best piece of advice I can give to the new Editors-in-Chief is to make Etched in Stone one of their top priorities, because there are times when I did not do that and I wish I had.

I do not want to make this article too long and rambly, so here is one final thought. Whatever you decide to do in high school, and in life, go all the way. Be unashamed of the things you love and make them worthwhile. Thank you to everyone in the journalism program who has helped me learn and grow, and more importantly been my friends, hopefully for a long time after this – Katie, Lauren, Jaclyn, Bella, Karen, Olivia, Sasha, Macy, Liam, Emily, Haley, and Abby, and so much more. Mr. DeGear, who managed to see the potential to lead that I doubted in myself, and allowed me to embrace my passion for color-coding and justifying articles and let me learn for myself who I could be. And an additional thank you to everyone who read this article, and everyone who reads even a single article on Etched in Stone, and gives us non-spam related comments, because we appreciate every single one of you more than you probably know. So thank you, Etched in Stone, for giving me a purpose in life.

About the Writer
Serena Bettis, Editor-in-Chief

Serena Bettis, senior, is entering into her third year on the Etched in Stone staff as this year’s Editor-in-Chief. A four year journalism student, she has high hopes for Etched in Stone this school year, and wants to be able to guide the staff in achieving their goals as much as possible. While Bettis has become a much more outspoken person than she was when she started at Fossil Ridge High School, she still finds discomfort speaking in front of large groups of people (“large” being defined anywhere from 6 to 30), but is more than ready to grow in that aspect of leadership over the course of the year. Most of her journalistic goals for the year are not personal, but rather involve the entire program. She aims to further improve upon the look of the Etched in Stone website, which she spent countless hours on her junior year, enough for it to win awards before she graduates.

Aside from Etched in Stone, Bettis takes part in the school marching, jazz, and concert bands as a flute player, volunteers with Key Club, and is the Historian for the National Honor Society. She has also held a part-time job at TCBY for over a year, and now knows more than she needs to about the sugar content in frozen yogurt. In her spare time, which is often hard to come by, Bettis can be found reading for fun, lamenting about how none of the new Young Adult romance novels she used to love so much are good anymore, working on making the perfect French macaron, or binge watching her recent addiction, Game of Thrones. Music is a large part of her life, and her favorite genre is difficult to describe because she listens to many different bands. Some of her favorites include twenty one pilots, All Time Low, and Halsey, more alternative bands such as Issues and SWMRS, pop artists including Carly Rae Jepsen (“she’s so much more than “Call Me Maybe””), and Little Mix, and various songs by Spanish singers.

She is more than ready for graduation, and aspires to be attending college in Chicago by this time next year. Bettis knows that she wants to double major in journalism and foreign languages, with a potential minor in music, though she is undecided on what specific occupation she wants after college. Her best advice to someone who does not know what they are interested in is to simply join different activities and see what happens from there. “Eventually, sometime during sophomore year, journalism became the only class I wanted to go to, and even now I love it more than I used to love band, so that’s when it hit me that this was what I wanted to be involved in for most of my life,” she said. Another somewhat undecided goal of hers is to join the Peace Corps either during or after college, and she hopes that an experience in a different country with complete strangers might help her figure out what exactly she wants to do with her life.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Editor’s Note: Everything I have learned from journalism”

  1. Macy Fowler on May 17th, 2018 9:23 am

    I’m definitely not crying. Thank you for being such an amazing Editor-in-Chief and an even more amazing friend, I’m gonna miss you.

  2. Katie Reed on May 22nd, 2018 12:46 pm

    Serena you have done an amazing job as Editor in Chief, a leader, and website manager. I absolutely adore you and know you will do great things in college and life! The staff has grown over the years, and it is so great to see the improvements and changes that you have been able to implement as a leader for the class.

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Editor’s Note: Everything I have learned from journalism