Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Michaela Rutledge
Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School
When McKayla Braid was in elementary school, she did not always excel.
“They had to pull me out of class because I had trouble reading and writing,” Braid said.
So imagine Braid’s shock when her sophomore English teacher at Plainfield East High School encouraged her to try journalism.
At first, Braid was not sure journalism was for her, but she soon found herself sneaking out of lunch and study hall and into the newspaper classroom to help the older students write the paper. This fall, she will start work as a student reporter for Chicago’s largest daily newspaper.
When Braid was a junior, Plainfield East cut its journalism class, and all but one of the returning seniors deserted the paper, which left Braid and the senior as the only students with newspaper experience.
Braid, now a 16-year-old senior at the southwest suburban Chicago school, used her passion for journalism and photography to help restart her school’s student newspaper as an extracurricular activity. She will be the chief editor next year.
Braid, of Romeoville, isn’t afraid to take on challenges and says she takes pride in the fact that she “made it this far.”
Although she loves John Green books and romantic comedies, and she can talk to you for hours about “Teen Wolf,” Braid’s real passion is still journalism.
To take her journalism skills to the next level, Braid would like to attend Eastern Illinois University or a university in the city of Chicago. She would like to major in journalism and minor in photography, but also is interested in studying psychology.
Although she has high academic goals for herself, Braid admits her biggest goal is just to be “happy and healthy” and doing what she loves. “As long as I have money to pay for water and electricity,” she said, “I’ll be happy.”
Her positive attitude also applies to failure. Braid believes that you only truly fail if you refuse to try. “It is when opportunity comes knocking and you deny it,” Braid said while smiling, noting she is not the type of person to deny opportunity.
As a kick start to her career, Braid is a new member of the reporting staff of MASH, a teen newspaper run by the Chicago Tribune.
“I’m very, very excited! I will be getting paid for doing something that I love, and what could be better?” Braid says excitedly.
Braid strongly believes that “every day is a gift,” and she doesn’t intend to waste any.