An Open Letter to Achona
May 17, 2021
Newly accepted into the Academy as an eighth grader, I daydreamed about the kind of Academy student I would be, and the answer seemed to fall into my lap as I binged “Gilmore Girls.” As I watched Rory Gilmore write articles for her high school paper at Chilton and eventually rise to the position of Editor-in-Chief in college at the Yale Daily News, I thought to myself: I want to be a part of the Academy’s newspaper staff — where I would report on events as a member of what I perceived to be the coolest activity on campus.
So, I then spent the next year-and-a-half constantly stalking the Achona website and wishing for the first day of sophomore year to come sooner — because it would mark the first day I would enter into Newspaper Journalism I Honors.
Eventually, that day did come.
In August 2018 as I stepped into Achona’s classroom on the second floor across from the Spanish department, I was met with the faces of upperclassmen and our teacher, Ms. Cox. Getting over my initial distress about being the youngest in the room, Achona would become the one class I would always think of with a smile because it was the one place at the Academy I felt I not only truly belonged — but was supposed to be. Achona allowed me to fulfill my eighth grade fantasies, but, more importantly, it exceeded my expectations.
82 stories, videos, and podcasts later, Achona has transformed me as a person. From staff writer, to Multimedia Editor, to now Editor-in-Chief, each new role came not only with more responsibilities and duties, but allowed me to explore my creative intuitions. I was a writer, videographer, podcaster, website designer/manager, columnist, book club member, social media manager, digital artist, news enthusiast, listener, collaborator, and leader. I learned there is not one homogenous mold to being an Achona staffer because I could create my own mold here.
Rather than be put in a box, I was given a wide open space to learn and form my own opinions. And through my many self-proclaimed informal titles, I expressed my newly-formed beliefs in podcast episodes, opinions, editorials, virtual book club meetings, and Achona’s Instagram series “Top 3 Picks” — all in an effort to live out Achona’s motto: Everyone Deserves to be Heard because “everyone” includes me, something I previously excluded myself from prior to entering what I still perceive to be the coolest and best activity at the Academy.
However, my journey in Achona has not been a solo one — but can be more compared to like a fun bus ride with some of the most creative, intelligent, and outspoken high school individuals who have not only been along for the ride, but have also been a pilot to their own cars as they wrote opinion pieces almost instantaneously, won Best of SNO awards, made Spotify playlists, learned how to use Photoshop (which is more complicated than one would think), joined in on group discussions at the beginning of class, participated in group podcasts, and never ceased to make me a better leader.
Yet, they also made noise and sparked conversations not only within the walls of our classroom, but also within the Academy’s yellow-brick walls and the digital walls of Best of SNO — where adults and students alike began to think about diversity in private schools, body positivity, the STEM stigma among and high school girls, Hispanic stereotypes, the dangers of gender reveal parties, and so, so much more.
But this bus ride would not be able to move without its conductor — Ms. Cox. As first my English teacher, then my Achona teacher, and finally my AP Literature and Composition teacher, she has helped my writing grow and placed hardly no constraints on what I wish to write about on Achona (except for the occasional required events that need to be covered, of course). She has pushed me to dig deeper and ask questions about societal constructs and dilemmas that often go undiscussed and taught me to be unbiased when writing news and feature stories and recording an episode of Jaguar Jabber: Weekly World News — emphasizing that balance is key.
Three years later, Achona — its people, opportunities, and platform — has been the most important part of my high school experience. From a shy young girl to a now confident young woman, Achona has shaped the way I see the world and shown me how to express myself through the medium I know best: writing. And as I prepare to log off as Editor-in-Chief for the last time, I leave with the assurance that Achona is, and always will be, in good hands — waiting to change the life of another Academy student who has a voice, but is afraid and doesn’t know how to use it yet.
Thank you Achona for the memories and giving me the greatest gift I could ever ask for — my voice.