From Bear Facts to beyond


Photo by and used with the permission of Carolyn Wagner

The seniors of Bear Facts pose together at their farewell party during class on their last day of school.

Gurneer Sidhu, Secretary

With the Class of 2022 graduating this year, four seniors are moving on from high school and Bear Facts to the next chapter of their lives. From reminiscing on past memories to celebrating bonds created to talking about how they’ve changed through Bear Facts, here’s what this year’s seniors have to say about their four years in the journalism program.

Sophia Babcock, Magazine EIC

Going to Syracuse University to pursue a career of her own in journalism, Babcock says her interest in journalism started all the way back in 5th grade when she had the idea to start Seth Paine’s magazine Heated.

“It was nothing fancy or anything, but we kind of ran our own little magazine. Then just from then on, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, journalism seems like a really fun career and I feel like writing is something I love and I’d love to continue to incorporate it into my life,’” Babcock said.

When journalism students from the high school came down to her middle school to pitch the journalism program and Bear Facts, Babcock says she “knew [she] wanted to join.” Since then, Babcock has made many memories in Bear Facts, but one that comes out on top for her was the first magazine she was published in as a staff writer. 

“It was my first real article on staff, and I will not forget it; it was really late at night. My page was finally done […] and it was pretty late, but I had opted to stay and help Alex [our Sports Editor at the time] for a few of the pages. I had finally printed out my page […] and we had [all the final magazine pages] spread out on the floor and I even have a video of it. Alex was like ‘Okay, are you ready?’ I had my paper in hand and he was like, ‘All right time to put it down,’ and he’s like, ‘This is it.’ I smacked it down and I was like, ‘Yeah, my first story, my first article, is done.’ That was really fun, good times,” Babcock said.

Although Babcock says she knows it’s time to move on to new chapters, it’s experiences like these, along with the “family and little community we have in Bear Facts” that are going to make leaving Bear Facts a not-so-easy transition. 

“I’m gonna miss everyone and it’s gonna be weird seeing the magazines keep coming out and realizing like “No, I’m not a part of that.’ Like I think that’s [going to be] weird. I mean, obviously, that’s the way life goes but it’s definitely going to be interesting to watch,” Babcock said.

Hannah Etienne, Spotlight Editor

Even though she knew she wanted to study film by the fifth grade, which she is now pursuing at Chapman University, Etienne still joined journalism because it “sounded really cool” and because her older sister had taken it when she was in high school. However, she says she “didn’t know what [she] was getting into,” especially when it came to web stories.

In her first web story that got published on the Bear Facts website, Etienne recalls an experience where she had to take one of her first pictures for an article and says that she remembers it being very awkward.

“I remember asking the choir director if I could come in and take photos of the choir. When I went in, there was a class there. That was so awkward because you open the door and they’re in the middle of their choir class. They know you’re not supposed to be there. So I was just taking random pictures and then it didn’t even end up getting published because they published this other photo,” Etienne said. 

However, for the aspects of web stories that Etienne doesn’t find enjoyable, her role in Bear Facts’s magazines makes up for it because of the content covered in them. For all three years that Etienne was in Bear Facts, she had always been a part of the Spotlight section for the magazine, the section that has the most focus in the magazine. For Bear Facts’s winter 2020 magazine issue, she convinced the rest of the Spotlight section to cover the Black Lives Matter movement. When she became the Spotlight editor her senior year, she was able to have more jurisdiction over the topics covered, which she liked. 

“I also think that it’s so nice because [Spotlight] stories always give the best interviews. I think interviewing is one of my favorite parts of doing journalism because getting to talk, getting to sit down and have these really in-depth conversations with people that you otherwise would probably never talk to has been a really cool experience,” Etienne said.

As her high school career comes to an end, and she has to say goodbye to Bear Facts, Etienne says that the Spotlight articles she’s helped write are what she gets to leave behind as her imprint on the publication

“It’s nice to have these articles. These are my little marks on Bear Facts, or what I leave behind, these articles that I got to have Spotlight do,” Etienne said. 

Sasha Kek, LZ Life Editor

What originally started as simply being competitive with her twin brother back in middle school, the choice to join journalism ended up being one that “played a part” in shaping who Kek has become. 

“Before it was the most dramatic thing for me to say hello, honestly, is stupid looking back at it. I think journalism was one thing that allowed me to actually recognize that it was possible for me to communicate with others. That’s the communication aspect and then there’s the leadership aspect. I never saw myself as a leader, I never thought I would be capable of it. And then the hands-on aspect of journalism in general, and especially Bear Facts being completely student-run, that definitely built up my ability to put myself out there to help others and to teach others as well,” Kek said.

These life lessons are experiences she’s written about in scholarship essays that she will be using at Florida Southern College where she will study to go into law enforcement. Despite not going into the field, Kek plans on joining student publications at her college. However, according to Kek, nothing could ever replace Bear Facts.

“[Leaving Bear Facts] is depressing, honestly. I mean, there are times when it annoys you, but I’m going to miss that aspect of being able to communicate with other people having the centralized goal to get either the magazine published or something published on the website,” Kek said. “Even just [not] talking to other people on staff, or Wagner [the advisor], is going to be difficult. I’m probably still going to be texting you guys and asking, ‘Have you hit your deadlines? When is the magazine going to be published?’ I mean, it’s been three years of my life, right? That’s quite a bit of a commitment in terms of time so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave Bear Facts fully.”

Kaitlin Geisler, Social Media Manager

Even with getting to leave the stress that stemmed from deadlines behind, leaving Bear Facts is a fact that “is so hard to realize” for Geisler. 

“When you stick with something for so long you tend to grow within it and so this class has become a big part of who I am, in my opinion,” Geisler said. “I’ve changed a lot and so it’s hard to let go of the thing that helped shape who I am.”

However, even though Geisler is leaving Bear Facts, she isn’t leaving journalism. She’ll be heading off to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to major in journalism, which she says was influenced by Bear Facts.

“If I hadn’t taken the class I wouldn’t know so much about reporting and I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the ability to tell a story through the reality of someone else’s words,” Geisler said.

One memorable example of Geisler being able to do this was in her first published magazine article, in which she wrote a personality profile about a senior delving into her life after her mother had passed away.

“It was originally about a senior who was super artsy and wanted to teach for her career but when I interviewed her I found out about her mom’s passing and I realized that’s where I needed to take the story. It was a really deep story and I felt really proud of it. To this day, I love it,” Geisler said.

It was stories and interviews like these that Geisler found to be her favorite parts of Bear Facts and journalism.

“My favorite part of Bear Facts [were] the people I got to talk to. I think I learned so much about people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I loved how one conversation could give me such personality and details,” Geisler said. 

However, she says that because she will continue to have conversations like those by being in her college’s newspapers, the hardest part to say goodbye to is going to be the people. From mentoring Journalism II students to bonding with other Advanced Journalism students over their stress to the advisor’s crazy comments, there’s a lot that Geisler isn’t looking forward to leaving.

“I’m going to miss so much about it and it’s just another thing to say goodbye to as a senior in the midst of all the other ones,” Geisler said.