They told me I’d be writing kids stories. Not “Dr. Seuss,” mind you, but certainly not “War and Peace.” You’ll be writing about high school kids, they said. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
You see, sports was out of the equation. That was already being covered. My gig was to find students in Ann Arbor schools who often go unnoticed. The athletes get their due, but what about Josie Anderson, the girl who wants to be an astronaut; Dashiell Wieford and Blake Ammerlaan, the guys in the Game Club; or Lily Tai, the girl in the Cooking Club whose orange chicken is still being talked about a year after she served it up.
You know what I’ve discovered?
The walls and the halls are just crawling with stories.
I first worried about whether I could quench the never-ending thirst of weloveannarbor.com. The beauty of this website for a reader is that stories, photos and videos keep changing, there’s always something new to see. But on this end, it can be a daunting challenge. Would I find enough stories? Are these kids interesting enough to keep a reader’s attention or go beyond that – even inspire others to reach for the stars – like Josie Anderson?
Well, after two months on the job, I’ve found the problem isn’t whether there are enough interesting kids out there, but whether I have enough time to get to them all.
Think about it. Pioneer, Huron, Skyline, Community, Father Gabriel Richard, Greenhills. Thousands of students. Each with their own story to tell. And, believe me, after talking with just a couple dozen of them over the past two months, they’ll tell the stories. Believe it, they’ll tell ‘em.
Take Isabel Ratner, a high school senior who just might be the best PR person I’ve worked with in more than two decades of journalism. She noticed we omitted Community High School’s production of “Inherit the Wind” in our listing of upcoming plays, and BAM, an e-mail from Isabel came in, photos followed, interviews were set up and, whaddya know, a story on the play showed up on weloveannarbor.com.
What about Liz Moore, a senior who started her own non-profit organization to help combat bullying. This, after volunteering in Ghana, Africa, last summer. Or Christopher Putlock, a 16-year-old kid who has befriended a 60-something man with disabilities and plays cards with him at a group home, just chatting and passing the time.
And we recently met an amazing young man in Pioneer junior Shashank Chandru, who founded Tomorrow Together. The group’s main mission is to visit elementary schools and preach non-violence and anti-bullying to young students. He, better than anyone, can explain what it’s like to be bullied.
You see what I mean. Not enough time in the day.
It was apparent early on that covering Ann Arbor high school kids was more than just a one-man job. So we did a very smart thing. We brought in a woman. You might recognize the last name. I know, I do; it’s the same as mine.
Kelle Barr, a seasoned freelance reporter and my wife, now augments the weloveannarbor.com schools coverage. And, she, like me, is finding it a fascinating place to be.
Oh, I’m not saying I spend all of my time in the high school arena. They let me out to talk to people my own age once in a while. I’ve been assigned three stories thus far outside of the high school beat, and it is no less interesting.
Listen to this:
There’s been Anuja Rajendra, the founder and CEO of popular BollyFit – an Ann Arbor-based fitness and dance studio – and is a Democratic candidate for the State Senate’s 18th District. And former State Rep. Jeff Irwin, also running for the 18th District seat. And, last but not least, Lisa Conine, of Om of Medicine, a local medical marijuana dispensary.
Apparently, age is not a defining criteria for finding interesting people in Ann Arbor. But, for now, I’ll be writing more about the students of Ann Arbor, telling the stories of their talents, accomplishments and dreams here on earth and beyond.
Because, like I said, Ann Arbor halls are a fascinating place to be.
To suggest stories for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org