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College Circuit: Krysta Downie

The University of South Florida (USF) is a public research university located in Tampa, Fla., with more than 40,000 students enrolled. 2017 alumna Krysta Downie is currently a freshman at the university. She spoke to The Circuit’s Juliana Atenciavia text.

What motivated you to apply to USF?

I was motivated to apply to USF because it was a Florida school. On top of that, I really liked the idea of being in Tampa and the school has a really good Criminology program- third in the state.

What is it like living on campus?

Living on campus is really fun. You are constantly being invited to school events either run by your hall or for the whole campus. It is a new experience and new faces everyday and it is really helpful for making friends.

What has been your most memorable experience at USF?

My most memorable experience so far has been glow in the park. It was an activity at our off campus park and it was a glow stick event that had many activities which included body painting and the sun-set canoeing in the Hillsborough river.

Why did you choose USF?

I chose USF because it was my second choice behind The University of Florida, which I got denied from. I loved the location, Tampa, and the fact that it was close enough to home, but far enough for new experiences.

What is your advice to incoming freshman?

Incoming freshman definitely need to tour schools and pick the one where they feel most at home. Transitioning is hard, but once you make friends, things start going much more smoothly. Be open to new experiences and just have fun.

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Personality Profile: Lance and Tyler Kotler


Whether it’s co-Captains of Policy Debate, Cypress Bay Tutoring heads or National Merit semifinalists, the Kotler twins said they have a tremendous passion for academic activity. The twins said they both inspire each other to work hard to succeed in school.

“I think having my brother with me has motivated me to work harder and keep pursuing what I’m going for because he’s also very driven and talented,” Lance Kotler said. “He is very organized, which keeps me on top of things.”

As both Lance and Tyler Kotler are semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship, Tyler Kotler said they help motivate each other to succeed. He said he was amazed, yet surprised, when hearing the news that him and his brother both qualified.

“I was so excited but honestly surprised when I found out I had qualified. I really appreciate the reward and acknowledgement it brings for working hard and finding success,” Tyler Kotler said. “It’s an accomplishment that I’m not only very proud of, but one that can definitely help me with getting into and paying for college.”

Both Lance and Tyler Kotler said they have similar colleges they want to attend, ranging from Yale, University of Michigan, University of Florida, Vanderbilt, Princeton and Emory. Although they are applying to the same schools, they said they are interested in studying different things.

“In college, I want to be able to explore a wide variety of subjects and activities along with meeting a lot of new people,” Tyler Kotler said. “As of now, I’m interested in focusing on politics, economics and mathematics, hoping to pursue a major and a career relating to those fields.”

Although Lance Kotler said he and his brother are close, he said he is not picking schools based on his brother. While he is a lot more set on what he wants to pursue in the future, he said his brother is still undecided.

“I’d love to work for the UN or maybe in the federal government in Washington, D.C.,” Lance Kotler said. “I’m looking to work in an area that can make a difference in U.S. and international policy, especially towards climate change and the environment, interstate conflicts, the economy and individual rights.”

The brothers said their study habits do not usually align. Lance Kotler said it is helpful to study together for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) test, but when it comes to their core classes, it is sometimes difficult.

“We have different teachers and different material for our classes, so a lot of times our assessments don’t align, or we have them on different days so our schedules don’t really match up in that way,” Lance Kotler said. “Also, even if we have the same test or quiz, we often have different things we each need to focus on to be prepared for it, so we’d study on our own, but when those areas are the same, we will study together and help each other out.”

Traveling around the United States together for events like debate championships, Kotler said he agrees that having his brother by his side has had a positive impact on his academic career.

“Lance motivates me to work harder and he’s always there for me,” Tyler Kotler said. “Having him in high school has definitely motivated me to succeed.”

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Holiday preparations begin early


For sophomore Sydney Kron, the holidays are more than just a few days a year. She said preparations for the holiday season have gone into full effect way before the month of December.

“We decorate so early to brighten up our house,” Kron said. “Ever since I was young, the day after Halloween is when all the Christmas music on the radio and decorating starts.”

Kron said she and her family love the holidays and start early to make the holiday spirit last as long as possible.

“In my house, we have one fake tree that goes up early and we also buy a real one in early December,” Kron said. “Christmas music is constantly playing in my house, no matter what time of the year.”

World history teacher Kathleen Harrington said she started buying and taking all of her decorations out before Thanksgiving, so she can get an early start on decorating both her home and classroom.

