Friday Flashback: “Life is full of chances to learn”

During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform.

At the time I wrote the column below, my sister Shannon was nine years old, playing soccer for our local club soccer team. I didn’t know much about the game at the time, and I still have much to learn, but I’m proud to have the opportunity to cheer Shannon on now as she plays college soccer for Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She has grown into an incredible athlete and a leader on her team, and I am lucky to call her my sister and my friend. I can’t wait to cheer her and her teammates on this weekend as they play against Cornell College and Grinnell College in Iowa!


“Life is full of chances to learn”

Date of Publication: October 29, 2004

Over MEA break, while many students were watching television or sleeping in late, other students were working hard. One of these students is my younger sister, who, with her Dakota Rev traveling team, competed in the state soccer championship in Cambridge. Even though their opponent, also a Dakota Rev team, played very well, my sister’s team won in overtime.

Although I am very proud of my sister and all she has accomplished as a soccer player, this state championship game was the first soccer game I had attended over the span of the fall season. Because of my own busy schedule and the tremendous amount of homework I receive as a high school student, it has been almost impossible to attend many games, so I am mostly unfamiliar with the sport of soccer and its rules.

During the game, I frequently looked over at my mother, an avid “soccer mom,” to ask, “Are they allowed to do that?” or “Why didn’t that goal count?” Each time, the somewhat annoyed look on my mother’s face faded into one of greater exasperation, and I came to the realization that I know almost nothing about soccer.

As a child, I participated in softball, basketball, and volleyball, all of which I do not do anymore. I did not, however, play on a soccer team, which explains why I know little about the game.

Even though I was aware that I knew little about soccer, I still desired to attend, knowing that the game would be a learning experience for me. I hoped that the game would expose me to thinks I was unaware of at the time, which it did.

This soccer game was similar to school. Every day I get ready for school, knowing I will learn many new things throughout the course of the day. I am prepared to encounter experiences I am unfamiliar with.

Hopefully, this will still be the occurrence when I graduate from high school and move on to college, and then into my chosen career. I hope that I will have the opportunity to learn something new each day, and to approach each new experience with optimism and the desire to learn. I wish the same for my peers.

In the words of Abigail Adams, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on October 29, 2004.

Friday Flashback: Marching band and the drama of deadlines

During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform.

The column below is almost painful for me to read. I have always loved to write, but as I read through some of my earliest “Student Voices” columns, I realize just how far my writing has come — all due to the guidance of one truly incredible educator. I had the fortune of learning from caring, dedicated teachers throughout my high school experience, but the two years I spent in Nancy Storm’s classroom forever changed me, instilling in me a love of critical discussion and helping me to refine my voice in so many ways. To put it simply, Ms. Storm changed the way I think. She’s the type of teacher every student deserves to have, because the impact she makes is so profound.


“Marching band and the drama of deadlines”

Date of Publication: October 15, 2004

Every other week, I sit down at my computer and wait for something brilliant to pop into my head. Something that will be enjoyable for the readers to read but still be quality writing. I work better under pressure, so I always end up procrastinating until the last minute to write my column.

From the moment my column is published, my mom begins nagging me about possible topics and urging me to schedule time for prewriting, writing several drafts, revising and editing (she is a teacher, after all). If I dare to admit that I have not yet thought of a topic, I will be lectured about the revision process and the importance of producing a high-quality final product.

Throughout my day, both at school and at home, I encounter an assortment of topics that strike me as interesting and worthwhile. Writing a column about one of these topics, however, proves to be more of a challenge. Does my column sound too informative? I ask myself. Is this of any interest to the readers? I can only hope that what my family and friends find appealing is as interesting to the general public.

Everyone must encounter obstacles, little challenges that may seem bothersome but often mold us into the people were are. For example, the simple challenge of finding clothes to wear to school could turn into a lesson about self-image. Not having my column written the night before it’s due teaches me not only about the consequences of procrastination, but also that I can write about anything if I find it necessary.

When I sat down at my computer to begin writing this column, my idea was the marching band. Since I was a child, it has bothered me that the media focuses so much the coverage of sports, but usually one page of the newspaper or one three-minute segment on the nightly news is devoted to an academic or arts story. As a columnist, I finally have the opportunity to write the types of stories I have always wanted to read. I know many athletes and I appreciate the hard work they put into practices and games, but students involved in other school activities also deserve media coverage and acknowledgment for their accomplishments.

This is one of the reasons I am proud to be a part of the Rosemount High School marching band this year. We have been recognized by several newspapers for our accomplishments in competitions this fall, and will hopefully do well at our first regional competition, the Mid-Iowa Band Championship, in Ankeny, Iowa, this weekend. Thanks to the Rosemount Town Pages and our new fans for your support this marching band season.

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on October 1, 2004.

Friday Flashback: “Getting behind the wheel? A scary idea”

During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform.

