2015 storyteller, videographer of the year share aspirations

As high school students, we are all encouraged to figure out what we love, our passions. We are called to find our place in the world and “follow your bliss.”

Countless students throughout each and every year have countless interests, passions and directions they want to go in life. At Cedar Falls, just about anyone has something worth knowing about. Everyone has a story, goals and dreams.

A few students who have incredible talents and passions for what they do are seniors Austin Anderson and Jackson Skiles. They both share the common love of journalism, but they express their passion in different ways. A huge impact on both of them is the journalism teacher at Cedar Falls, Brian Winkel. He has impacted them along with numerous other students in so many different ways.

The idea of journalism sparked for Anderson at a young age. As a 7th grader when school counselor Rona Messmore was asking students what they wanted to do with their lives, Anderson said, “She said we don’t have to have it figured out now, but she was pressuring us to have it figured out. I sat there and I thought I love sports, I love talking, I love people and the next thing you know I was a sports journalist.”

Anderson originally got into journalism because he wanted to be a sports writer. He figured he could get paid for talking about sports, and that seemed like a pretty good job, but he soon realized it was much more than that. He started broadcast journalism his sophomore year, and the Hi-Line his junior year and ending up falling in love with that. Shortly after joining the Hi-Line, Winkel made him editor-in-chief of the staff.

“Once I really dove into journalism, I discovered that I really loved people, and I loved learning about their stories. I realized that when you look at somebody, all you see is the outside, but the truth is there is really so much more to them. That’s what I love discovering and figuring out,” Anderson said.

After realizing how much he loved journalism, Anderson’s passion continued to grow as he continued to write more stories. He was given the opportunity to attend a sports journalism camp in North Carolina at the University of North Carolina. He was taught by a former Sports Illustrated writer, as well as journalists from the Washington Post and ESPN.

“They all taught me, and I realized was that I wanted to be just like them. What I learned there, honestly changed my life, and it put me on the course to fall in love with journalism even more,” Anderson said.

Anderson also loves journalism because he gets to hang out with some of his best friends while doing what he loves, along with his favorite teacher, who has inspired him to be the best he can be.

In order to write a good story, it takes a lot of commitment and effort. Anderson states the “writing” part of the story isn’t always the most fun. “It gets frustrating because I want everything to be perfect and make it the best story that has ever been written.”

For him, the outcome is the drive for the stories he writes.

“For me the best part is when the person I’m writing about gets to read it and hopefully gets to understand how great they are and how impressive their accomplishment is. Or if the story is more of an opinion, to have the ability to change somebody’s mind or inspire them is really beneficial. The outcomes and the potential to change hearts, produce tears and impact lives is what I love most.”

Anderson’s overall goal of every story is to inspire people and make their lives better somehow or in some way, if it’s possible by just reading a story. He wants to reach not only those who read it, but also the people he is writing about.

“I know that when you’re just reading the newspaper, whether it’s a sports story with your name barely mentioned or something more, it’s always cool to read your name.”

Along with Anderson’s passion and deep love of journalism comes big dreams of what he wants to do in the world. “I used to say that I wanted to be the greatest sports journalist ever. But I have somewhat recently realized that it doesn’t matter that I am the best as long as I am the best that I can be.”

He has goals and ways he plans on helping others in the world. “My ultimate goal at the end of everything, if I could, I would really like to be one of the best sports journalists in the world, and then use that platform to help people and do good in the world.”

Anderson’s favorite writer is Wright Thompson. He inspires him to be a better writer every day. Anderson describes how much he admires Mitch Albom who writes for the Detroit Free Press. He is an author and has written many different books from young adult short story novels to columns, but he also goes to Haiti every month to help out people who are in need.

“That’s a very prominent, famous wealthy person giving time out of his busy schedule every month to help people. I don’t know how it’s going to work exactly, but I would love to follow in that path, maybe becoming an author, and using my platform to do good in the world.”

Anderson is headed to Iowa State University next year to study journalism and mass communications. “Iowa State University is one of the best journalism schools in the country. I will be writing for the Iowa State Daily, hopefully get involved with the Iowa State T.V. and just really grab ahold of those opportunities and make the most of them.”