“For the classroom, I have students stay after school with me and I’ll let some classes help,” Mrs. Harrington said. “At home, I got out all my decorations and I just got a better, cooler fake tree.”

To Mrs. Harrington, some of her decorations hold a sentimental value. She said she likes to share it with her students, as none of them have never seen anything like it.

“I decorate so much because I like all the memories they hold, one of which is the Christmas village,” Mrs. Harrington said. “I used to have it at my house and my grandkids loved it so it means a lot to me to see the students’ happy reaction to it.”

When it comes to decorating, Mrs. Harrington said she goes all out and works extremely hard.

“We set up a mini Christmas village scene, [put out] fake snow, decorate the tree, hang up lights and stockings, [set up] a powerpoint which looks like a fireplace and I play Christmas music,” Mrs. Harrington said. “It is a happy time and it makes it a happy place; it’s a magical thing.”

Unlike Kron and Mrs. Harrington, freshman Mason Solomon said he does not enjoy the early holiday spirit.

“I saw many holiday commercials airing and Christmas music came on the radio in the beginning of November, as well as houses putting up full effort to wow passersby on the street,” Solomon said.

Even though Thanksgiving is in the month of November, many such as Kron and Mrs. Herrington said they started decorating for Christmas during this time. Solomon was surprised the preparations started when they did.

“People usually associate the month of December with Christmas just as they do Valentine’s Day with February,” Solomon said. “It is strange that people start to prepare for the holidays even in the month of November or October, which are associated with Thanksgiving and Halloween.”

To ring in the full holiday spirit, Solomon said he thinks it is appropriate to start preparations in December.

“While prepping for a time of year months in advance, people tend to disregard the time that is passing in the present moment,” Solomon said. “People should wait until the ‘25 days of Christmas’ to stay in the current moment and enjoy other holidays before Christmas.”








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Hanukkah traditions change over time


In more recent years, the spirit of Christmas has been celebrated over a period of three months, beginning in November and lasting until New Year’s Day. According to sophomore Brooke Schwartz, a consequence of this Christmas invasion is that other holidays, such as Hanukkah, have evolved to become more Christmas-esque and are losing their true meanings.

“Hanukkah is the time to spend with family in honor of the troubles our ancestors had been through,” Schwartz said. “In my opinion, the holiday does differ now. People think of Hanukkah as eight days that they’ll be receiving gifts from family members rather than thinking of the hardships their ancestors went through.”

When Schwartz was younger, she said she was taught that Hanukkah was established to celebrate the Festival of Lights, not to receive presents.

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve focused less on receiving gifts and more on the meaning behind the holiday,” Schwartz said. “When I was younger, I didn’t care as much about the holiday. I cared more about getting the gifts that I wanted.”

Senior Darrah Schaffer said one relatively new tradition that has extended from Christmas to Hanukkah is the Hanukkah bush.

“[A Hanukkah bush] is like a blue Christmas tree made especially for people celebrating Hanukkah to decorate,” Schaffer said. “I actually do have a Hanukkah bush this year and I’m absolutely in love with it.”

Although Schaffer said she values many Hanukkah traditions, she said she believes a Hanukkah bush is an interesting new ritual that should be added to the holiday.

“Before discovering the Hanukkah bush, I had always felt left out that I couldn’t decorate a tree during the holidays,” Schaffer said. “Now I can decorate a tree of my creation in any way I want.”

Unlike Schaffer, senior Danielle Kraut said she doesn’t think a Hanukkah bush is an extension of a Christmas tree.

“A Christmas tree is accustomed with the tradition that on Christmas morning, families sit around it and open the presents placed underneath it,” Kraut said. “A Hanukkah bush, in my opinion, is just for decoration.”

Schwartz said another tradition rooted from Christmas is Hanukkah Harry, which is a spin-off of Secret Santa.

“I think [Hanukkah Harry] is a cute name, and it’s another spin of how people can turn a holiday like Christmas into something they can celebrate,” Schwartz said. “Like I said, I think it was made for people who wish they had something like Secret Santa, but to celebrate something else.”

Despite knowing what Hanukkah Harry is, Schwartz said she has never participated in the event.

“I just do Secret Santa with my friends,” Schwartz said. “I still think the concept of Hanukkah Harry is cute because it allows people celebrating Hanukkah to feel included in the holiday spirit.”

Although Kraut said she does not believe that Hanukkah is losing some of its meaning, she said she recognizes that not everybody feels this way.

