When I was in eighth grade, I remember my mother bringing home a copy of the Sounder and pulling the Viking Voice leaflet out of it. She knew I had always loved writing and telling stories, even before I could actually write (I would draw illustrations and insist that my mother copy my stories down verbatim onto the page with them.) She told me I ought to write for the paper in high school.

As an extremely socially anxious preteen, the prospect seemed daunting and utterly undoable. However, my freshman year of high school happened to be online. Going to the first Viking Voice meeting of the year merely meant signing onto a Google Meet. And there, I found a group of talented, thoughtful, inspired people who welcomed and encouraged me without hesitation. That year, I began working as a copy editor and a reporter. My sophomore and junior years, I served as managing editor, and editor-in-chief my senior year.

I have learned so much during my tenure here, so many skills in communication, in writing, in the management of time and people, and in problem solving. The unique opportunity of a school newspaper is that I have had the freedom to explore what I wanted to write about. I saw what stories were enriching to write, as well as which stories garnered the best response and engagement from the community. The experience of writing politics, satire, interview features, poetry columns, editorials, and even horoscopes enriched my abilities as a writer and set me on the path I follow today. That path is now leading me to study journalism at Western Washington University.

As much as I promised myself this would not become an Oscar-award-style “thank you” speech, I find, without a doubt, it is needed. Thank you, Mr. Waage, for believing I had what it took, and for all of your patience with me forgetting how to layout the paper even after four years. Thank you, Bella and Gray, for the two years we worked side by side, you have prepared me for taking the reins solo better than anyone else could have. Thank you, Scarlett, for being a fantastic editor. Thank you, Eve, for helping me keep my head above water with your notetaking and webmastering abilities. Thank you, Mom and Dad (the cheesiest thank you of all, but of course the most necessary,) for pushing me to pursue this dream of mine, even before I could write down the stories I wanted to tell.

And finally, to all the past, present, and future staff of the Viking Voice: Keep loving the things that you love. Keep fighting the battles you choose. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. The world more than ever needs your voice.