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Meet this year’s Times teen columnists

A new team of 12 high school writers is joining The Times as teen columnists for the 2019-20 academic year.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays through the first week of June, students will contribute columns addressing topics and issues of interest. Columns will begin publication Wednesday, Oct. 16. In their own words, this year's writers describe themselves.

Crystal Ayco

Salutations, my name is Crystal Ayco. I am a 16-year-old junior this year at Flanagan-Cornell High School. I am in basketball and student council. Along with those two, I also am junior class vice president. Some other in-school activities I take part in are scholastic bowl, choir and band of all types. I sometimes participate in honor bands like Bradley and Augustana. Those are pretty cool. Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading and recently watching "Rick and Morty." I also very much enjoy finding a new tune to listen to here and there. I work at Subway as a sandwich artist, which is pretty snazzy. Until I write again, farewell. 

Jadyn Bayer

Greetings, my name is Jadyn Bayer and I am 18 years old. I am currently a senior at Flanagan-Cornell High School, and I am very involved in my school. Volleyball, scholastic bowl, student council and being a class officer are some of the many things I am involved in. Outside of school, I enjoy watching Netflix and discovering new music that I am interested in. Over this past summer, I took a trip to Belize and discovered a new love for traveling and adventure. After high school, I plan to continue traveling and attend college. I am looking forward to this opportunity to write and share my thoughts with everyone.

Abigail Denault

I am a junior at Somonauk High School. I believe in experiencing everything I can, which leads me to be involved in many different activities. My involvement in Student Council, band and Leadership Group, in particular, allow me to truly connect with the student body and my community in a way that is engaging and challenging. Challenges motivate me to continue to never turn down an opportunity to try a new adventure because I know they lead me to meet new and different people and learn things about myself. My childhood experience as a bookworm was what first exposed me to people and worlds beyond my own. The art of writing holds a dear place in my heart with its various styles, tones, messages and hidden worlds, real and imaginary. This first turn of a page was what set me onto the path of journalism that I am on now. Being a columnist in this newspaper is not just the start of another adventure, it is the start of a path that I cannot wait to uncover.

Ben Donner

Hello, my name is Benjamin Donner, and right now I am a senior at Streator High School. I am currently involved in the Key Club and I am going to run track in the spring. I would like to further my academic career at the University of Illinois-Springfield or University of Illinois-Chicago, although I would prefer the University of Illinois-Chicago. I want to graduate with a degree in journalism. I previously wrote for The Times, and I enjoyed spreading my knowledge of sports. I know I will enjoy doing it again this year.

Natalya Hatfield

An interesting tidbit about myself is that my dog is literally my best friend. When people ask me who my best friend is, I never hesitate to say Sophie. She may be a dog, but she is the greatest thing to have ever happened to me. Being a senior at Seneca High School, my life has become extremely stressful between schoolwork and applying for colleges. Sophie is always there to calm me down when I start to feel down. Sometimes, when I’ve been doing homework for a few hours, she will hop onto the couch and lay across my laptop or notebook. I’ve done research on the behavior of dogs and when she does this, it’s her way of saying that I need to take a break and the best way to relax is to pet her. If I’m sick or having a bad day, she’s there to take the pain away. She is the love of my life, which sounds weird, but it’s the truth, and I don’t know what I would do without her.

Dalin Johnson

I am Dalin Johnson. I am a senior at Somonauk High School, where I have been involved in track, Spanish Club, Visual Arts Club, Mentoring and National Honors Society throughout my high school career. My favorite classes have always been English and art, and I plan to go to college next year, majoring in journalism and minoring in art. Later in life, I would like to teach high school English. I currently work at Santa Fe in Sandwich as a hostess, and some of my hobbies include going to Cubs games, Starbucks and shopping with friends.

Sean Kissel

My name is Sean Kissel, and I am a senior at Marquette Academy. I am a three-sport athlete in golf, basketball and track and field. I am enrolled in both honors and dual-credit college courses. I am also an involved in Crazy Cru, Senior Retreat, Fine Arts and Prom Committee, and have been involved in the school plays and musicals in both a performing and tech crew capacity. I am planning to attend a four-year college and would like to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. I have always enjoyed science and I also relate well to children since I am pretty much a child myself. I have really tried to do every type of activity available to me during high school, and I believe this will give me a well-rounded approach as I write my upcoming columns. I also like to think that I am pretty hilarious and hope to at least amuse the readers, if nothing else.

Kylie Koontz

As I sit here on the couch, one of my favorite movies playing in the background, I’m having a hard time finding a way to introduce myself. “How will I get people to remember me?” I think. How can I make people go, “Huh, I want to see what this girl writes about.” That is what I want to do. I want to be someone who makes people think, someone who spurs others into action with her words. I want to be a photojournalist. I want to take pictures of wildlife, concerts, combat. I want to do it all. I know this is a big dream for an 18-year-old girl from the small town of Earlville, but the biggest inspirations in my life are writers. I admire their ability to voice their opinions through words and make their readers think. I want to be that person for other young people, someone who inspires them to stick up for what they believe in. To voice their opinions without shame or fear. To stand up for others too afraid to stand up for themselves.

Alexis McCoy

I am a 17-year-old honor student at La Salle-Peru High School centralizing my time on enhancing my academics. I take part in many clubs provided by my current schools such as art and book club. In addition, I volunteer at a local animal shelter, IVAR and aid in the maintaining of my grandmother's houses. My home life is comprised of a blended family consisting of my mother, her fiance and an accumulation of biological, half and stepsiblings (eight of them in total, not counting two other siblings who do not live with us). Of the siblings I live with, I am the second eldest and the most responsible. I am a firm believer in character, hard work, organization, time management and in leading by example. 

Max Neidigh

My name is Max Neidigh, and I am a 17-year-old senior at Somonauk High School. I am involved in a lot of extracurricular activities up to this year. I played soccer, basketball and baseball. I also work after school and I am currently obtaining my private pilot’s license. I also enjoy hunting, working on cars and riding my dirtbike. I would like to serve in the Air Force and will be going to college to either get an aeronautical/astronautical/nuclear engineering degree or to get an aviation degree.

Regan O'Fallon

My name is Regan O’Fallon, and I am a senior at Ottawa High School. I serve as the editor of the student-run publication, the Pirate Press, and as an editor for the yearbook. I enjoy playing tennis and basketball, along with being involved in various clubs such as Student Council, National Honor Society, Superfans, doCHANGE mentoring, Key Club, Rotary Interact and Fine Arts Club. My hobbies include spending time with family and friends, following politics, eating out and listening to music. 

I have always had a passion for writing, and I look forward to the opportunity to channel this passion into my columns. My goal is to provide more insight and a different perspective to our community in an open-minded way. 

After high school, I plan to attend a four-year university and major in political science with a professional focus on pre-law studies.

Kathryn Siena

My name is Kathryn Siena and I am a senior at Marquette Academy. I have a sister who is a sophomore at Ottawa High School and a brother who is a sixth-grader at Marquette grade school. My interests vary widely. At school, I am involved in cross country and track, as well as several clubs including scholastic bowl, Fine Arts Club and Sports Medicine Club. Outside of school, I enjoy playing with my puppy and reading books. I am very excited to be writing a column this year; my love of reading has led to a love of writing, and I always dreamed of being an author when I grew up. Now I plan to attend a four-year institution and study chemistry, but my love of writing has not faded. I hope to contribute quality articles to the paper and to learn more about myself and others in the process.

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