Parting Words

Student journalism leaders reflect on their experience.

Jun 8, 2023

Our senior editors share some thoughts as their year of leadership comes to a close.

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Don’t take yourself too seriously 

Remember to take a step back and self-reflect.

I don’t think any movie I’ve seen has had the same impact on me that “The Truman Show” has. I’ve only seen it once, maybe some 5 odd years ago, but to this day I think about it almost daily.

I know it’s a very self-centered worldview and a completely irrational fear, but there’s always the inkling in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, I am Truman in the Rhys show. What if my life is a big prank and everyone I consider to be close friends are really just actors, paid to play a role in my life for the purpose of the wider public’s entertainment?

But I bring myself back to reality, and remember no one really cares that much about me, not in a self-pity or ‘woe is me’ way, but simply in the way that it’s a fact. Everyone is so busy with their own lives, most couldn’t give less of a damn what I do. And that’s freeing.

I love to say “it’s ok as long as you’re self-aware,” as a joke, meaning that if you do something crappy, the impact is overridden by knowing it was crappy. Of course this is merely a quip, and I don’t truly believe that.

However, I think there is a lot to be said for being self-aware. It will not absolve you of your wrongdoings, but people are more willing to hear out someone that is self-reflecting rather than deflecting. Getting feedback becomes futile if you refuse to do your best to take a step back and look at you’ve done. Playing the devil’s advocate against yourself is always helpful to gain some perspective.

I think these things are all a part of not taking yourself too seriously, something I really strive to do. For me, that means continuing to be very passionate and invested in things, while simultaneously understanding that I am not the center of the universe, contradictory to my Truman Show related fears. Since beginning my work on the paper, this is something I’ve found to be very valuable.

I love what I do, and cherish all that I’ve learned in the past year. Every article and every issue takes hours of work, lots of thought, and allows me to do what I love most: hear my peers’ stories. However, as my involvement with the paper intensified, I found myself getting more and more sucked in, and losing perspective of why I was doing what I was doing. I was putting too much pressure on myself, holding myself to too high of a standard, and worried about how my writing would be received and how I would be perceived.

Having passions and interests are really important, but it’s also important to not get so wrapped up in one thing that it’s all-consuming. If something doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned it to, that’s okay. There are so many more chances, and so many more things to try out in the world. And the cliché that you are your own worst critic? 100% true.

Not taking yourself too seriously doesn’t mean not caring. It just means that you don’t get so wrapped up in whatever it is that you lose perspective. And at the end of the day, remember that everyone is the Truman in their own show, and are too busy to pay too much close attention to yours, so live life to the fullest, and dance like nobody’s watching.

Oh, and in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!

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Chew on this 

Getting to the root of the story.

If you were a tooth what tooth would you be?

Personally, I would be the tooth to the left of the front one. 

It is not a very good question. Mouths don’t have that many teeth, and most of these teeth look the same and don’t have names. 

I understand the absurdity of the question, but that doesn’t stop me asking it to practically everyone I know. Maybe it is this absurdity that gets a conversation started, but whenever I ask that question, it doesn’t end at the teeth. We talk, and, the more I ask, the more I chip away at their story. 

Stories are sealants. Extracting them fills the holes in our community; it connects people to friends, strangers, and information in a material way. 

I knew telling these stories was going to be important, and a big responsibility, when I was named as editor-in-chief. That made it even more terrifying. 

I ran down the stairs (in my socks) to walk to former editor-in-chief Kai Lincke’s house last summer. Suddenly, I was tumbling down, and, when my frantic summersaults came to an end, I violently landed on my butt.

My parents were away for the weekend, and, at the time, I couldn’t drive, so I hobbled over to Kai’s house. 

I sat down (on a very hard chair) and tried my very best to take in the information that Kai was drilling into Matt and me. I have never felt so unprepared and my butt had never hurt so much. 

When I was limping home, I was considering quitting right there. I wanted nothing more than to lie down in the grass and text Kai, “Sorry, but I don’t think I can do this.” 

That was the beginning of a long year of perseverance. I didn’t send that text, I didn’t collapse into the grass. 

My first story of the year was about e-hallpass. The words didn’t come easily, and I, truly, had very little idea what I was doing. 

I had fun, though. 

Telling a story, and a story that a lot of people had been talking about, was fun. When people read it, it felt not only like my work mattered, but that, maybe, I made the right choice when I hobbled home that summer day. 

Every story I tell becomes my new favorite. Not only because I think I improve with every one, but because every story represents a new opportunity to affix the Panther Press’s readership to a new perspective.

Sometimes sharing new perspectives comes with criticism. At the beginning of the year, I was horror-struck by it, bracing for impact every time a new issue came out in print or a story came out on the website. Now though, although it can be scary, my commitment to defending my team, while also taking constructive criticism, has never been stronger. Our staff’s story, from inexperienced writers to seasoned student journalists has grown with each one that we write. 

