This past summer before starting my college career at Swarthmore, I interned for a section of the Los Angeles Times called High School Insider. It is a platform meant to give voice for high school students around the country to write about issues that matter to them and their community.
Of course, working there came with its perks. My cubicle at the LA Times was decorated with an array of Polaroids, newspaper clippings and business cards, but the decoration that stood out to me the most, the one that made my heart soar every time I looked at it, was a random headline I had snipped out of a newspaper during my first week there. “She’s still got a lot to say”, it blared. I felt that it was a testament to my passion for storytelling and to the power of youth voices.
Working at the Times as a 17-year-old was by far the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. Along with eight other interns, I spent six weeks of my summer doing everything from field interviews to camping out in a conference room editing footage and getting coffee with (not for) reporters.
Being at the Times was an adventure, never a drag. Our main assignment was to profile a new artist or exhibit every week. We trekked all across Los Angeles, lugging tripods and DSLRs, praying that our public transit passes had enough fare on them.
We told our stories from a youth perspective, an angle that made us unique. One memory that stands out to me is interviewing Snoop Dogg at a “Black Lives Matter” protest at the Los Angeles Police Department, across the street from the LA Times.
“What do you think the youth can do to change the future?” I asked him, trying to steady my footing as I was jostled by cameramen carrying tripods twice my size.
Even though we were surrounded by seasoned reporters with more credits and bylines than I can wrap my head around, I never once felt like my voice was any less important.
As if working at one of the most reputable newspapers in the country wasn’t enough, I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing and talented group of coworkers. Our boss—one of the most brilliant and passionate people I’ve ever met—encouraged us to try new things (thanks to him, I had my first sip of coffee–it was disgusting). He’d constantly ask us what we had done that day to dismantle the patriarchy and encouraged us to bring back to gritty and endearing stories we thought the world needed to hear. I learned to embrace discomfort and view it as a learning experience, because I couldn’t become a better reporter until I was okay with being out of my comfort zone.
One thing that our boss ingrained in us was the power of storytelling. He showed us that we didn’t all have to major in journalism and get a job at a newspaper right out of college. He explained to us that there are different ways to tell a story, whether it’s through photos, videos, art or some other form. For me, it’s comedy and journalism–something similar to “Saturday Night Live”’s Weekend Update.
Having a dedicated team of storytellers to share my thoughts and passions with was one of the best parts of the summer. We discovered forms of storytelling we never would have considered to be platforms, like puppetry and chalk art.
My bond with the other interns grew stronger with every story we told together. We could literally have a conversation about anything–whether it was segregation in schools or bad Tinder pickup lines. Even now, during my transition to Swarthmore, I’ve panic-FaceTimed one of the interns several times and spent an hour decorating the space above my bed with pictures from our adventures together.
Looking back on this summer, what stands out to me the most is how much independence we were given. We were never babysat or patronized. I fell harder in love with the LA Times than I ever would have imagined. Most importantly, I learned the importance of storytelling, and that I still have a lot to say.