May 22, 2015
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I wasn’t supposed to be in journalism class. On the third day of high school, I went to my guidance counselor to resolve a scheduling conflict and switched into J1 without really thinking about it. I walked into the class apprehensively, nervous because I had missed the first day and didn’t really know anyone in the whole school.
When I walked into Reaser’s room for the first time, I sat down at a table across from a girl with a friendly smile. We shyly introduced ourselves and became friends within a few minutes. Little did I know, this girl, Melanie, and I would go on to become longtime friends and co-editors, along with the group of people who most clearly defines my high school experience: the J Squad.
I remember the first day of tenth grade journalism. Melanie, Julia, Bailey, and I had just become sophomore staff reporters. The newbies. The J2s. I was excited to do some writing but scared because the then-editors, Jessica and Kaitlyn, were older and had lots of smarter opinions about things and knew how to work InDesign. They were going to be the ones reading our stories and telling us what to do.
But then Jessica spelled out the criteria for being on staff: you must love Chipotle, you must participate in Secret Dreidel, you must indulge in a YouTube party after the paper comes out, and you must remember that if you screw up it doesn’t even matter because no one reads the paper anyway (thank you for reading this, whoever you are).
And I knew everything was going to be okay.
J2 was when a group of girls (and Reilly!) sitting in front of computers became more than a group of girls sitting in front of computers. We talked about our opinions about AHS and how we could make them into great stories! Kaitlyn taught us to design pages and Jessica alternated between explaining how to survive high school stress and expressing her love of dinosaurs! The name “J Squad” started to really mean something, something that we were proud to tell people about, something that we were proud to represent when we threw up our right hands in a “J” shape.
When we (Bailey, Julia, Melanie, and I) were juniors, Alex joined the squad. He was quiet for maybe like a day before he became our crazy journalism buff who (almost) never complains about always having to hang out with a bunch of girls. Junior year was when we decided that our little staff had the potential to make the paper something really good. We drove to South Carolina for SIPA to learn about how to write better stories. We started tweeting. We listened to a lot of Beyonce. We helped to train a few J1s, even though we were brand new editors who still only sort of knew how to use InDesign.
And now, as a senior, reflecting on high school for me means reflecting on newspaper. Journalism was where I found my people, and something that I loved to do. My best high school memories are in the Jlab, with the Christmas lights shining and the coffee maker gurgling. On a typical day, Alex is trying to convince us to listen to some weird rap music even though Julia’s playlists are always much better. We read snippets of our articles aloud to each other between last minute homework assignments and YouTube sidetracks. Some days, when we’re lucky, Reaser brings some of her famous fudge for us to munch on.
Thank you, J Squad, for being my people. I can honestly say that J Squad is the group most important to my four years at AHS. It was in the J Lab that a silly group of friends who really cared about each other worked together to create something that we could be proud of. I’m very, very grateful for so many good memories (and a couple of weird ones–let’s try to forget about that long, rainy drive back from Columbia).
To Melanie, Julia, and Bailey: I’m so lucky to have found such wonderful, funny, genuinely interesting friends in you three. To Reaser: thank you for tolerating our craziness and providing all of the AP Style expertise, life advice, and popcorn. And to Alex and Ben: you can do it!!! (just remember to always check those folios).