Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

May 4, 2010

From the classroom to college

12-year-old gains new perspective on life at MSU camp

The trip was nerve racking. I was a shy, anxious 12-year-old at a Big 10 university attending the MIPA journalism camp with only a school year's worth of experience. Gulp.

Turns out I wasn't the only one new to newspaper. Most of the students in my class hadn't even been on a staff before. Phew! But I shifted back into panic mode when I remembered it was a HIGH SCHOOL workshop. I felt the odd glances coming my way from sophomores to seniors. I was out of place. But life was good on campus. It actually felt like I was in college. I had a lot of freedom, but was always the party pooper doing homework while most were out catching a flick or going on the late-night Slurpee run.

My classes were almost a blur. I had to walk a little more than a mile to get to the "Communication and Arts" building. We covered leads, transitions, stories, InDesign and Photoshop. Meals were in between.

Before I knew it, the week was up.

I'm the competitive type. Whether it's sports or schoolwork.

I hold myself to increasingly higher expectations, especially at MIPA. I arrived at the workshop ready to compete, excited to show all those high-schoolers what I was made of.

I wanted to march up to that podium and see everyone's faces when I was awarded the shiny trophy.

That day never came. But I realized my journey wasn't about beating anyone out. It was about how far I had come from my starting place. It turned out to be the best prize anyone could have given me, even if it didn't come with a trophy.

I didn't win the silver token, but I did gain confidence.

Today I'm the editor- in- chief for my school's paper. And whenever I get frustrated or want to quit on the spot — which is almost every day — I flash back to my memories at MIPA.

I remember sitting in the shade waiting for the bus to take me to a new adventure.

Or clapping to the rhythm of an upbeat song while the dancers break it down at the talent show.

Most of all, I remember how far I came and how far I can go. Then it all seems worth it.

My ultimate goal is to be a famous writer. That may or may not include journalism, but this scholarship opened another door to my future.

It reminded me I can be whatever I set my mind to. Scuba diver, lawyer, softball player, nurse. Heck, I've already been to college.

With just one flick of the pencil, a 12-year-old girl who was only 4 feet tall ended up at Michigan State University and gained a brand-new perspective on life. It was an incredible opportunity that changed her forever.

She looks down confident now, a bright smile spread across her eager face. Her mother again asks, "You're sure you want to do this?" This time she does not hesitate. She makes a bold check in the box named "School Newspaper." She doesn't know where this decision will take her, but she's sure she wants to be along for the ride. So she turns and replies boldly, "yes."

Lia Williams is an eighth-grader at East Middle School. She is co-editor of the school paper, Trojan News. She plans to study journalism in high school.

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