Chicken Salad Sandwich on an Everything Bagel

By Quinn Cook, News Editor

Two spots diverged on my junior year schedule, and I chose to fill one with Journalism, and that has made all of this possible; from my initial entrance into the misshapen room of 243 as the sole junior, to being presented with this broad slate to end it with: a senior reflection, this article punctuates the end of my time serving The Observer

Given such a general prompt, to reflect, I am decentralized by many uncertainties and sentiments. Feeling as if I have done so much worth recording, but not knowing what legacy truly is, and seeing the world in turmoil, yet life quickly evolving past WCHS, how do I use what could be my last journalistic words? I hope they are not, but in any case, I wanted these words to be ones of reflection, gratitude and hope. En-route to my last Observing word, I will share some of my complex journey: a closing story involving Journalism, climate activism and WCHS, and expressing my aspirations for a paper and school with similarly unclear yet persevering futures. 

Signing up for Journalism I thought I would take two semesters of a relaxed, but productive elective, learning the basics of writing journalistically. Instead, I entered into an intimate extra-classroom community made up of a positional and seniority hierarchy surrounding the production of our school paper, The Observer. I came into “the J”, as it is internally known, as a J1, or first year Journalism student. But, due to class registration I was thrown into a combined J1 and J2-J4 class of 40, where the entire staff and operations of The Observer existed.

Moreover, I was the sole junior J1, joined exclusively by underclassmen in 243’s back computer lab, aside from 30 other J2-4 students, a majority of whom were upperclassmen. In a class as non-academic as the J it is safe to say during class hours I spent much more time in 243’s main room making lasting new friendships and continuing coincidentally strong old ones. 

While splitting time between learning basic journalism and hanging around the mature production teams, I fell in love with the J. Inseparable from our brainstorming sessions, class announcements, editor to assistant chats, physical paper production or out-of-class writing were relationships; nowhere else at WCHS had people from such different social backgrounds enjoyed each other so much. Furthermore, there was a constant semblance of tradition and ritual in the class, where people moved through the years and positions, and maintained the paper’s character. 

Fast forwarding to the end of my basic training and my entering into the real publishing cycles and positional functions, new and irreplaceable lessons about producing within this unofficial business began. I knew from my first ever article I could never publish anything less than I’d be proud of- and after being published my first cycle, I haven’t looked back. 

Never meeting page number limits, I will not meet this one, my papers are characterized by deep research, strenuous diction and carefully pitched segues. Not knowing who will be reading, but wanting every second worth it, I have written each time as if it is my last. Adding a journalism specialty enhanced my writing, but more so my story-building, interviewing and quoting skills. 

From this passion for my own journalism came the opportunity to enter the J’s functional ranks, and proudly become a Co-News Editor in just my second year. Running a section while still writing provided those irreplicable executive responsibility and collaboration opportunities. More so, starting this position among an accelerating pandemic pushed the J, so independent from in-person work, but dependent on in-person production, into an alien situation. Charting through a shaking world we charted print journalism sans print, and new ways to interact online and maintain proposal, editing and publishing cycles. A year later, I am so proud of our dramatic adaptation to online and social functionality, but remain with many hopes for its future. So here they are. 

I hope The Observer continues to publish on classic rustling newspapers far into the future, in conjunction with the website, but adopts a sustainable paper system. As I detailed in my penultimate article, I hope the J can alter the present culture of political avoidance and often censorship, and adopt a system of well regulated and edited political discourse, coverage and student opinion. Relatedly, I hope The Observer expands its community presence on social issues and incidents often brushed over at WCHS. Otherwise, I sincerely hope there will be J reunions in the future, and that I will stay in touch with the many amazing people creating The Observer’s pages with me. 

More than anything else, I hope the J remains a place embracing its own tradition and community, with unmistakable character and organic friendships. Just as the J has given so much to me, hopefully it continues the same for others- and is that one class you actually look forward to. 

In that nature, thinking about what the J has afforded me, hopes and legacy, I move to my climate and sustainability activism. Aside from being a sustainable voice in the J, I have engaged in a much larger and more intensive variety of climate activism and initiatives across organizations both at and outside of WCHS. 

Knowing the world must face this existential crisis, and that if we are to continue safely inhabiting our planet sustainability will become a part of every facet of life, I hope WCHS becomes a shimmering sustainable haven. Broadly, MCPS and the WCHS feeder system alike must alter and expand their climate change education classes and extra-curricular emphasises, imparting critical worldly understandings of sustainability. Otherwise, the county must do a complex and complete retrofitting of its infrastructure’s energy efficiency and resource use. There is no reason a county as resource rich, progressive, educated and influentially located should not be a national leader in an inevitable movement. In desperate stages MCPS needs to act, and validate the science it teaches. 

More specifically, I hope the club I have helped found and run on a voraciously impactful pace, Churchill for Climate, not only remains active but grows into a permanent WCHS institution. Looking back on our many events, from climate marches and film screenings, to annually successful polar bear plunges or the composting program we are currently installing, I hope the work continues long past me. Recently picking my succeeding officers was emotional yet inspiring, with a shocking amount of brilliant applications and kids. Again, there is no reason a school as educated, liberal and active should not be one unilaterally energized behind climate. 

Separately, I hope my climate non-profit, GenGreen, devoted to spreading elementary school climate education, grows into MOCO. Run by just WCHS students currently, there are so many brilliant and impassioned kids we have already met across the many classrooms, PTA events and private events we have hosted; I hope our website stays up and our events continue.

Moreover, as I am anecdotally expressing my most core hopes and wishes for the J and my climate legacy, I also have some core wishes for WCHS and MCPS’s future. As a good article should be- circular- I return to the SMOB race which was my first published article and my last non-editorial. I hope future races don’t surround the MCR and other student government orgs as much, as the politically circular system does not always embrace outside candidates. 

Per WCHS, I hope for a return of academic consistency and integrity. In a county of grade inflation and evolving technology there must be a continuous effort to not waste the brilliance of our amazing teachers and promising students, but also to breed a culture of fairness. Likewise, I hope the sensationalism behind WCHS college admissions lessens; what should be a more private affair where families make decisions based on factors outside of prestige or acceptance rate such as location or cost, often floats into an intense subliminal competition of marginal admissions. Celebrating the “winners” of such races disservices the many psychologically introduced to this culture, but also disservices those making decisions outside of stability. Finally, I hope WCHS’s trend of increasing activism and social awareness beautifully continues its climb.

As for myself, I hope I can continue the path for knowledge and justice, continue following a moral compass, continue seeking enjoyment sans employment and not lose everlasting hope in the institutions and people of our society. From an outlier J1 junior to a sentimental senior News Editor, thank you so much to everyone who has read my articles, it means the absolute world.