The saga of my driver’s ed experience is well documented in my “Student Voices” columns, starting with the column below. Although I have been driving for eight years now (could it really be that many?), I’m no more confident in my driving abilities than I was on the day I got my driver’s license — and I have the driving record to prove it. I’m certainly happiest when I can be the passenger, which leaves my boyfriend Robbie to field the requisite “Driving Miss Norah” comments from our friends. Perhaps some day I’ll live in a city with a vibrant, reliable public transportation system so I can abandon driving altogether!


“Getting behind the wheel? A scary idea”

Date of Publication: October 1, 2004

After 15 years of being chauffeured everywhere by my parents, I am finally learning how to drive. Frankly, I’m scared.

About a week ago, I was given an assignment in my driver’s education class to be completed at home with a parent. I was supposed to learn how to use various controls and devices in my family’s car. When I put the key in the ignition and heard the car start, my stomach exploded with butterflies. Although I had been excited to drive, I had never thought about how strange it would feel to be in the driver’s seat.

Earlier that day, when I first got in the car, I couldn’t see any of the controls because I was in the dark garage. When I told my mom about my predicament, she said, “Just back the car into the driveway.” My dad responded with a quick, “No, not yet!” I have to wonder if my dad will always be so hesitant to allow me to drive, even when I do have my driver’s license. A short trip to pick up milk at the gas station could possibly turn into a family debate as to whether I should drive.

This trimester at school I am enrolled in safety education, a class which includes both driver’s ed and CPR in its curriculum. Because my birthday is in July, I am the last of my friends to take the class and will be the last to get my permit. As convenient as it will be for me to have my license, I am thankful to have the extra time to grow accustomed to the idea of driving, as are my parents.

After passing driver’s ed and getting my permit, I will enroll in behind-the-wheel driving with an instructor. I can’t help but feel sorry for whoever gets stuck with me the first time I attempt to drive. Not only will I be nervous, but I also worry my klutziness will have a negative impact on my driving ability. A suggestion to the instructor who accompanies me on my first driving experience: please be patient.

Although I am nervous about this new experience, the ability to drive will make life easier for me and my family. I will be blessed with the opportunity to drive my younger brother and sister to soccer practices and the honor of picking up last-minute groceries. One thing is for sure: I will finally have the chance to choose which radio station I listen to. As my mom says, “When you are the driver, you pick the station.”

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on October 1, 2004.

Friday Flashback: “Setting goals is a good idea for everyone”

During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform.

Almost nine years have passed since I wrote the post below, at a time when the first weeks of school meant hammering out goals for each class and organization and, in my case, obsessing over those goals for the next nine months of the school year. I was single-minded in achieving academic perfection, a pursuit that rewarded “coloring inside the lines” and playing by the rules. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized just how limiting that path had been. As I begin to set goals for my new role at Veridian Credit Union, I am thankful to have found a place that gives me the crayons and says, “Draw your own picture.”


“Setting goals is a good idea for everyone”

Date of Publication: September 17, 2004

On Sept. 11, the RHS marching band won first place at Champlin Park’s Rebel Classic competition and was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Champion of the event. As a member of the marching band, I was so proud and excited to have reached our goal at our first competition, but I also knew we still had work to do and would continue to improve.

As students get back to their school year schedules, athletic events begin or continue and activities begin to meet again, we will all be setting goals for ourselves. Some goals will concern what grades we want to earn or what type of involvement we will have in activities. Other goals we set will be with sports teams or academic teams. Still more may include making new friends or improving our study habits from the year before. Each of these goals is as important as the others.

Goals are what motivate students to do their best and to strive towards excellence. They give us motivation even when we have a bad school day or bad practice. Goals encourage us to place improvement among the highest of our priorities. It is so important to set goals — any successful student or athlete will tell you this.

In school, teachers, coaches and advisors do their job by teaching us skills we will use in the future and facts vital to our high school education. It is our job and our responsibility to set goals and apply the skills we learn in order to succeed using the tools our teaches, coaches and advisors give us.

Students, remember to always set goals, whether they concern academics, activities or sports. Setting goals, you are more likely to succeed in high school and beyond.

Have a successful school year 2004-05.

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on September 17, 2004.

Friday Flashback: “Thank you for reading”

In June 2007, I graduated from Rosemount High School — the same high school my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother attended. I think that’s really where my reverence for the past began: my own growing awareness of the connections I felt with those who had come before me, the people who created the community that I had always known as “home.” During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. 

Much has changed since I first wrote about what it meant to be a high school student in my Minnesota hometown of 25,000. At the time, I was a driven student with a penchant for using the word “nevertheless” and ending each piece of writing with a quote from a famous person (which I will do again today). I had never lived outside my hometown, had no idea where I would go to college or what I would study and took myself much more seriously than I do today — a trait that is evident as I read back through my columns. I also had a long way to go in refining my writing skills, a journey I credit entirely to my English teacher at the time (and the greatest educator I’ve ever known), Ms. Nancy Storm. 