“For the Jewish teens, such as myself, the holiday isn’t really losing its meaning because it’s all we’ve grown up with and all we know Hanukkah to be,” Kraut said. “However, to other people, the holiday may be losing its meaning because holiday time is no longer called holiday time, it’s referred to as Christmas time, which completely excludes other holidays from being titular during the season.”

Regardless of a person’s belief, Kraut said the way Hanukkah and other holidays should be celebrated is up to interpretation of that person and does not need to follow a strict guideline.

“If everyone celebrated the same way, it does not make the holiday special,” Kraut said. “For example, I have a Hanukkah bush because I think it is a fun decoration to have. Other people may not because it deters from their beliefs. Everyone is free to celebrate the way they want.”


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The Outlet: Nichole Santiago

In this issue’s recurring segment that gives students an opportunity to learn more about the teachers they see every day, staffer Rachel Alexander interviews ESE teacher Nichole Santiago.

  1. Why did you choose to work with kids that have special needs?

During my junior year in college, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a special needs school. I fell in love with the students and atmosphere there. The teacher who I was helping told me I was a natural and should consider a career in special education. I decided that summer to change my major from elementary education to exceptional student education.

  1. What is something you want all of your students to learn from you?

My hope for my students is for them to become as independent as possible. I want them to learn that they can do anything they put their minds to and that I am here cheering for them every step of the way. I like to always look at the positive side of things and hope they will do the same.

  1. If you had one day to change the world what would you do?

If I had one day to change the world, I would want world peace. I would love to spend my day creating glasses that everyone could wear. With these glasses, people would not see race, gender and disabilities. Everyone would be equal and there would be no hate in the world. My students look at the world with this vision. I wish others would do the same.

  1. Where is your dream place to live?

My dream place to live would be anywhere on a beach. I love how peaceful it is with the water. Growing up, my family would take a yearly trip to Captiva Island. It is one of my favorite places to go.

  1. What is one life lesson your students have taught you over the years?

Over the years, my students taught me many things. One of the most important things is patience. Each one of my students throughout the years have been different and unique in their own ways. It requires patience and time to encourage each one to work to his or her fullest potential.

  1. How has working with kids that have special needs shaped you as a person?

Working with children with special needs has taught me to appreciate life and all it has to offer. My students are amazing; every day that I work with them, there is a new experience and they exceed my expectations. They enjoy the little things and that has taught me to enjoy the little things as well.

  1. What is a motto that you go by?

Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.

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Students revere personal role models


After sophomore Linda Font’s mother Maribel Font was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, she said she discovered that not all heroes wear capes. Although Linda Font said her mother’s battle with cancer, and relapse this past year, brought her family a lot of stress, she said her mother had a positive attitude the whole time through.

“My mom is my hero and one of the bravest women I’ve ever known,” Linda Font said. “She fights and does everything possible to live another day with her family which makes me admire her even more than I already do.”

Mrs. Font said her daughter has been a huge source of support during this process and she is touched that she puts her on such a high pedestal.

“Knowing that my daughter sees me as her hero warms my heart,” Mrs. Font said. “Little things like that make everything that’s going on easier to handle.”

Like Linda Font, junior Coral Chico said she idolizes her father, Juan Chico, because he is always there for her when she needs help. She said he is her rock and is always there to lend her guidance. According to Chico, her father perfectly fits her definition of what a modern day hero should be.

“A hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, and noble qualities,” Chico said. “I believe my dad encompasses that and much more.”

Whether it is giving a helping hand or simply a word of advice, Chico said her dad does not think twice about helping others.

“My dad will give his all for our family,” Chico said. “Not only is he my hero, but he is my best friend as well.”

For senior Carlos Ramirez, he said his Pastor David Hughes at Church By the Glades is his personal luminary. Ramirez said Hughes’ leadership and consistency in preaching and teaching others is what he admires the most.

“Even though I don’t talk to him every day, I’ve seen how his leadership skills have influenced the people around him, including myself,” Ramirez said. “He has influenced people, like me, to want to participate in mission trips and activities to bring people together.”

Since Pastor Hughes started preaching at the church, which contains two prison campuses, Ramirez said the rate of inmates released from prison who end up back in jail has decreased significantly. He said he admires how Hughes tries to make the world a better place.

“It amazes me how much he can take on and accomplish,” Ramirez said. “It inspires me to do more.”

Although Linda Font said her mom may not come across as a typical hero, to her she fits the profile.

“My mom pushes every day to be better and brush off the bad that comes,” Linda Font said. “It is that persistence that inspires me to be better and allows me to put my mom on my personal hero pedestal.”

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Pumpkin spice fad sweeps over market


Although junior and Starbucks barista Matthew Liebman said he has had his fair share of seasonal-flavored drinks throughout the years, he said he still looks forward to the peak of the pumpkin spice fad during the fall. As various establishments stock up on pumpkin spice concoctions during the season, students at the Bay said they rush to indulge in the signature autumn trend.

“I like the trend because it’s something that’s not available all the time, so it reels in a lot of customer for Starbucks,” Liebman said. “The pumpkin spice chai latte is my favorite.”

Liebman said the trendiness of pumpkin spice can be seen through the drinks at Starbucks, which are only seasonally sold and marketed based on their limited supply of the products.

“The pumpkin spice trend is extremely good for Starbucks because it’s a season that Starbucks makes most of its capital,” Liebman said. “I think the yearly wait for the pumpkin drinks creates all the hype and makes customers want it more.”

Because pumpkin spice products are a rare commodity only sold once a year, senior Karen Izqueirdo said the demand for these items is currently at an all-time high.

“Pumpkin spice flavored items should be sold specifically for fall because having it all year round would just kill the excitement of it,” senior Karen Izquierdo said. “My friends and I always go to Starbucks before school, so when it’s pumpkin spice season we have something new to choose.”

Unlike Izquierdo, freshman Andres Ramirez, finds the pumpkin spice trend to be overrated. He said the hype over this particular flavor is insane and he doesn’t understand why everyone gets crazy over it every year.

“It fits well into the season, but it doesn’t necessarily shape the fall season,” Ramirez said. “I don’t think that it tastes as good as people hype it up to be.”

Besides the pumpkin spice flavored drinks, junior Ana Rodriguez said there are other products that fall behind the seasonal craze. She said the aroma of pumpkin spice has become a common, seasonal smell that she links to the holidays and personal experiences.

“Whenever fall comes, my mom buys this pumpkin spice air freshener that really just makes it feel like Thanksgiving,” Rodriguez said. “I just love the festive feeling it gives off, it is like a preparation for what’s soon to come, which is really exciting.”

Whether it be through drinks or scented fragrances, the pumpkin spice fad sweeps over the market during autumn. Liebman said he enjoys how it always seems to bring people swarming into Starbucks to take part in the trend.

“It’s something that always reappears, yet never gets old,” Liebman said. “The pumpkin spice trend is not just something I can enjoy, but something everyone else does which I can see through the popularity of the drinks at Starbucks.”


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Students celebrate homecoming at dance



Students from the Bay celebrated homecoming on Oct. 7 at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Junior Lauren Nau said she was excited to partake in the annual event that is organized by the Student Government Association (SGA).

“I have been to homecoming before. I went sophomore year and had a blast. I was excited to go back because homecoming is my favorite time of the school year,” Nau said. “Homecoming this year was amazing. I had a great time dancing with all of my friends the entire night.”

Like Nau, junior and homecoming princess Gabrielle Hidalgo said she also enjoys homecoming because she gets to spend time with her friends dancing to music produced by a live DJ.

“Overall, my experience at homecoming was incredible. Most of the time I was on the dance floor with my friends, singing along to the songs and laughing like crazy. It was so amazing,” Hidalgo said. “My favorite part about homecoming was the music and dancing. They had a variety of music playing and it gave me the opportunity to express my different dancing abilities for each genre.”

Despite losing time for preparation due to Hurricane Irma, SGA adviser Danielle Nascimento and members of the SGA class said they were still able to organize a successful homecoming dance.

“The members of SGA and I planned all aspects of homecoming from pep rally, to spirit week activities to the dance. We divide and conquer to make it happen,” Mrs. Nascimento said. “I think homecoming was great; I received a lot of positive feedback.”

SGA treasurer and chair of homecoming senior Barbara Ramirez, along with senior and co-chair Harrison Miller, spent many hours in and out of school to make sure everything was in place for homecoming.

“There were some days we would stay after school until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. to make sure all of the homecoming forms were ready,” Ramirez said. “Even during the homecoming football game, I was doing forms and making sure that all of the decor was in my car, including the centerpieces and all of the signs, so that way I could wake up early the next day to go to the venue to set up for the event.”

Sophomore Sarah Gibson said she was very impressed with the amount and quality of the work done by the members of SGA for the dance.

“The decorations this year were above and beyond, the theme was well represented and it felt like a professionally planned dance,” Gibson said. “The food was good and the music was great and appealed to everyone there. The work of SGA members was well worth it because they put together a great dance.”

