From underdog to The Daily

My article on The Daily Northwestern’s website. Photo by Ava Seccuro

I was sitting in the middle of A.P. U.S. History when I received a text notification on my laptop from my dad. It read “Congratulations!” with a picture of my acceptance letter to the cherub program.

Although I specifically told my parents not to open my letter if it came in the mail, I shrieked in the middle of the class discussion about industrialization. My confused peers and teacher stared at me, but I did not care.

For months, I had been anxiously hoping to receive an acceptance letter and experience “the best summer of my life.”

But then I stalked the 2018 cherubs website. I realized how many impressive people would be attending this rigorous program, and I began to doubt myself.

I am a student-athlete, a swimmer who spends summers waking up at 5 a.m. for practices and winters swimming for both my club and high school teams.

I am not editor-in-chief of my high school publication. I had no formal journalism instruction. I did not know what an inverted pyramid was. I did not own the AP Stylebook.

But when I arrived at Fisk Hall, I decided to set goals for myself: learn to write a lede and pitch an article to a publication. To achieve them, I knew I had to play to my strengths.

First, we covered Evanston’s Fourth of July parade. I walked 10 miles in scorching heat and talked to at least 15 people. My perseverance, a skill I had gained from balancing swim and school, pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.

A week later, our feature articles were due. My instructor encouraged me to pitch my article to The Daily Northwestern. I did.

To my surprise, The Daily agreed to review my article. With each round of edits, my excitement intensified. When I saw the tweet from The Daily with a link to my story, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My fellow cherubs congratulated me and helped promote my article on Twitter.

During the last couple of weeks, we worked on trend stories. Once I chose a topic, I immediately started contacting dozens of sources. I talked on the phone with strangers for 45 minutes, stayed up late and sacrificed social time to produce the best story possible. It was similar to competing in a race, kicking and swinging my arms ferociously.

I gained newfound confidence in my writing abilities and in myself. Despite feeling like an underdog with the odds set against me, I beat them. And if I can do it, then any future cherub can.