Saying goodbye to Bear Facts’ seniors


Photo by Gurneer Sidhu

(From left to right) Kara Yoon, Jane Yu, Parker Carley, Mackenzie Rough on Decision Day 2023. The four seniors recollect some memories they made in the years past.

Finding themselves on the opposite sides of interviews, here is what the Class of ‘23 in Bear Facts had to say about their four years of journalism.

Kara Yoon, business manager

Each writer on Bear Facts has their own personal, unique story that they say was the reason they joined journalism. For Kara Yoon, the reason was pins on a lanyard in middle school. 

 “When I was in middle school, Wagner, the current advisor at the time, visited our school with other students who [were] already in the program. […] Wagner had a lanyard that had a bunch of pins, just kind of like they were spouting different messages. I wanted to be politically active, and I wanted to speak out about issues that I cared about. Seeing her pins made me think, ‘oh, I should join journalism,’  if I want to be more actively involved with that in high school,” Yoon said. 

Yoon says that she “definitely got to do” what she had hoped to do. When she joined the Bear Facts staff, Yoon was made a writer in the Spotlight section of the magazine. With Spotlight being known to focus on world and social issues, Yoon was able to provide commentary on a variety of issues she was passionate about, and address its implications on the student body. Something she did not expect to enjoy was the teamwork and effort Spotlight required.

“Everybody in journalism does a lot of work, but I feel like for Spotlight, that’s a part of the fun. Spotlight, specifically, is such a collaborative process because you’re working with two other people to create one story,” Yoon said. “Then, also, with it being a broader story and the ‘spotlight’ story of the magazine, our physical publication, you have to write more, you have to interview more people, and you have to go out of your way to create an overarching theme in your spread design with motifs and stuff. That part of it, I love it.”

The collaborative aspect was especially note-worthy for Yoon. Coming into high school, she says she was not “willing to connect with other people much.” However, with the people Yoon was to work with, she found herself able to open up and create complex relationships she did not think she could have created without journalism.

Journalism, she says, attracts people excited to speak and express their personal beliefs, and this is what allows a close-knit community in Bear Facts. 

“It brings complexity to your relationships with people; it strengthens them and brings a bit of depth more to them that you wouldn’t get in [any other] class. In a program with journalism, where you’re trying to speak on something that you’re passionate about, you have to come to a compromise. You have to let yourself meet other people where they are and combine ideas. That brings a different dynamic to the way that you interact with people [in journalism],” Yoon said.

However, as a prospective artist going to California College of the Arts, Yoon’s days of journalism will come to an end alongside her days of highschool. Despite this, Yoon still sees journalism having a presence in her life post-high school.

“When I was doing my college apps, I was putting stuff I did from journalism into it. I was looking at the articles we did, and I realized [something]. Art to me, it speaks on people’s experiences a lot and people’s perspectives. Journalism does that in a very similar way. For example, when we did the Asian American spotlight article earlier this year, it tied directly to my AP Art portfolio because I was doing something about my own heritage and background,” Yoon said. “They both speak in different ways, but they both speak on people’s cultures, opinions, and issues. I think that even if I’m not necessarily writing articles, the principles of journalism will still definitely be intertwined with what I’m doing in the future.”

Mackenzie Rough, news editor

News, with its straight-to-the-point and blunt characteristics, is often overlooked by many. However, writing hard news has many difficulties, like forcing its writers to meet deadlines at a whirlwind pace, finding stories that will be relevant weeks in advance, or fitting huge events into two columns on a page. 

As the news editor for the 2022-2023 school year, Mackenzie Rough conquered each and every challenge. One way she did this was bringing back the tradition of “News-in-Brief,”  for the Bear Facts magazine’s news section.

“We used to always have news-in-brief, the really short and sweet [news] stories. At least to my knowledge, we kind of got rid of it my first year on staff. I was thinking, you know, ‘I might as well try to bring it back.’ At first it was because I was concerned that [news] would be a one person section [for the next school year]. You don’t really want [one person] to be running two news stories. The amount of time we have is not enough, so I figured I’d try to bring it back to ease it up a bit,” Rough said.

Despite the “boring headlines” she jokes about news having, Rough finds joy in the work she does. Regardless of the perceptions most people have about the dryness of news, Rough uses news stories to explore a wide variety of topics, with stories ranging from coverage on school clubs to the influx of Ukrainian refugee students. With the latter being paired up with her love and skill in informative writing, Rough was able to win an award for the story. It ended up being her favorite story she’s written in her two years on staff. 

“The [story] I wrote for the first issue was about the new Ukrainian students. There were some really interesting things I learned,” Rough said. “I feel like some people will make jokes about things and that’s just very insensitive and I felt like that was something that I really wanted to reflect in the story because it’s messed up.”

Despite these accomplishments, Rough has chosen to pursue biochemistry at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Even in her university labs, journalism’s lessons will accompany her.

“When I started having to interview people, that was like the scariest thing I could imagine because I was so bad at interacting with people, especially in a professional manner. I have definitely gained some skills for interacting with people or even just [being able to] reach out being like, ‘hey, can I interview you for this?'” Rough said.

Even with her new skills from journalism following her, Rough will be missing the community and environment Bear Facts gave her for the last three years. 

“It’s a routine. I’m just so used to being part of a team having to manage articles and work with other people,” Rough said. “There’s definitely a community. I’m definitely gonna miss page nights: the stressful but also kind of fun environment, and, of course, the Zupa sandwiches.” 

