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Meet The Times' new teen columnists

10 local students set to participate

A new batch of columnists are on the roster of Times teen columnists for 2018-2019.

Every Wednesday and Saturday through the middle of May, they will contributes personal opinion pieces. In their own words, seven new teen columnists describe themselves.

Molly Baker

I am a senior at Seneca High School and I participate in basketball, volleyball, National Honor Society, math team, WYSE and Teens Resisting Unhealthy Social Temptations.

Outside of school, I enjoy playing the piano, painting and watching YouTube videos. In the future, I plan to attend a four-year university and major in communications. I have always enjoyed writing stories and I won the Young Authors Award a few times in grade school. I am honored to be chosen to write for The Times and I hope people are interested in reading about life through the eyes of teenagers.

Isaac Brockman

I’m a senior at Seneca High School. I am heavily involved in sports and extracurricular activities at school, including being senior class president, along with being in 4-H.

I also love spending time outside. I live on a farm outside of Verona with my dad, a union electrician and farmer, mother, a special education aide, and brother, a sophomore in high school.

In college, I intend on majoring in agribusiness and minoring in finance. I’ve loved reading the newspaper from a young age and keep myself up-to-date on local and world news by reading multiple newspapers daily. Being a teen columnist is a perfect chance for me to share with readers how the world looks to a senior in high school and what impacts us teens most. This opportunity allows me to open eyes of many and provide a realistic view of everyday achievements and setbacks for teens.

Sarah Camp

Being told to write a “biography” has always been an interesting assignment. Over my many years of experience in the American public school system, the amount of times I’ve been asked to “tell the class about myself” and “write a short biography” have been numerous. Where to start? Clearly this is the teacher’s easiest and most original avenue for learning about new pupils quickly, but what part of my existence will be meaningful or useful to them? I could start from the beginning with my birth in Utah, my parents' divorce and the subsequent uprooting of my life across the country, but honestly, that’s a sob story told a million times, and I prefer to believe that part of my life does not define me. I could talk about the bullying and lack of a consistent parental figure I endured in my youth, but once again, that wouldn’t reflect the ultimate goal of the person who asked for my story.

So, when I write a biography, I always find myself tailoring it towards the intended audience, be it a teacher, peer group or therapist. For example, those who will read this version of my biography want to know who I am as a writer and not every woe of a struggling teenager dating back to birth. Where did my passion for books, reading and writing come from, and where do I hope it leads me?

Ten years ago, my second-grade teacher asked the class to write a story themed around the upcoming holiday: St. Patrick’s Day. I had always enjoyed reading books as a means to escape the bullies of the real world, but had never considered writing one myself. I was quite bored with the task really, but thought it best to humor my teacher. While the other kids scribbled three lines about leprechauns or rainbows and moved on to playtime without a second thought, I was stuck.

Inspiration came from an unusual pace as I racked my tiny 7-year-old brain for ideas. The paper we had been provided to write on was an orangey peach color and had a border made up of stars, rainbows, clouds and small cyclones inked along the edges. That border was what the adventure of Lucky, the three-leaf clover who wanted nothing more than to be a four-leaf clover, was based upon. After surviving a tornado, being flung into the sky and sliding back to earth on a rainbow, Lucky got his wish. Three sheets of peachy-orange paper later, I turned in my story with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction.

So why does a senior in high school remember an innocuous assignment given to her over a decade ago in such finite detail? Because that story is my beginning. The next day my teacher came to me saying she had chosen my story for a writing award and that I would be reading "Lucky the Clover" not only in front of my grade, but the entire school. I was shocked. I had enjoyed writing the adventures of Lucky, but I hadn’t deigned to think the story had actually been good.

I was even more shocked that something I genuinely enjoyed doing was also something I was genuinely talented at. Over the next few years, shelves upon shelves of notebooks found themselves covered in my unintelligible handwriting. Stories flowed out of me like I was born to be writing them. As I grew older, the notebooks were replaced with Word and Google Doc files, but the imagination and vigor behind the stories never changed. I am a writer, whether it’s essays, poems, short stories, novels, articles or an entire series, the written word is how I express myself and is how I am good at expressing myself. I am going to continue writing because it is what I love to do.

This columnist position is the perfect opportunity to begin a work history in writing and gain the editorial experience I will need as I progress into my future career. Having published work and references will be insurmountably beneficial for college applications and as I apply for writing work. My ultimate goal is to attend the prestigious Columbia University in New York City so I can become the published and successful author I have dreamed about being since second grade.

Ben Donner

I am a junior at Streator High School. I enjoy all sports, including football and baseball. I am a member of Key Club and track and I have also been the basketball manager. I also attend church at Holy Trinity. My parents are Bryan and Kim Donner.

Molly Garretson

I am just beginning my senior year at Flanagan-Cornell High School, and am very excited to see what the future holds. I am hoping to go to college somewhere in Missouri but am unsure what I will be studying quite yet. The future is unsure, but currently I love playing volleyball, running track and making art! I have always really enjoyed writing and different forms of art, so when I was offered to write for The Times I accepted right away. I am even looking into studying journalism or writing when I go to college next year!

Maggie Hettel

My name is Maggie Hettel. I’m 17 and a senior at Marquette High School. I am involved in volleyball, basketball, Order of the M, Key Club, Crazy Cru, National Honors Society, WYSE team, Fine Arts, Student Ambassador, and Student Council.

Gareth Kent

I am a senior at Marquette Academy and I serve on our student council. I am a student ambassador, and will be a senior retreat leader this year. This is my fourth year on our football team and I will run track when spring rolls around.

I do not know what I will pursue in college. I also don't know where I will pursue whatever I eventually decide on, but I hope to go to a four-year university and experience something beyond the Illinois Valley.

Hannah Jones

Hello! I am a senior at Flanagan-Cornell High School. I love to sing and hang out with my friends! I also love plants and books! My favorite plants are succulents, but I love almost all plants.

After high school I plan on attending a university to study Spanish education and become a Spanish teacher. I am excited to become a columnist and look at issues from a teenager’s perspective. I am also looking forward to diving deeper into issues and examining them from different sides and perspectives.

Kenzie Power

I am am a senior at Ottawa High School. I’m involved with theater, band and the Pirate Press at the school, and I also participate in an outside flute choir.

I enjoy reading, writing, musical theater and various genres of music. In the fall of 2019, I intend to attend Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., or Illinois Wesleyan University. While in college, my plan is to purse a major in political science and a minor in journalism.

I want to be a columnist for The Times so I can gain more experience working with a newspaper before I go into my desired area of study and possible field of employment, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

Abby Skinner

I am 17 years old and a senior at Streator High School. I grew up on a small, family farm outside of Grand Ridge.

I am currently serving as president of the Streator FFA Chapter, and I am a member of the Corn Belt Kids 4-H Club. Also, I participate in German Club and National Honors Society.

I love the Chicago Cubs, showing cattle, reading and writing. I am unsure about where I will go to college, however I plan on majoring in either agronomy or English.

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