Editor’s note – Samantha Strong wrote this essay in support of weighted grades for high school journalism classes.
By Samantha Strong
Indiana University journalism student
Journalism was my scapegoat throughout high school. I had to drop band because of journalism. I had to take fewer science courses because of journalism. I was lagging in the Advanced Placement and weighted grades game because of journalism. Some may even argue it was journalism that caused me to lose my rank as valedictorian.
But, I don’t see this as a loss. If anything, it was a victory.
I didn’t have to do any of these things. Pursuing journalism was my choice. It was the best choice I made during those four years.
In my high school, a GPA was the main measurement of a student’s success. The number of Advanced Placement courses a student took determined his intellect, and your worth as a student often correlated to your class ranking. GPAs were weighted with Advanced Placement courses having additional weight. For example, say there are two students; one opted to take AP environmental science, and the other chose journalism. Both students earned A’s in their respective classes; however, with the weighted grades the student in AP environmental science ended the semester with a higher GPA than the journalist.
While the program is great in terms of encouraging students to challenge themselves in the classroom and take more advanced courses, it is not great for subjects such as the arts and journalism. Many students neglect such courses because they are not weighted and would bring down their GPAs, making students less competitive when it comes to class ranking. This is viewed as a detriment, deeming such courses unworthy of students’ times and effort. While these students may have slightly higher GPAs than their journalism and artistic counterparts, they have also stunted their growth in terms of professionalism, individual development and personal discovery. These students overlooked one of my high school’s greatest opportunities, to become a member of a family; a family that cried together over missed deadlines; a family that giddily jumped up and down when it discovered they earned a Hoosier Star, a family that swells with pride with each printed byline. This was my journalism family, and I would be nothing but a solid GPA without them. And such numbers rarely match the power of experience, love and discovery.
If I had opted to remain in band, take those science courses or stay in the weighted grades game, my life would be drastically different. My drive would not be limitless. My tenacity would not be honed. My passion would not be fulfilled. Journalism may have been my scapegoat, but it can only be blamed for my success, my growth and my passion as a student, journalist and human being.
I am currently a freshman studying journalism, bioethics and neuroscience at Indiana University. I am a Herman B Wells Scholar through the university and an Ernie Pyle Scholar with the School of Journalism. I have earned these honors because of my determination, my ability to work on deadline and my confidence when communicating my thoughts, ideas and passions on paper and in person. I have earned these honors not because of a series of impressive AP scores and a high GPA, but because of my commitment to scholastic journalism. My journey with journalism led me to the path I trek today, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
High school was hard. There is no denying it. The social scene, the academic pressure and the period of personal development and discovery are tumultuous. I have shed tears in the newsroom. I have yelled obscene things at computer screens. I have left my heart on my sleeve, exposed to staff members, my advisor and the occasional visiting administrative member. And I have grown from it. High school would not have been tolerable if it hadn’t been for the sanctuary I called Room 132. My newsroom. My safe haven. My home. Without journalism, I would have caved to the pressure I placed on myself; without journalism, I would have crashed and burned academically; without journalism, I would not be where I am today.
My high school had plenty of intelligent, young people. The halls were full of gifted students with plans, aspirations and strong work ethics. However, it was journalism that set me apart. My involvement in journalism taught me more than any textbook can. My commitment to the newsroom cultivated a new sense of character and purpose in my life that would have otherwise remained dormant. Journalism is the reason I found success in the classroom, in the newsroom and in life. I may have been behind in terms of weighted grades and the number of Advanced Placement courses taken, and my GPA was somewhat lesser than that of my fellow high-achieving peers due to the fact that journalism was not weighted. But I was also ahead. Journalism gave me a jumpstart into the professional world, a place where we will all have to learn how to cope with stress, manage time and deal with deadlines. A place where I will be more prepared to conquer the challenges ahead. A place where I will continue to stand tall and walk with grace knowing journalism has taught me what I need to know. The real world applications of the newsroom far outweigh the temporary applications of the textbook. The lessons I’ve learned through my commitments to journalism will last a lifetime, and they will continue to prove to be applicable in all facets of life, from friendships to scholarship and internship applications to the workforce.
My involvement in the school newspaper provided the direction I needed to hone my passion, work ethic and ambition. My commitment to journalism raised me to accept challenges and accomplish great things as a team member, individual and mentor. Journalism lit my path. And this light will continue to shine through my passions, drive and insatiable hunger for opportunity. With journalism, I found fervor for life’s challenges. With journalism, I found a willingness to never step down. With journalism, the possibilities became endless.
Some told me I sacrificed so much by pursuing journalism. I beg to differ. Pursuing a passion is never a sacrifice; it is an opportunity, an open door waiting for you to enter. And I am so glad I did.
Samantha Strong is a freshman studying journalism, bioethics and neuroscience at Indiana University.