Jane Yu, digital editor-in-chief

Acting as one of the two halves running the gears behind the Bear Facts publication, Jane Yu often finds herself “cracking down on people” to get their stories in on time, constantly updating the publication’s website, and much more to keep Bear Facts publishing. Despite her integral role in the program, journalism was not always Yu’s forte.

“I remember writing a story; I think it was with Kara. We went to go take a picture of the play at the time. We were supposed to take a picture of them rehearsing but it did not turn out that well. Caroline, [the digital editor-in-chief at the time], was like, ‘oh, guys, we can’t use these photos.’ I remember just being really sad about it. The two of us scrambling around trying to take a photo? Think about it. It must have looked really funny watching us take a photo because we were jumping around and panicking because we didn’t know what to do,” Yu said. 

Since then, Yu has come a long way. Becoming the digital editor-in-chief her junior year, Yu has written dozens of articles for the Bear Facts website and magazines. She puts time and dedication into what she does at Bear Facts, and this is what Yu learned to love about journalism: “it depends on how much you want to put into it.”

For all of her contributions to Bear Facts, the program has given back to her too; it has forced her to learn her own capabilities. 

“Sometimes we’re told, especially in high school, that we should just kind of sit back and let adults tell us what to do. With journalism, I realized how much I have the power to create change, and that when I want to, I can totally stand up and express my opinions. I feel like I was a little scared to do that before but now I’m less scared. I guess I’ve gotten a lot more confident,” Yu said. 

It was her affinity for journalism, and the lessons it taught her, that motivated Yu to apply to some colleges as a journalism major. While she applied to most schools with the political science major, Northwestern University was one of the few she wanted to study journalism at.   

“To be completely honest, at Northwestern, I was gonna apply to something more law based, but I didn’t really enjoy their political science major as much,” Yu said. “There were not many schools that I applied to that had a journalism major as an undergrad. But for Northwestern, ‘I was like, why not? I like what I do.’”

Yu received acceptance into Northwestern’s Medill school, world-renowned for its quality journalism education. For Yu, however, she does not expect to pursue journalism as a career. With students from Medill often going “all over the place” in terms of career paths, Yu plans on exploring her options in the future. Until that can happen, Yu appreciates the four wonderful years Bear Facts has given her.

“I think working with people in our Bear Facts program is a lot of fun. I know page nights and upload nights aren’t the best, ideal circumstances; you definitely get stressed, but it’s also fun at the same time. I loved the people I met through the program. It was just a great time,” Yu said. “Was it stressful? Yeah. I will say that it’s not an easy course, nor should you take it lightly, but for the amount of stuff I’ve learned and the people I’ve met, it was definitely all worth it.”

Parker Carley, print editor-in-chief

Diffident in her first year, Parker Carley has become a force in Bear Facts by overseeing the publication’s magazine as Print Editor-in-Chief. Her assertiveness and strong presence did not always exist, and through Bear Facts she found her life’s calling: journalism.

“I’d always been a very English type of person. I just really always liked language arts and English in general. I was never a very math or science person. At first I kind of thought I was gonna go into something English-based, more like English literature or something. Once I got into the journalism program, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I really like the writing style of it.’ I really like being able to interview people and get their side of the story. I also just really liked all the different aspects of it, such as designing, interviewing, editing and all of that stuff. I thought it was really cool to have mixed media come into one. [Journalism] wasn’t just writing anymore, but it was also using the creative side of things and putting it all together to make cool stories,” Carley said. 

However, it wasn’t as simple as that for Carley to grow into her own abilities. She found that she was restricting herself, “stuck in a shell” that limited her from seeing the strengths she had in journalism.

“When I first came into the program, I was very shy [and] very quiet. I wasn’t very confident in myself as a writer, or obviously as a journalist, because it was very new to me,” Carley said.

She found that the solution to this issue was the individuals in Bear Facts, who ended up “being a family.” With them strongly presenting their passions and voice in both articles and the classroom, Carley began to ease into her own confidence. If she had to credit this to one person, it would be Carolyn Wagner, former journalism advisor, and “a teacher like no other,” according to Carley.

“With Wagner specifically, I would say that she was definitely the one person that could really break me out of my shell. When I wrote my first feature story, not for the Bear Facts magazine, but just for the journalism class, I remember she emailed me and my parents. She said it was one of the best first feature stories she’d ever seen,” Carley said. “She was showing me that because I was not confident in myself at all and she was telling me “you have the skill; you are only going to improve; you’re only gonna get better.’ That really made me realize [journalism] is something that I could be good at.”

Of course, she says, Wagner was still nit-picky with her stories, but it only allowed her to grow even more as a writer, a skill that proved to be necessary when Carley made the step up from Sports editor to Print Editor-in-Chief right before her senior year.

“Wagner made me kind of a more nit-picky editor, in a good way. I don’t just want to put [a magazine] together to simply put it together. I want to have our creativity and passion on the page and bleeding through the page. I want people [to] read it [and] understand that we put a lot of time and effort into it,” Carley said. “You have to want to do all of that. You have to want to put yourself into it. You have to want to be passionate about the person that is talking to you.”

For college, Carley will be attending University of Missouri, well-regarded for their journalism programs. With her journey as a journalist over the past four years, she feels set and prepared for her next steps. 

“I’m just very excited to graduate. Obviously, everybody says the cheesy line that high school goes by so fast, or that the four years will fly by, but it literally did. I can’t even believe that this is my last week,” Carley said. “It feels really surreal.”