There isn’t a cavity in this community that isn’t flourishing with life and experiences; thank you for letting me tell the stories of them.

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We are desensitized 

A community is about everyone.

There are only two things that I know are good: Saying hello and smiling—actions I don’t always do well. 

The Strath Haven student council election season comes with promises of more inclusivity, more diversity, and in general—more change. 

I’m excited that so many students want to improve Strath Haven’s community. Inspired even. 

But what good are promises of change if we’re unsure what needs changing? What good is one’s campaign if their success is determined by how many friends they have? 

I think our school as a whole should reevaluate what a community means. 

Two Strath Haven students have died in the last four years. The district administration responded to the death of Zykee Carmichael with an email. 

My point is that tragedy is apparent, but recognition of it is not. 

The administration’s brief response to Carmichael’ss death reflects the desensitization of everyone at Strath Haven. 

I think that even within the microcosm of our school, we’ve seen and heard about so much tragedy. And with each consecutive painful event, we’ve become less caring and more prone to indifference. This desensitization is heightened by the constant flow of tragic events in the media.

If we don’t acknowledge this collective desensitization, only the closest friends of those suffering will experience grief and shock. If we don’t acknowledge the pain in our student body, our students will go on claiming to make Strath Haven a “better place”, which will only perpetuate a cycle of complacent optimism. 

We as a school cannot label ourselves as a “community” if we continue to overlook the fragments of students experiencing pain and instead spotlight the everlasting possibility of positive change. We cannot let prevalence be the reason why students are not properly recognized. 

Honestly, I don’t know the best course of action. But I think there’s power in student journalism. I think that student journalism differs from other journalism in that student stories are written not only for an audience but also for the people covered in the story. 

As a student journalist, I’ve constantly questioned the purpose of my work. 

Why am I writing if no one is reading? Why am I making a video if no one will watch? 

I’ve concluded that it’s okay if no one or only a few people read. Because even in simply putting someone else’s words on paper and sharing their story, there is a positive impact. If only one more person than none feels like they are heard, and that their perspective matters, it is worth it. 

But you don’t need a notebook and a pencil to be a storyteller-student journalist. All you need is to be willing to say hello and smile, ready to welcome someone else’s perspective. 

I think that’s the first step towards true change and a true community.

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It’s okay to stay until 3:00 

Why I am so glad I got involved.

Writing this column, days before my last time stepping foot in the building as a high schooler, I can’t help but think about the rocky ride I had to get here.

My first semester of freshman year was dictated by awkwardness and ducking under giant seniors. Still just a little freshman trying to find their place— but then COVID hit, interrupting whatever comfort I had at the time. 

The next two years had their own challenges, both online and in person. No fifth block and half of my time not even being in school stunted my growth as a student as well. It wasn’t until this year, that I really found myself as a student, and much of that started when I joined the Panther Press.

High school is extremely stressful, and it’s easy to get stuck in the loop of your four classes, and I was in the same boat. When I joined the Panther Press, though, that loop changed.

Panther Press was the first time I’ve been able to really ‘get involved’ at Strath Haven, and although I regret waiting this long, I’m happy I finally did it.

Unlocking the door of fifth block is the greatest decision a Strath Haven student can make. Joining clubs that I liked has great benefits for my life as a student. Not only was I able to find new and fun ways to contribute to the Strath Haven community, but find a great group of friends, too.

Your first step into fifth block doesn’t necessarily have to be like mine. I just conveniently chose the best club in the school.

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Ziplining and journalism 

A terrifying experience eventually builds confidence.

Have you ever ziplined? I have and it’s scary.

At first, you sign up for the course and you’re so excited but also a bit removed from the whole idea of it. You don’t fully realize what you’re about to do until you’re hooked up to a hundred harnesses and look down to see thousands of feet of open air.

I exaggerate, but still, it’s terrifying! To look down and see all that space between you and the floor, knowing that if the line breaks and you fall, there is nothing going to save you.

But then you go, or the course instructor pushes you, and you zip down that line! You scream and close your eyes, feeling the wind against you as you pass through the canopy, barely daring to unclench your hand on your harness. 

But that open air becomes fun soon after you start, you look around and see the scenery, you relax your hands and breathe calmly. Once you get to the next platform, you look to the next line and smile. You aren’t afraid anymore. 

My experience with the Panther Press was as if I was surprised with a ziplining adventure with my good friends, so I faked my confidence until I looked down at the distance between where I stood and the ground below. 

I joined the paper on a whim, to help my best friend Julia Gray out, and I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into. No idea how to go through an interview, how to format my stories, and no clue that I would become an editor.

But after my first jump, my first article where I had a shaky interview that I forgot to record and was given hundreds of edits on my tone, I got used to the rhythm.

I got used to the process of emails and interviews and photos and writing, and I loved it. Not just because I learned about the ins and outs of journalism, but because I got to enjoy the company of an amazing team while doing so. 

