The senior staff members of Bear Facts pose together at their last page night. (Photo by Hannah Etienne)
The senior staff members of Bear Facts pose together at their last page night.

Photo by Hannah Etienne

Editors to Alumni

A look into the years on staff of Bear Facts' Class of 2021

May 28, 2021

This spring, Bear Facts said goodbye to seven of our staff members as they graduated last Saturday. These editors and managers made countless memories as they helped run Bear Facts during the last four years. From web stories to page nights to live tweeting, these are their highs, lows, and funniest stories.

 

Max Feldman, Magazine Editor-in-Chief:

“I was texting with this random senior girl about this stupid article I was writing and I was crying, I was on the sidewalk crying, walking to the Ela Library and I just did not know what to do,” said graduating Magazine Editor-in-Chief Max Feldman about the very first story he ever wrote for LZBearFacts.com. “It was like 20 degrees out because it was like February or something. It was just a horrible experience. So that was my first web article.”

Feldman was assigned the web story, a recap of a Purple Plunge event in Breezewald Park, as a freshman. He brought his school iPad and a tape recorder.

“It was so scary because this is when I was fat and I had a high, squeaky voice,” Feldman said. “So just imagine, just paint this picture: I was running around Breezewald Park, asking these random 40-year-old people like, ‘Hey, where’s [the organizer of the event]?’”

He never found the organizer of the event. Experiences like this in Journalism 1 and 2 gave him a “first taste of independence,” which Feldman says is “what journalism really is.”

Since then, he’s served as Business Manager, Spotlight Editor, and finally, Magazine Editor-in-Chief. His favorite memories of Bear Facts (aside from the Purple Plunge event) mainly consist of the various National High School Journalism Conventions the staff attended in San Francisco, Wisconsin, and Chicago.

“One particular memory was when me and Ruby [Lueras, LZ Life Editor] were getting ice cream at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater dining hall. And then this one girl next to us got stung by a bee, and then I ran around for a little bit because I was scared of bees.” Feldman laughs so hard he can barely finish, “I think we had to call an ambulance. It was like a big deal. This was a very eventful trip, I guess.”

Next year, he’ll study Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He says he wants to work on eco-friendly urban planning and construction, “just helping to build a more sustainable society. That’s always been a really big dream of mine. And if I can figure out a way to help make that happen, that’d be really cool.”

 

Caroline Sun, Digital Editor-in-Chief:

After three years of serving as Editor-in-Chief for the digital side of Bear Facts Student Media, Caroline Sun is heading to Cornell University to study Statistical Sciences and Economics. As a cross country athlete, NHS Senior Secretary, and violinist, Sun is no stranger to busy schedules and tight deadlines. Sun says she loves the hustle, though, and found ample supply of it in journalism. 

“It’s all just such a rush,” Sun said. “And the adrenaline just gets going; you’re like, ‘I am so on top of this, but also so not,’ but it’s also just so much fun. You’re feeling the energy and you feel like a real reporter. And it’s awesome. I love that. I love that energy.”

Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that Bear Facts staff’s most stressful nights were Sun’s favorites: page nights and upload nights, when the staff stays several hours after school to put together the magazine.

“Just being at the school when the whole world outside is dark, it’s like eight or nine o’clock, and you’re trying to figure out a magazine,” Sun said. “Even though it’s late and you’re all tired, that energy is just so unique and I love it. I love being in the J-Lab after school hours just trying to crank out a magazine and getting all the little details right, and knowing that in a week the product of all your hard work will be in your hands, and that’ll be because you put so much effort and time into it.”

Sun says she didn’t start out as a strong journalistic writer, and after getting her first article peer edited, “it was just so covered in red ink that I almost passed out.  […] getting a page full of red for journalism was terrifying, […] so all of J1 and J2 I was like, ‘I’m not good enough for this, I’m not cut out for this.’ I hated interviewing people; they were scary, I didn’t want to talk to them. And so I almost didn’t join journalism, but here I am now. I guess I did make it, somehow.”

Sun quickly found success as Digital Editor-in-Chief. Her favorite article she’s contributed to was a personality profile about Annie Mowbray, which won Best of SNO, a showcase of the best student journalism on the School Newspapers Online (SNO) network. Sun wrote the article as a sophomore, spending about three hours interviewing Mowbray, a senior at the time, about her chronic illness.

