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Heart of Harker: The other side of the interview

In+this+repeating+guest+column%2C+we+encourage+all+student+writers+from+around+the+community+to+share+their+memorable+experiences+while+at+the+Upper+School.%0APlease+email+all+column+ideas+to+wingedpost2017%40gmail.com.
In this repeating guest column, we encourage all student writers from around the community to share their memorable experiences while at the Upper School.
Please email all column ideas to wingedpost2017@gmail.com.

In this repeating guest column, we encourage all student writers from around the community to share their memorable experiences while at the Upper School. Please email all column ideas to [email protected]

In this repeating guest column, we encourage all student writers from around the community to share their memorable experiences while at the Upper School. Please email all column ideas to [email protected]

by Melissa Kwan, Guest Writer

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Every spring, the journalism program undergoes a “leadership transition.” The underclassmen applying for positions curate their best work, interview with Ms. Austin and wait for the fateful decision email to appear in their inboxes. It’s comparable to the casting of a play, both in drama and in anticipation.

Sophomore year, I opened this email fully expecting to receive one of my top choice positions. After scanning the list for a few seconds, I found my name: not under Student Life Editor or Sports Editor, but under Seniors Editor—a relatively smaller section.

This doesn’t make sense, I told myself. I love to design; the senior section is antithetical to that. I love to brainstorm page ideas; the senior section only has room for features. And of all people, why me for Seniors Editor—I’m not even in the senior class! But more fundamentally, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been shafted somehow, as if receiving this “less prestigious” position was a sign of disrespect.

In retrospect, I’d say that sophomore me was overconfident. I needed a reality check. But while initially disheartening, the role of “Seniors Editor” has come to define my high school career.

About a week into my moping period, Ms. Austin pulled me aside and told me her “master plan” for the senior section: She wanted to feature every single senior in the yearbook, instead of covering only a fraction as we had done in the past. She wasn’t sure if it would work, but she felt that this year’s staff was strong enough to try.

Fast forward through a summer of planning, and the senior section became Humans of Harker. We replaced the traditional 40 short blurbs with 174 full-length features. We expanded into the online platform. We upped our environmental portraits.

Personally, leading Humans of Harker has altered the way I tell stories. Instead of asking, “How was Homecoming?”, I ask, “What keeps you up at night?” Instead of asking, “What’s for lunch today?”, I ask, “When have you defied expectations?” Over the past two years, I’ve had the chance to interview seniors about empathy, nonconformity, activism, friendship: all ideas that transcend the Harker bubble. In the dwindling hours before graduation, I now have a convenient excuse to start deeper conversations with my class.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that “fateful decision email” marked a turning point in my high school career. It definitely shook my confidence. But more importantly, it taught me to see the opportunity in the wake of rejection. Maybe my top choice positions would have offered more prestige, but Seniors Editor solidified my tendency towards optimism in suboptimal situations.

Job interviews, sports tryouts, dare I say college applications—the possibilities for rejection are endless. Regardless of whether they pan out like Humans of Harker, the least I can do is take them in stride.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on November 16, 2017.

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Heart of Harker: The other side of the interview