Dear HS Insider students, teachers and partners:
With mixed emotions, I’m writing to announce that my last day at the LA Times will be June 1, 2018. I am leaving to pursue a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).
My LA journey began with an email on Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 11:50 p.m. from someone I didn’t know. The meat of the email read: “(the) la times has this site for covering high school sports…i want it to be awesome. it is currently not awesome but has promise” and it ended with: “how soon can you start?”
I read the email on the back of a growling city bus inching up Riverside Drive in Manhattan, before sprinting into my house and waking up my begrudging parents. Do 23-year-olds usually get these kind of emails?
I responded at 12:27 p.m.: “This sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime… My gut reaction: I’m in. Let’s do this.” Two weeks later, my art-school friend and I left our Elvis-themed room at the El Trovatore motel in Kingman, Arizona, and drove the final leg of our cross country roadtrip to LA.
The past 42 months have been a blur. Together, we’ve built something truly special at HS Insider. The growth has been explosive. From 20 schools and 50 students, we’ve grown to 277 schools and 4,417 students (including alumni). From local sports, we’ve grown to define the entire high school experience, with over 4,800 stories posted. We’ve published over 30 stories on the main LA Times education page with the help of partners on the editorial side. We’ve integrated with LA Times Events, running a youth booth at the Festival of Books and introducing the likes of John Green at Ideas Exchanges. We’ve launched our own events, including a quarterly meetup (IRL), a student art showcase (I, too, am America) and a yearly hackathon (2020 Summit). We’ve created 27 paid internship positions, and have 12 more planned for this summer. We even created a student board of directors to help guide the strategic vision of the program.
Sometimes when I explain the program to people who don’t know HS Insider, they seem confused. “You do all that with one dedicated full-time employee? How is that possible?” But to me, it makes perfect sense. Our success has never been the work of one, but built by many, brick by brick from many small accomplishments. East Los Angeles would not be the most active neighborhood in HS Insider without invested teachers integrating us into their curriculum. IRL would never launch without student leaders voicing and acting on a desire to have more in-person meetups. High school students would not have paid summer internships without LA Times leadership and outside funders believing in our mission. I have an inbox with dozens more examples, but the point is that beautiful things happen when we give young people tools and trust.
The program, the students and I have grown up together over the past three and a half years. I arrived in LA with an abundance of passion and a dearth of wisdom and experience, seven months out of college with a baby face that was repeatedly mistaken for that of a high school student during my first school visits. The teachers, principals and mentors I’ve worked with have lent their wisdom in spades, imparting on me the value of leading with purpose. But it always comes back to the students. HS Insider is by students, for students, and throughout this journey, the young people we work with have consistently showed up for me and our mission through thick and thin.
I love HS Insider with every fiber of my being. Some days, I wonder if everyone had a HS Insider in their life, whether this world would be a better place. That is why I write to you with tears of joy streaming down my embarrassed face in the Times cafeteria. Because this is only the beginning. HS Insider is a thriving oasis of life ready for the next leader to take the reins and drive us to new heights. We have begun an exhaustive search for the next project leader, and will keep everyone up to date on our progress. Rest assured, we will rely on you to help us welcome the new leader in true HS Insider fashion. If you know any strong applicants, the official job application can be found here.
As I look back to that fateful email 1,184 days ago, I can’t wait to hand the program to our new leader and say: The LA Times has a program for empowering the next generation. It is currently awesome, and we can’t wait for you to make it even better.
With love and gratitude,