Philly Cheesesteak

By Andrew Chan, Editor-in-Chief

My article is late. Again. As I sit here writing my final article for The Churchill Observer, I am a couple of days past the deadline. I have been putting it off, scared to bring my time as a part of The Observer to a close. I am nervous about all these endings and new beginnings, but I was also nervous when I first stepped into Room 243, and things turned out just fine. 

I have had absolutely no idea how to start this article. How can I possibly sum up four years of memories into a single article? It’s practically impossible, but I will try my best. 

My freshman year in the J was a whirlwind, so the only things I remember about my J1 class are Radical Writes and the Journalism Day trip to UMD. That J1 class was a mixture of students from all grade levels, and I knew absolutely no one. As a freshman, I was intimidated by the upperclassmen and honestly too nervous to talk to the other freshmen. But on the field trip, I stuck around with a random assortment of J1 students and ended up making some of my best friends on The Observer

Originally, I had planned to take journalism for one year, intent on replacing it with some sort of AP or Honors class. But, when I actually started talking to the other students in the class, I realized I wanted to stick around. On the bus ride back from the trip, I sat with my friend Allison Jacobs, who I have collaborated with, laughed with and at, fought with and struggled with for the past four years. That random girl I sat next to on the ride back from the UMD field trip ended up becoming one of my closest confidants on the J, and I can honestly say I have cherished MOST of the days we have spent sitting next to each other. She is my co-EIC and I never would have guessed that she would end up one of my close friends. 

The rest of my J1 days were fun as the class became sort of a family. We brainstormed together, worked on articles together and all grumbled about Radical Writes. When it came time to start submitting articles to the main paper, I was again nervous. The only person who had read my articles up to that point was Ms. Zitnik. To my surprise, my article was chosen to be published. It was an indescribable feeling, seeing my article in an actual newspaper. I immediately brought it home and showed my parents, proud and ready to churn out another article.

My sophomore year was my first year in the actual Journalism class. The most important thing I took away from this year was treating everyone on the staff with kindness and open arms. At first I was intimidated by the older staff members, but every single one of them opened their arms and taught me bits and pieces that I carry with me to this day. It is terrifying being the new kid on the block, and the most important thing we can all do on the J is to try and welcome each other. I know I would not have found journalism nearly as fun or interesting without the people around me- my friends who brightened my early morning first periods and post-class prodo meetings. 

Your second year in Journalism is also when you first start getting consistent edits. It can be discouraging at first, seeing all the green lines and markups that you start out with, but I promise things get easier. You start to get the flow of every type of article and your interviews and writing become smoother. And on the flip side of this editing process, I urge upperclassmen editors to understand the position that J1’s and J2’s are in. Everyone puts time and effort into their articles, so always try to leave a nice little comment at the end of the article. It goes a long way, trust me. 

This is the year that you also start writing articles every month. Make the most of it. Cherish it. I have taken writing Observer articles for granted, and now I am in the process of writing my last one. It can be strenuous at times, combining that workload with your other classes. There will come a time when you grow tired of writing articles, so find subjects you are genuinely passionate about. For me that was sports, and whenever I could not think of anything to write about, I turned to whatever sport was going on at the time and got to know the team. This passion was what got me into journalism in the first place, as a pipe dream of mine is to become a sports talk show host.

Junior year on the J was my favorite, because my friend Quinn joined me in the main class, but it was also my worst year at school. I spent most of my time studying for tests and sleeping, and I was constantly stressed. But Journalism provided an escape. I looked forward to the class every morning, eager to hang out with all my friends and work on articles I was genuinely interested in. Even better were the post-class production meetings. Every production session was eventful and fun, even though I still barely know how to navigate InDesign. It was an indescribable vibe, probably one that I will never experience again, and definitely one I will never forget. 

My senior year has been bittersweet. I finally became EIC, something I had been working towards in the background for the past four years, but it felt like my senior year had been stolen from me. I never got to design the paper with Allison, never got to go to production and I never got to go on that famed New York trip. I kept saving that trip for the next year, telling myself I was too busy to go. That was a huge mistake. Learn from that, and seize the opportunities when you can. You never know when there is going to be another global pandemic. Throughout the year, I have been thinking about all the days of school I could have spent in 216, surrounded by my friends and fellow writers. Though it is a difficult attitude to adopt, this reflection has made me cherish the days that were, not the days that could have been. 

Whether you know it or not, the people who you sit next to every day will become your family. The relationships you forge in the J become a part of you. Never take these for granted. You will end up missing every single one of them, even people who you rarely interact with. Throughout my time at The Observer, I have made lifelong friends, and you will too. 

I am extremely proud of the staff for getting through this year. It has not been an easy transition, but everyone has worked together and kept The Observer up and running. This year we created a podcast, reinvigorated our Twitter and began publishing Instagram articles. However, the most important thing that we did this year was bring up the topic of covering politics on The Observer. For years, we have stayed away from politics, but my friend Quinn brought up the topic and opened my eyes to the importance of unbiased journalism and factual reporting. It is a topic that we should continue to discuss, and perhaps one day begin to cover on The Observer

For the finale of my reflection, I want to thank Ms. Zitnik. Since Day 1, she has taught me how to interview, how to write and how to work as a part of a team. Ms. Zitnik is one of the certified cool teachers, compassionate and chill. No one has excused more later work for me than her, but don’t abuse that. Through sad Korean documentaries to early morning parties, Ms. Zitnik has been there every step of the way. There is no better teacher advisor I could have hoped for, and I hope she remains a part of The Observer for as long as I come back to visit.

When you go through high school, you will find little communities and friend groups. In my experience, few of them will be as unique or exciting as the J. And as I write these final sentences of my article, I am struggling to figure out what else to drone on about, just to make it last a little longer., but all good things must come to an end. This farewell is only made easier by the fact that I know The Observer is in excellent hands. To my proteges, the only thing I ask is that you keep the production meme board alive.