This semester, I set out to put together my first On the Hill newspaper as Editor-in-Chief with the huge help of classmate Caroline Morrow.
After hours and hours of effort – working during free periods, journalism class, lunch, and sports – we finally finished seven out of eight pages of the paper. Caroline and I were so incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish, especially considering previous years during which Journalism wasn’t able to produce a newspaper due to financial constraints.
And we were so excited to put it to print.
On Monday, December 4, Caroline and I took print out drafts of the paper to the Seminar Room – home to the journalism program since its inception a decade ago – for the rest of our eight-woman team and teacher Fred Alvarez to proofread.
As Caroline and I went to work on the final page, we discovered the backup copy of the newspaper we had saved to the school server drive was deleted. We planned on re-saving it the following day.
That night, the Thomas Fire broke out and Upper Campus students, faculty, and horses were evacuated to the Lower Campus. I thought we would be back at school by Tuesday or Wednesday.
But on Tuesday, the Science and Technology Center, Girls’ Dorm, and ceramics room were burned to the ground, and our beloved Seminar Room with them.
When that thought hit me – that the physical representation of my three years of the favorite thing I’ve ever participated in in high school was gone, obliterated – I was crushed.
I couldn’t understand how somewhere I went everyday was taken away from me and everybody else so suddenly, and so brutally.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that my much-loved Journalism room was gone. This subject influenced my future, my career and college choices. In that room I became a better writer and a better person. It was the place where I discovered a passion for writing. And now it was lost.
As I came to grips with that reality, another thought hit me: the newspaper is gone. When the Computer Lab was destroyed, our newspaper went with it. The hours of labor, thought, preparation, and love the Journalism team put into that paper were gone.
Immediately, I texted Caroline and we talked about the devastation and the future of OVS and the Ojai Valley.
On Friday I texted her again. “Up to redo the newspaper?” I asked. Immediately we got to work planning the second copy.
As I sit here in Santa Ynez, on an OVS family-owned ranch with sixteen of the fifty-eight OVS horses, and another nineteen in a three-mile radius of me, I realize that On the Hill and the OVS community as a whole aren’t just about the objects that represent us.
Though we lost our trophies – yes, you can win trophies in journalism, and our award-winning crew won plenty in recent years – and the white board where we designed our Journalism shirts and planned out the newspaper, and the assignment board, and the copies of the Ojai Valley News Student Union from the past three years we had lined on the walls, and the space where we wrote, and laughed, and were inspired, we are so much more than that.
On the Hill is about determination, and drive, and curiosity. We are a team of students who want to write stories people should read, and put our thoughts and other’s experiences, and events into words.
Just because the Seminar Room and all of our tangible accomplishments are gone doesn’t mean the influences it had on us are lost.
We can do our writing anywhere. We can win new trophies. We can buy a new assignment board and whiteboard, and make those special to us.
But I can’t think of a more important time, in the history of this school and the history of this planet, to be a good journalist, and to practice this honorable craft.
We will remake the newspaper. We will continue to tell stories, and we will be the best we can be.
We will rebuild.Share