I loved writing for the Bulldog. When I was a staff writer, a kid named Brian Bank ('12) was the editor-in-chief, and he built this really exciting and fun culture around the newspaper. We had a lot of laughs, and everyone looked forward to coming to class. At the same time, though, the editors were able to set the tone and be serious when it was time to be serious and give the newcomers really helpful advice and pushed us to improve as writers.
When it was my turn to fill Brian’s shoes, I knew the paper would change. Brian and I just have different personalities, and I’m not as funny or outgoing as he is. To be honest, I don’t even know how I was perceived as a leader by other kids in the class, but I’m proud of what we accomplished. It was an exciting time. During my year as editor, I had a great editorial staff, and we launched the online version of the paper. One thing I really like about journalism at Bullis is that it’s a team atmosphere, and as a team, you rely on each other, you grow with each other, you celebrate with each other, and you disagree with each other. That’s a dynamic that you don’t get very often in a classroom setting and it’s something that I always liked being a part of.
I heard you were the Editor and Chief of the Bullis Newspaper when you were a senior, did that help jumpstart your interest in journalism?
Honestly, my senior year of high school was probably the peak of my interest in journalism. I had a really good time writing for the Bulldog, but once I learned more about what an actual career in journalism would actually look like, I kind of shied away from that route. After my junior year, Mr. Kosegarten actually wrote me this amazing recommendation that helped me get into this summer program at the Washington Post, which was a very cool experience. I worked on a project with a team of other kids my age and some Washington Post reporters gave us tips and talks and a general insight into what their jobs looked like. At that point, I started to realize that you really do need a certain disposition, a certain personality to be a journalist. A lot of the work, especially the investigative work, is not glamorous, and you have to be willing to be assertive and be up in people’s faces and in their business to get the information you need. It’s also an extremely stressful work environment with tight deadlines and crazy work hours. So long story short, the Bulldog did spark an interest in journalism, but not one that I really pursued seriously.
What inspired you to start writing your blog?
Towards the end of my sophomore year in college, I went on a reading binge. Since April, I’ve probably read 60 books, and obviously, I learned a lot from them. It was all individual learning, though. By that, I mean that I didn’t usually get a chance to talk about those books or topics with other people. I didn’t get to hear other people’s perspectives on them or share what I thought was important about them. So the blog was my way of opening up a dialogue with my friends, even though it’s more of a one-way dialogue. Basically, I try to give my readers something to chew on. Sometimes, I hear some ignorant remarks that I want to address. It’s like a formal subtweet. Sometimes, I just want to bring awareness to an issue I just learned about and I think deserves a lot more attention. Sometimes, I want to articulate an argument that people don’t often hear and that I think could force people to reconsider their beliefs on a particular issue.
I also noticed that you worked as an advocate at LIFT-Philadelphia, a resource center that combats poverty in West Philadelphia, has that also impacted what you choose to write about?
LIFT has been a huge part of not only the blog, but me as a person. I can’t put into words in a reasonable amount of time exactly how much LIFT has meant to me or to West Philly, and I don’t really want to get all righteous either. So, I’ll say this. LIFT allowed me to engage with a community that is not my own, and it’s given me a lot of experiences and insights that are unique among a lot of people I go to school with. It’s those lived experiences that shape a person much more deeply than second-hand knowledge. I can read a book about mass incarceration or take a class about urban policy, and I can write a blog post about what I learn from each. But it comes across as so much more real and the understanding is so much deeper when I’ve actually been in that situation. I know what it’s like for a person who just got out of prison trying to find a job. I worked with him every week filling out applications, practicing interview skills, and tweaking his resume. So I have a ton of vivid, vivid life experiences from LIFT that no book or classroom experience can be a substitute for. That’s really shaped how I think, how I empathize with people, and ultimately, what and who I write about.
What do you hope to accomplish in writing your blog?
A couple things. First of all, writing really helps you figure out what you think. I’ve picked up books, finished them in a day or two, picked up another one, and pretty much forgotten about the first one forever. Writing helps me to process the things I’m learning. It helps me to organize my thoughts and articulate my beliefs. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since starting Half Deep is that writing is really part of the learning process in my mind. I didn’t realize that until after I started the blog.
Second, I wanted to start some discussion among my friends. I hope that Half Deep gets them thinking more about important issues and I hope that people respond to me. A few friends have agreed to write posts for me, and I think it’s been really constructive to have their views represented on the blog. Every so often, I’ll get random texts saying they appreciate what I’m doing or that they really liked my last post. That’s such a great feeling. It’s cool when your best friends pat you on the back, but it’s even better when an acquaintance does it. Like a few weeks ago, a kid from my freshman hall that a barely talk to anymore sent me this long, heartfelt text. That has probably been the most rewarding feedback I’ve gotten since starting the blog. That brings me to another point.
I hope that my blog inspires others to be active in the world. Yes, I hope they think about issues I bring up on the blog, but more importantly, I hope they also decide to express themselves creatively. Go write an essay. Go write a poem. Go volunteer. Create art. Do what you do to stay invested in the world and make it a better place. That’s definitely a big goal for the blog.
What are your plans after college?
Good question! It’s still up in the air right now, but I just started my junior year, so I still have time to figure some things out. A lot of kids in my majors end up in finance, investment banking, or consulting, but I don’t really have any interest in that. I think life is really about understanding. I want to understand people, to interact with different communities, to engage with communities all around the world. I think that the period after college is a great time to join an organization that will allow you to see a different part of the world than what you’re used to and hopefully make a positive impact while you’re at it. So things like the Peace Corps and Teach for America are things that are on my radar right now, although neither is a long-term career option. Eventually, I think I probably want to get a Ph.D. and be a scholar of some kind that would allow me to write, share ideas, learn, and continue to be open to the world.
Do you have any tips to give the editors now for the Bullis Newspaper?
I’m big on community, so I would like to see the Bulldog focus more on the Bullis community itself. I try to check up on the website a few times a year, and my biggest critique of it is that it’s not really that specific to the school. Articles about the Redskins or pop culture are fine here and there, but I don’t like them to come at the expense of reporting what’s going on within the Bullis community. Plenty of people write about big national events, and they’re more qualified to do so for the most part. But internally, if the Bulldog isn’t going to give attention to issues in the school, nobody else will, so I think that’s a natural role that the paper has to take seriously. I appreciate that the paper is pretty limited in terms of what it can say and it can’t be overly critical of the administration – believe me, I’ve had a lot of first hand frustrations with that part of it – but there are still tons of issues the Bulldog could give more coverage to. Bullis has a lot of diversity and a lot of accomplished and talented people with amazing stories to tell, and I think the newspaper needs to make an effort to find those stories and tell them. So really, my advice would be to look inward instead of outward when the paper is looking for content.