Never in a million years would I think I’d be comparing ziplining to a school newspaper, but I also didn’t think I’d be an editor of said school newspaper. 

Ziplining is scary and journalism is scary, but you have to do scary things in order to get to that next platform. Before you get to the next terrifying jump, you have to take that first step. The jumps become easier, you can learn to relax your hands, to breathe in the air, and to get zipping.

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Singing my stories 

How my experience as a choir member translated to my work on the Panther Press.

If it’s not hard, it’s not great. 

Though poorly worded, this is the message my choir director repeated to us singers for years, trying to instill in us that we create our best work when challenged. 

As a member of the Keystone State Boychoir until tenth grade, I’ve sung a lot of songs that originated in cultures different from my own. I wasn’t just taught to sing the notes, I was taught to sing the story. Learning the “why” behind the songs gave significance to every single note. As I sang alongside my friends with that understanding, I felt a strong connection to the people whose lives were touched by the same songs a long time ago, before we had organized the sheet music in our binders.

My favorite stories to tell are ones that I go into knowing nothing about. 

Just as I learned the movements for and meaning behind the South African songs I sang in KSB, witnessing the way Strath Haven’s Tech Crew prepares for and puts on a musical scratched the itch I have to learn about others’ worlds. The experience of sharing that knowledge with others through song, video, photography, or writing, is always some sort of journey for me, and I make sure to keep it that way. 

As someone with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I joke that I’m allergic to boredom. It’s hard for me to keep a passion for something that I’ve done similarly a couple of times. Though almost every project comes with a crisis moment (sometimes even tears), I keep it interesting by challenging myself. And what’s a better challenge than spearheading the new video section of a student publication in a school that hadn’t had a broadcast program since the 90’s?

At the beginning of the school year, Ms. Plows met with me and posed the question: What would video content on the Panther Press look like? 

I remember asking for more guidelines and then realizing what Ms. Plows was really saying. The other video creators at Haven and I had the opportunity to set a precedent for Panther Press video. 

I got to experiment all year, discovering new ways to tell the stories of Strath Haven and bugging the rest of the staff to try video creation as well by saying, “You know what? That would make a GREAT video.” I offer the idea whenever I can because I know how a lack of knowledge and the prospect of challenge can hold you back from creating some really cool stuff.

I didn’t write an article at all until the May 2023 issue of The Panther Press because I didn’t know how. 

Though there were people all around me ready to show me the way, I felt dumb for asking. It’s so easy for all of them, why isn’t it easy for me? 

I was ignoring the fact that every writer at The Panther Press had to overcome challenges to write like they do, and once I took on the challenge of learning a new medium, accepting that I may stumble along the way, I ended up creating work that I couldn’t be more proud of.

Through my experiences alongside other talented journalists, I learned to ask questions instead of assuming answers. Each word of my articles and frames of my videos are filled with significance because I followed the story and told it to the best of my ability with the same energy that filled me while telling stories through song.

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Staff Credits
Photo of Julia Gray
Julia Gray '23, Editor-in-Chief





Julia Gray is a senior and the Editor-in-Chief of the Panther Press. When she is not working on the newspaper, she likes to dance, read, and play with her three dogs.





Photo of Matthew Chen
Matthew Chen '23, Editor-in-Chief
Outside of reporting and photographing for the Panther Press, Matthew Chen enjoys learning lanugages, cutting hair, and guessing your astrological sign.
Photo of Rhys Hals
Rhys Hals '23, Haven Happenings Editor





Rhys Hals is a senior and leader of Sunrise Club at Strath Haven. She enjoys crocheting, listening to music, and hanging out with her kitten in her free time.





Photo of Imogen Sharif
Imogen Sharif '23, Haven Arts Editor





Imogen is the president of National Honor Society and Gender & Sexuality Alliance, as well as first chair bassoon in the symphonic band. She works in Panther Press as the editor of the Haven Arts section. Outside of school, she enjoys hiking, exploring wildlife, and is an avid movie watcher.





Photo of Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh
Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh '23, Media & Broadcast Editor

Senior Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh Multimedia Broadcast Editor and Social Media Editor at The Panther Press. In whatever time he has free he enjoys mountain biking, listening to podcasts, messing with tech, and taking long walks. His favorite movie is “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

Photo of Charles Bogert
Charles Bogert '23, Reporter
Charles is a senior and reporter for the Panther Press. In his free time, he enjoys playing lacrosse, politics, and biking, while also taking part in the school’s Model UN team. Along with writing for the panther press, Charles also writes as a beat reporter for the Detroit Lions for NFCNorthReport.com.
Photo of Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh ‘23
Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh ‘23, Media & Broadcast Editor

Senior Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh Multimedia Broadcast Editor and Social Media Editor at The Panther Press. In whatever time he has free he enjoys mountain biking, listening to podcasts, messing with tech, and taking long walks. His favorite movie is “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

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