In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform. As I embark on my latest transition, I know there is much for me to learn from the person I was at fourteen. After all, as Nelson Mandela wrote, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” I thought it fitting to start today with my penultimate column; next week, I’ll take you back to the beginning. 


“Thank you for reading”

Date of Publication: June 1, 2007

Every other Sunday night, my mom frantically asks, “What are you going to write about for the newspaper this week?” As some of you know, I am a chronic procrastinator. After three years of intermittent anxiety about finding topics for my biweekly columns, I have reached my final “regular” column (I will write one last time for next week’s special graduation feature).

You, the readers of the Rosemount Town Pages, have been my extended family during the past three years. You’ve watched me grow up. You’ve shared my joys and struggles and connected me to our community in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. Although I would never presume to represent all my peers, I hope I have shared my thoughts and experiences in a way that showed you the commonalities among all Rosemount High School Students, and, on a much larger scale, among all people.

As I look back on the most significant events of my high school years, I realize I have shared them all with you: the year my grandfather lived with my family, the marching band’s record of excellence, my obsession with Harry Potter. My excitement about Rosemount’s future library. Compulsively buying t-shirts for all my activities and classes. The epic odyssey of my college selection process. Running out of gas two days in a row, and being rescued by a platoon of Good Samaritans. You have been there through it all.

Thank you for supporting me by reading my columns every other week. Though I have never met many of you, I appreciate all of you. I have gained so much from my experiences as a student columnist for the Rosemount Town Pages, and I hope that I have, in some small way, given you something to think about now and then. I am proud to have provided you, my community, with some insight into what high school life is like for Rosemount’s teenagers. Writing for you (and in some cases, about you) has been a wonderful opportunity, and one I will miss very much. Once again, thank you for being my companions on this journey.

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on June 1, 2007.

What a week.

On Monday, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people (including an eight-year-old boy) and injuring more than 140.

On Tuesday, the FBI was alerted to a letter intercepted by the U.S. Senate Mail Facility which contained ricin, a lethal toxin. Three such letters were sent to President Barack Obama, a U.S. Senator and a judge.

On Wednesday afternoon, a mostly Republican minority filibustered gun regulations that the majority of Americans support, regulations that would have expanded background checks, increased funding for mental health resources, criminalized gun trafficking and protected American citizens from military-grade assault rifles.

On Wednesday evening, an explosion at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas, killed at least twelve people, with more than 60 people still unaccounted for. About 200 people were injured by the blast, including residents at a nearby nursing home.

On Thursday evening, gunfire at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resulted in the death of one MIT police officer. Later that evening, residents of Watertown reported hearing gunfire and the sounds of explosion, as the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing exchanged gunfire with the authorities.

These are America’s tragedies, moments that force us to hold our collective breath. They are moments that remind us that we live in a world that isn’t safe. They remind us that we aren’t invincible.

In the midst of all of this, we each have our own crises: a lockdown at a sister’s school, a hurtful email spread throughout the web. More pain, wreaking havoc on our hearts and minds, as if we didn’t have enough already.

And what is there for us to do? Sit in silence, waiting for the next notification, the tweet that tells us about one more round of gunfire, one more human being added to the death count. We try to keep our perspective; tragedies such as these are daily occurrences for many of our global neighbors. We have the benefit of constant information – or is it really a benefit at all?

I feel powerless. I am thousands of miles away, with nothing to offer those who are hurting so much. Do I give blood? Make a donation? These acts of support feel hollow, checking a box on a list that shouldn’t exist.

And in the back of my mind is that nagging notion that what I’m doing with my life doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t make a difference. That this could be (should be?) a call to act. And if it is? What can I offer that means something? And what will tomorrow bring?

I feel powerless.

The obligatory SXSW blog post, year two

Seven days have passed since I returned to Des Moines after the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, and unlike last year, my Storify recap is not finished (EDIT: now it is!) and I have yet to upload any photos to Facebook from the week (EDIT: here they are!). SXSW 2013 Badge

This year’s trip was an exercise in living in the moment, as much as one can live in the moment while uploading six-second videos on Vine, applying (subtle) filters to photos on Instagram and pushing out hundreds of tweets each day. I chose panels and talks more strategically; I limited my party-hopping to two (or three…) per night; I forced strangers to tell me about their non-digital lives. Most evenings ended at the Driskill, a hotel bar with its own secret entrance.

I tell people that SXSW is not a sustainable lifestyle, and I stand by that statement. Last year, I tweeted that I was leaving my heart in Austin. This year, after many Interactive attendees left a night early, I was ready to go home. But as I try to collect my thoughts from the most insane week of the year, I realize I’m still processing, still working to place the things I learned into the context of my own life. Here it goes:

Favorite “leaning in” ladies:

“That was kind of cool” moments:

And, of course, the Hilton Lobby dog: