VHS alumni Katie McClellan reflects on defining moments of her education

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Submitted by Katie McClellan

Originally from Chicago, VHS alumni Katie McClellan enjoys experiencing the four seasons again up north in Syracuse.

Abby Lincks, Staff Reporter

Fond memories of the blazing Texas heat start to fade as the winter season in Syracuse, New York takes full effect, leaving VHS alumni Katie McClellan comforted in her return up North. 

An official Vandegrift graduate in 2021, McClellan continues her education at Newhouse School of Public Communications, home to one of the top journalism programs in the country. As the second semester of freshman year carries on, McClellan recalls some of the defining moments that helped her earn her current position. 

“It’s [college] this really weird combination of still being a teenager and calling your mom when you’re sick because you don’t know what to do, but also being an adult and being responsible for yourself,” McClellan said. 

Expanding her experience, McClellan took initiative through high school classes like Newspaper and Yearbook, where she could build up her writing and communication skills. 

“I definitely would day I feel more equipped and sure of myself, which is nice.” McClellan said. “It [newspaper & yearbook] also helped me know exactly what to do to start right off the bat with my career.”

Taking advantage of every possible opportunity, McClellan reached out to Four Points Newspaper owner, Lynette Haaland. Following this, she was offered a job and began publishing stories over the summer months during high school.

“A lot of the time she would actually pay me for that which was an invaluable experience because I was getting published outside my school newspaper,” McClellan said. 

Her motto, “You have to put in what you want out of it”, is vital to her advice for any writer.

“You have to treat every story like it’s the most important story,” McClellan said. “You have to really give your all to every story even if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a big one because you don’t know what the story is going to turn out to be.”

McClellan currently writes and is in an assistant copy editor position for The Daily Orange, an independent, nonprofit newspaper published in Syracuse, New York.

“We’re one of the few news sources there so people really trust our reporting and look for it,” McClellan said. “That’s a really cool experience to have.”

McClellan and fellow intro to communications students have spoken to successful, big names in the media world like a top executive at Lionsgate who worked on the production of the movie Knives Out and the man in charge of The Boston Globe in 2002, at a time when they were the first newspaper who exposed the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal in 2002. 

“Sitting here talking to this person who is doing what we want to do, but in the real world, I feel so lucky,” McClellan said.  

Recalling her busiest months as a writer, McClellan’s senior year of high school was a whirlwind of everything writing, communication and tons of interviews. But, this hard-earned work reflected on her resume, helping her reach an official publishing position and place at one of America’s best colleges. 

“The best way to be good at writing is to literally just keep doing it over and over again,” McClellan said.