“That interview I think really opened my eyes to just everything that journalism had to offer because you get to hear so many stories and so many perspectives that you just don’t have,” Sun said. “And talking to Annie was just such a life-changing experience, basically.”

 

Sreelikhi Vangavolu, Spotlight Editor:

For the last two years, Sreelikhi Vangavolu has been tasked with directing the Spotlight section of the magazine towards exploring issues that are deep and complex enough to be the main topic of our magazine—dominating the cover, two spreads, and the Staff Editorial.

Vangavolu led the staff in covering the Eurocentric curriculum at LZHS, how students deal with strict parents, and how the community reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s not only the stories that mattered to her. Vangavolu says her time in Advanced Journalism has been “one of the highlights of my high school career. […] I feel like this is something that everyone at one point in their life should experience, just having such a tight-knit little community that you kind of share a special bond with.”

As a freshman in Journalism 1, Vangavolu found Carolyn Wagner, journalism adviser, to be “very quirky and interesting, and she was nothing like my other teachers because she was very […] expressive and vocal.”

As for the class itself, “[Journalism 1] was obviously so fun because it was one of my only electives I took freshman year,” Vangavolu said. “It kind of gave me the opportunity to […] get to know the school better […] J1 also helped me make so many of my good friends that I’m still friends with today.”

Vangavolu will head down to Florida in the fall to begin Nova Southeastern University’s 4+4 dual doctor program, majoring in Public Health and on the path to becoming a doctor.

 

Ruby Lueras, LZ Life Editor

Ruby Lueras, LZ Life Editor, has a simple way to describe what she enjoyed most about Bear Facts: it is “stressful but rewarding. We often joke that we should get AP credit for all the work that we do.”

Lueras directs the LZ Life section of the quarterly magazine, which covers various school and community updates and highlights LZHS’s most interesting stories. Despite the workload of journalism, Lueras says she stuck with Bear Facts because of how rewarding it was.

“I feel like one thing about Bear Facts is that sometimes people don’t really realize how much work goes into it,” Lueras said. “They just see, ‘oh, this is a magazine,’ they flip through it, but it’s a really, really dedicated [staff] with dedicated people in it that are all involved in so many other things.”

Lueras says she likes how, unlike other English classes, where the only person who sees her writing is the teacher, journalism allows her writing to be read by a broader audience. In this way, she says she knows her words really have an impact.

A particularly impactful article she wrote for the magazine during her sophomore year won Best of Sno. It was a personality profile on YouTuber Alex Kiesel, a senior at the time.

“I just remember he was such a cool guy to interview, he was genuinely really down to earth. And it was such a fun article to write because he genuinely had a really pretty popular YouTube channel,” Lueras said. “I remember he sent me behind-the-scenes photos of his green screen and camera setup. So that was super cool to get the inside look on that.”

Lueras says “it’s really cool to see the change” in her interviewing skills from freshman to senior year.

Reminiscing on the very first interview she did for an article she wrote with Max Feldman, she said, “I distinctly remember just how nervous I was throughout that first interview […], afterwards I talked to Max and he was like, ‘Ruby your leg was bouncing so much’ because I was such a scared little freshman.”

Next year, Lueras will be studying Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.

“I know that the things and the skills I’ve learned in journalism will definitely help me throughout college and throughout the rest of my life,” Lueras said. “My ability to speak to strangers has gotten tremendously better due to Bear Facts and how I have to interview three different people for every single story I write.”

 

Alex Ketcham, Sports Editor

From freshman year, Alex Ketcham, Sports Editor, had an eye for sports reporting. His favorite memories of Bear Facts revolve around covering Lake Zurich’s biggest games.

“I don’t think anything will beat how I, freshman year, was able to live-tweet the State championship football game and was able to be on the field and was on TV,” Ketcham said. “That was really cool to be on the sidelines and have an actual professional press pass.”

Outside of the more official perks of Bear Facts, Ketcham also found the friendships he made to be unique to the program. He says a “sense that we’re in this together” provides unity in persevering through shared struggles.