High school has prepared Anderson for the next step of his life and going off to accomplish his goals and pursue the dreams he spoke of. “I would say that here at Cedar Falls we have an unbelievably unique and good opportunity for journalism students. I think we have the best journalism teacher in the state of Iowa, Mr. Winkel. I think that his passion and love for journalism just inspires us all to be the best we can be, and not only just do it for a grade. It is so much more than a grade, and that is what he helps you realize that it’s not about if you have an A in the gradebook. It’s about impacting people’s lives and really telling a great story that people will remember for a long time.”

Skiles also has developed a passion for journalism, along with art over the years. Broadcast journalism has been his “creative outing” ever since ending taking art classes previously in his life.

“This is my new way to express myself, and it’s fun to tell stories. It’s how history is told, through story telling. I am just adding to history, and that’s kind of a cool thing to think about,” Skiles said.

Skiles said that he believes that he has always been creative, indicating that he used to draw a lot and has always liked graffiti. “I would draw a ton of graffiti. I have graffiti pictures all over my room, and I used to make little home movies. I did stop motion stuff, which was really cool, but really hard having 300 pictures and putting them on an old Dell, but it all turned out.”

Skiles didn’t get involved with broadcast until his senior year. He discovered how much he enjoyed making videos last summer when he made his Caravan and Florida videos, which were projects he did for fun. “I made them all on my phone, and thought to myself, I’m pretty sure we have a class that could do this way better, so I thought I’d just join and see what it’s like.”

Along with Anderson, Winkel also has had an impact on Skiles. “I had him before, and I liked him,” Skiles said.

Skiles states that he likes all parts of broadcast — taping, editing — but his favorite part is being able to see the finished product before everyone else. “Editing is like the guts of the video. You decide how loud you want it to be, how bright  you want the picture to be, what angle you want to be at, just cool stuff like that. Things that you normally don’t think about while watching a videos.”

Having experience with these types of things and editing videos has changed the way Skiles watches videos. “Now when I watch T.V. shows I’m always thinking about how the camera is moving or how they are doing a certain stunt. I’m thinking about what’s real and what’s not, and if it’s not, I think about how they would have done that.”

Thinking about these things inspires him to be a better broadcast journalist.

“It inspires me to think that I will be able to do that eventually in my life, that’s the goal.”

Taking broadcast journalism this year has not only been a positive experience for Skiles, but it has changed what he plans to do in the future. If he did not take this class this past year, he would be majoring in physical therapy next year, what he was originally accepted into college for. But he is now majoring in Interactive Digital Studies (IDS), which is a lot of things. “It is pretty much anything with technology. It’s a newer thing at UNI. I talked to a guy in a coffee shop. I looked it up and liked it.”

High school has given him the chance to use some really nice computers and software that would not have been available to him without the school. “It really added to my knowledge that has kind of been self-taught. I kind of play around and figure things out on my own. It gave me the opportunity to develop this into more than just a hobby.”

Skiles, along with Anderson, also has goals to complete and dreams to follow. His number one goal in life is to make beautiful art. “It doesn’t have to be for somebody, as long as it’s for me and I enjoy it. I want people to enjoy it, but when it comes down to it, I need to enjoy what I do before other people do.”

Skiles plans to make art and pursue his dreams through movies, T.V. shows, youtube videos, taking pictures and documenting his life. “It’s kind of scary, but it’s going to be fun.”

These ideas and dreams may seem a little insane, but Anderson and Skiles both are aware of that and believe they are capable. “I think it takes a little crazy in everyone to follow their dreams,” Skiles said.

These two students both have been deeply inspired by journalism teacher, Mr. Winkel. He is extremely passionate about all of his students, and genuinely cares about each one of them succeeding. “I am hoping that they have the skills that they need to realize the dreams that they want to realize. I hope that they spend enough time to discover that that is never a finished effort. It is an ongoing process. Discovering and learning skills goes on and on,” Winkel said.

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