Big Cats on Campus: Austin Anderson

By: Allie Taiber

Settled in front of his computer screen, Iowa State freshman Austin Anderson spills words, stories and ideas that have been marinating in his head onto the page. Stitched and woven together, a perfect recipe; when served up in the Iowa State Daily, he believes these words hold within them something magical, with the power to make a lasting impact.

Anderson is making his debut in Cyclone Nation. An aspiring young writer who has proven that if he puts his mind to something, he will accomplish it. For Anderson, the possibilities are endless, and his journey has just begun.

The perpetual connections Anderson made throughout his years at Cedar Falls High School continue to linger throughout the halls. As an inspiration for both students and staff, Anderson was one of the greatest journalists to ever pass through Cedar Falls High School, but they also knew him as much more.

Faculty and students that experienced his poise all speak very highly of his skill. English Teacher Diane Flaherty was one of the lucky who has noticed this from the beginning, “Even as a sophomore in English 10, he would see a much deeper meaning in the literature than most of his peers. He would ask questions that would expand his worldview,” Flaherty said. “I think his natural curiosity about life and the world is what made him so successful.”

Journalism companion and friend Jackson Skiles also speaks very highly of Anderson’s go-getter mentality, “He always knew what he needed and wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile to get it. People were always willing to work with him; he’s one of the most kind, professional and genuine people I’ve had the chance to work with,” Skiles said.

Anyone else familiar with Anderson is well aware of the character he possesses. His positive attitude, integrity and confident energy radiated with every smile or hello, every “how are you” or “tell me about yourself.” Both Flaherty and Skiles notice how he naturally crossed all friend groups. He didn’t just confine himself to those friends he knew from grade school and jr. high, but saw opportunities to learn from all sorts of people; portraying the qualities of a true journalist.

“Austin was empathic with different types of situations and people. He always tried to capture what a person was feeling in his/her heart,” Flaherty said. And his heart, as ample as the curls on his head, Anderson’s ability to not only hear but to listen continues to float around the school, almost as if he never left.

Although he admits he was never the biggest or the smartest kid in school, Anderson was able to find his passion and fall in love. “All my life I’ve had a chip on my shoulder. I’ve never been the best at anything, but I feel I’ve found something I love to do, and within that I get to live out my dream,” Anderson said. But, it hasn’t always been this way.

Not until the end of his sophomore year of high school was it until Anderson stepped up to the plate.  Journalism teacher Brian Winkel encouraged Anderson to be the best. “Most kids don’t think about stepping up to the possibilities. To actually see journalism not as grade but as gifts (to our audience) is the key, and that’s exactly what Austin wanted. After the point of self realization and knowing that this was what he wanted to do, he allowed me to immerse him as far as he wanted to go. He was all in,” Winkel said.

Just like that, his career took off. Anderson wanted to change the world for the good. Through the simple yet beautiful power of storytelling, he’s been able to do so time after time.

But with a newspaper program of only six students his senior year, things weren’t looking good. “Last year we nearly dropped the program, but that wasn’t an option for Austin,” Winkel said. During the first semester of his senior year, Anderson promoted the program like no other. It was his passion, and he was not willing to give it up. That second semester, an additional 50 students signed up for the class this year, saving the program.

The CFHS newspaper, The Tiger Hi-line, is the only weekly printed school newspaper statewide. This gave Anderson the opportunity to practice and enhance his skills quite frequently. “I didn’t want to take things easy, and I won’t in the future,” he said. He instantly became a hot commodity to the paper. Presenting nothing but quality work week after week, staying up until the crack of dawn on the nights of deadline, the whole school anticipated his work.

“To me, storytelling is an opportunity to not only make a difference in the world but to bring light to some of the greater things.”

Anderson sees each story as a gift that everyone can learn from. Granting the shared connection between reader and writer, he uses one of journalism’s most powerful forces. “You get to change, shape or form people’s outlooks on certain things and hopefully make them feel a certain way, a good way,” Anderson said, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

Being named The 2015 Iowa High School Press Association Writer of the Year, in addition to winning many individual awards, Anderson was made a journalism legacy to Cedar Falls, but that was only the beginning.

The bar  has been set high for Anderson at Iowa State University, but as many know, he’s not one to disappoint. “I want to be looked at some day as the greatest journalist to ever come through Iowa State,” Anderson said, and he’s already begun his persistent venture.

After sending in a resume with the work he had accomplished at Cedar Falls, he called the adviser of the Iowa State newspaper (The Daily), Mark Witherspoon. “I told him I wanted to be great. That I was in love with journalism.” Extremely impressed with his resume and passion for his work, Witherspoon commended Anderson’s skills, advising him to skip the freshman orientation process of The Daily, getting him plugged into The Daily on literally the first day he got to Iowa State.

With an entirely student-run paper, things seem to be panning out a little differently. Not everyone gets a chance to play the game. The Daily doesn’t focus on seniority, but talent. “Learning from my peers could be hard. They don’t want to see a freshman coming up to the top, but utilizing that pressure to perform above my best will help me in the end,” Anderson said.

Currently one of two freshmen covering sports with the Daily, out of a staff of 15, things are looking good for Anderson.  Already covering hockey, one of the most exciting sports on campus, Anderson only sees possibilities, not limitations. Sitting in the stands watching the ice shred, he finds himself interpreting not only a story, but a tale of triumph and loss for next week’s paper.

And from the ice, things have only gotten better. In the words of his adviser, Anderson’s first feature piece was “storytelling at it’s finest,” but the Daily is only part of Anderson’s path. In addition to successful stories, he made his first of many appearances as a sports anchor for ISU television last Thursday.

Anderson and his audience have recognized the powerful ability of believing in himself, and ever since it’s never failed, “It’s important to believe in yourself. If you don’t, who else will?” Anderson asked. Winkel has helped him through this process, but he now thinks it’s Austin’s time to grow. “He’s proven his ability. He doesn’t brag, but he knows he’s good, and knows he’ll get what he wants. He has the skills to achieve his dreams. I can’t even think what he’s going to do in the next four years,” Winkel said.

Sports editor, ESPN newscaster or the world’s most well-known journalist, Austin Anderson shows a future brighter than the ice. When one puts their heart to something, the possibilities are endless. Go big or go home; you’ll will never work a day in your life if you love the work you do. This happiness is what motivates Anderson to keep achieving and doing what he loves. Once one finds his bliss, it’s hard to look away from it. In hopes to make the change he wants to see, Anderson continues to bring nothing but the best.

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