Humans of Harker: The art of introspection

Rachel Ning discovers herself through outlets such as media and journalism


Jasleen Hansra

“I try to live every single day like it’s my last day and savor every single small moment that I can. Especially in my senior year, I really tried to live in the moment and enjoy all the things that I can. After high school, nothing is guaranteed. Everyone goes their separate ways. I always try to appreciate the friends and experiences I have now,” Rachel Ning (12) said.

Posters advertising her favorite artists’ new releases and printed photos from her camera roll adorn the cream-colored walls of Rachel Ning’s (12) bedroom. Amidst the cozy blankets and homey decorations collected over the years, Rachel offers a radiant smile, her room a striking reflection of her bold personality and fondness for the media.

Before Rachel dived deeper into the world of pop culture and media, she was an avid volleyball player. Inspired by her family to try out the sport, she began playing volleyball for Harker and an outside club team in sixth grade.

Rachel finds that her favorite part of volleyball is the camaraderie between teammates and the friendships she has made. She appreciates the connections the team developed together during practices and games.

“I’ve met a lot of really good people through the six years that I played volleyball, outside and inside of school,” Rachel said. “Primarily inside school, it’s been a really great community, especially during my senior year. I love the people that I get to play with every single day.”

Although Rachel enjoys the thrill of playing volleyball and the community formed by the sport, she made the difficult decision to quit her club team after the COVID-19 lockdown, as she struggled to balance the activity with school and her other extracurriculars.  

“When COVID hit, it was kind of a blessing in disguise because it gave me a lot of time to reflect on whether or not volleyball was something that I wanted to do,” Rachel said. “At that time, my [sibling] was getting recruited, so they were super involved in the sport. Seeing how much effort they put into it made me take a step back and think, ‘Is this what I want to do for myself?’”

Rachel has only branched out from there, furthering her interests in journalism and media. She first joined the yearbook program in ninth grade, and now, as a senior, Rachel is closing out her high school journalism career as the TALON Business and Social Media Manager, a position that she has always wanted to hold.  

“Being able to focus on outreach and marketing in journalism is something I’ve always been interested in, and being able to be in this position where I’m able to facilitate that has confirmed that that’s what I want to do with my life,” Rachel said. “It’s so fun, and I’m really thankful that I was put in a place where I could expand upon that inspiration.”

Rachel’s promotion to the Business and Social Media Manager also granted her the opportunity to foster valuable interactions with her peers’ parents through the Personal Display Ads (PDA) system, where she communicates with the class of 2023’s parents to design individual spreads catered to their children’s life experiences.

“Just being in journalism has made me a more open person and more willing to talk to strangers,” Rachel said. “I realized that I love talking to people, and that’s something that I want to continue doing for the rest of my life.”

Rachel’s work within TALON has also established a foundation for her own exploration of media and pop culture, two closely related aspects of human entertainment that she finds fascinating.

“With Gen Z, we’ve become so immersed in culture and media that it’s something a lot of us can’t imagine our lives without,” Rachel said. “Sometimes people condemn the fact that the media is so prevalent in everything. In some cases, it isn’t the best thing to have around, but it’s allowed people to expand on themselves creatively so much.”

Beyond indulging in such forms of media, Rachel is intrigued by the individuals who contribute to the media industry, especially those who rose to success from humble origins.

“Success stories from people that have worked hard really inspire me,” Rachel said. “Being able to make a name for yourself in a tough industry and coming out of it successful is something that I’m really inspired by. I don’t know the directors personally, but it’s cool to see their paths, and that pushes me too.”

Close friend Gary Ding (12) commented on how Rachel’s individualism distinguishes her from others and brings a fresh perspective to the table.

“Rachel’s main strength is that she really knows who she is,” Gary said. “She has very defined interests and once you get to know her, you’re like, ‘This is something that she really likes and is really passionate about.’ I feel like it’s very clear with Rachel, and I would describe her attitude as very refreshing.”

Rachel wasn’t always so sure about what passions she wanted to pursue. She remembers transitioning into her freshman year with hesitation about what direction she wanted to take her high school career in.

“I worried about how other people perceived me, and I was always trying to satisfy others,” Rachel said. “Now, I’ve worked towards not doing that as much and trying my best to focus and prioritize myself. I’ve also realized that a lot of things don’t matter as much as I think they do. I used to be so worried about grades, but I’ve realized that it’s not the end of the world if I get a bad grade. Getting over that made me a better person.”

Rachel attributes her personal development to her extracurriculars. Through sports and yearbook, she found several opportunities that allowed her to discover her true passions and reflect on herself.

“What I do is worth it because it’s not only helped me find myself, but on a more selfish level, it’s helped me become a person that I never thought I could become,” Rachel said. “Through communities like journalism and volleyball, I’ve been able to take a step back and appreciate what I have, and I want to have that same impact on other people.”

Rachel takes her struggles in stride, utilizing them as an outlet for growth, her mantra rubbing off on her peers. Close friend Emily Novikov (12) remarked that Rachel’s communicative and open nature has helped her through her own conflicts. 

“Rachel is really good at checking in,” Emily said. “If we haven’t talked for a little bit or I’m feeling upset one day, she’s really good at making sure that I’m fine. When I’m having a bad day, she’ll text me and ask if everything’s okay, and we’ll talk.”

At the end of the day, Rachel emphasizes her desire to stay grounded in the present and appreciate the life she is living at that moment, rather than become overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of the unknown. 

“I try to live every single day like it’s my last day and savor every single small moment that I can,” Rachel said. “Especially in my senior year, I really tried to live in the moment and enjoy all the things that I can. After high school, nothing is guaranteed. Everyone goes their separate ways. I always try to appreciate the friends and experiences I have now.”