“I’d say that there is a connection between staff members that is unparalleled anywhere else in the school,” Ketcham said.

One of Ketcham’s least favorite things the staff went through together each year was ad blitzing, when staffers ask local businesses to support Bear Facts by purchasing ad space in the back of the magazine.

“Did I sell a couple? Yes. Do I regret it? No. Was it painful at the time? Yes. Was it necessary? Yes,” Ketcham said. “It was one of those things that none of us, I think, really wanted to do but all understood we really had to do.”

Ketcham is leaving ad blitz and the Midwest behind to major in theater at the University of Southern California. He says the flexibility of his degree could allow him to continue journalism in some capacity.

“Bear Facts has been one of the most special memories throughout high school for me,” Ketcham said. “There are times when getting stories [and magazines done] could be somewhat painful, but I would not trade those for the world. They taught me perseverance, they taught me respect, they taught me cooperation and teamwork. Just the connections I’ve made and the friends that I’ve made through the program are ones that I am one million percent certain will not end anytime soon.”

 

Annette Suk, Business Manager

For Annette Suk, Business Manager, Bear Facts created a rigorous environment that led to personal and academic growth. She describes it as one of the most “stressful” and “difficult” classes she’s taken, yet she says gaining interviewing skills, time management skills, and new friends made sticking with journalism throughout all four years of her high school career worth it.

Especially hectic were upload nights, which occur a week after page nights and are the last nights the staff has to finish designing pages before uploading the magazine to be printed. The impending deadline often puts staffers on edge; Suk says upload nights drive her “crazy.”

“I feel like page night is really fun, because you’re still working on stuff and everyone’s eating dinner and we’re all laughing at random jokes,” Suk said. “But then upload night comes along, and I feel like everybody wants to kill each other.”

Despite the stress of putting a quarterly magazine out, Suk found high points, such as traveling out of town for journalism conventions, or writing articles she was passionate about.

Suk wrote her favorite article this year, an op-ed titled “The continued fight against racism” about the rise in Asian hate crimes. She said the article “just felt like me. It was a personal kind of editorial, and it felt good sharing my story and my friend’s story to the world.”

Next year, Suk intends to study nursing. Looking back on her years in journalism, she says “it’s an experience that I’m not regretting, now that I’m a senior. Maybe back [as a freshman] I was like, ‘Oh, what am I doing?’ But now, I’m like, ‘I needed this, this was good.’”

 

Adam Monnette, Live Media Manager

Adam Monnette, Live Media Manager, describes joining journalism his second year of high school instead of his first as an “adventure.” He experienced Journalism 1, Journalism 2, and the Journalism Education Association Chicago convention through the eyes of a sophomore.

From Journalism 2, he remembers, “I really was excited to learn about feature writing and reviews.” One of his favorite articles he’s written ended up being a review of Marvel’s Infinity Wars, because it was his “first review story. It was so much fun to write.”

Monnette stepped into the role of Live Media Manager this year, a position that put him in charge of assigning and coordinating Bear Facts reporters to cover events live, instead of writing preview or recap articles for the website. “It was really fun,” Monnette said of live-tweeting. “I missed just straight on the ground, hands-on reporting, no deadlines, no nothing, just, you know, get up, go be awkward, have fun.”

Reflecting on his years in journalism, Monnette says he most enjoyed getting to meet and work with new people he otherwise might not have gotten to know. He says he appreciated experiencing the highs and lows of Bear Facts with different types of people unified by a commitment to journalism.

“Honestly, the whole journalism experience would not be the same if it wasn’t for the class that we have,” Monnette said.

Next year, Monnette will attend Valparaiso University in Indiana. Reminiscing on his years in journalism, he has an earnest farewell for his fellow senior staffers:

“To the rest of the senior class that’s in Bear Facts,” Monnette said, “you guys made this year so much fun. You guys made it a unique one that I’ll never forget, whether it be Max dying, Alex attempting to stab people, J2s getting on our nerves this year […]. Everything made Bear Facts 2021 just its own year to remember, and I want to thank you guys for it. You guys made it a year I’ll never forget, especially in the hours of eight to eight-forty-four. I just want to say thank you to all of them.”

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