Nau also said she was amazed with how the theme “Fire and Ice” was exhibited throughout the ballroom and is content with the outcome of the event.

“I think that homecoming was put on very nicely,” Nau said. “Harrison Miller and Barbara Ramirez did an amazing job putting it on, all of their hard work definitely paid off.”

According to Nau this year’s homecoming event was one for the books.

“I would go to homecoming again. I think it’s a great opportunity to show school spirit and have a great time by getting dressed up and being able to have a fun night with your friends,” Nau said. “It was an extremely memorable experience.”


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Holiday traditions foster family time



For the past 30 years, Chemistry teacher Maria Rozenberg has invited family, friends and those with no place to go, to take part in her Thanksgiving feast. She said she enjoys hosting alarge group and serving the staple foods associated with this holiday, such as turkey and cornbread.

“Everyone sits around the table and we each give our blessings and say what we are thankful for that year,” Mrs. Rozenberg said. “Anyone who doesn’t have a place to go for the holiday is always invited and welcome into our house.”

Like Mrs. Rozenberg, sophomore Sydney Perkins said this holiday is the one day of the year that reminds her to be thankful for what she has and the people in her life. She said she uses this day as a reminder to be appreciative throughout the year.

“On this day I am always reminded to be grateful for what I have and the people I am surrounded by,” Perkins said. “Sometimes you lose sight of what is important, so being grateful keeps you grounded.”

Every Thanksgiving morning, Perkins spends time with her family eating crescent rolls and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. She said she cherishes this ritual with her family since she is able to spend ample amounts of time with her loved ones in a relaxed and comfortable setting.

“I love that feeling of waking up to the smell of baking in the kitchen,” Perkins said. “Being able to spend quality time with my family is rare, so it’s special when we all get the chance to spend a morning together.”

Mrs. Rozenberg said she uses her holiday traditions to establish values in and teach meaningful lessons to her family. She said these practices have had a large impact on her life and her children’s.

“[These traditions] do so much more than make me feel good,” Mrs. Rozenberg said. “I want my children to have a sense of family, and I want them to value helping those who are less fortunate.”

Junior Madison Liebman visits her relatives that she wouldn’t normally see throughout the year on Thanksgiving. Her family uses this day to reunite and catch up with distant relatives.

“I always go to visit family that I don’t normally see in New Jersey,” Liebman said. “It’s the only time all my family is under one roof, and I am grateful Thanksgiving gives us the chance to be together.”

After visiting an apple cider mill for years with her family, Liebman said she has made long lasting memories through this tradition and aspires to continue it in the future.

“My favorite fall tradition is going to the apple cider mill with my family,” Liebman said. “I am always so excited to eat the apple cider donuts, fresh out of the oven and warm. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them.”

Mrs. Rozenberg said this holiday is special because it emphasizes the importance of being grateful for what one has, rather than being centered around gifts and money.

“The fact that this holiday brings us all together and gives us one moment to give thanks for the blessings that we have is important,” Mrs. Rozenberg said. “A lot of times we never take the time to count our blessings.”

Although Perkins said the Thanksgiving Day festivities are memorable, she and her family favor the next day’s holiday: Black Friday. She said she spends her Thursday looking forward to the discounted shopping spree the next day.

“The next morning, we never miss going Black Friday shopping,” Perkins said. “I love this because it is so exciting to shop in the crowded malls and get good deals.”

Similar to Perkins, who said her family traditions have been instilled in her from a young age, Liebman said she has participated in her holiday rituals for as long as she can remember. Growing up, Liebman participated in family dinners and trips to the pumpkin patch.

“These traditions were started with my grandmother and have lasted generations,” Liebman said. “This makes them near and dear to my heart and I hope to continue the traditions with my children one day.”


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Alumni Strike: Ash McDaniel


Alumna Ash McDaniel, who graduated from the Bay in 2007, turned her dream of working in sports television into a reality by landing a job as a producer for the Golf Channel for almost six years. She recently chose to go freelance, but is still working in the golf industry.

McDaniel faces a wide range of responsibilities including field producing, interviewing professional golfers, putting together highlight packages, scoping out areas to shoot and working with on-air talent to decide what should be discussed on the show. McDaniel said her job changes every day, as she performs different tasks to make the process of creating the show more efficient.

“TV is always different every day, and I’m lucky to get to do so many different things within the production,” McDaniel said. “One of the first feature shoots I produced included a sit-down interview with Phil Mickelson. He was a golfer I grew up watching and it was the first time I was starstruck while working for [the] Golf Channel.”

McDaniel said she has always been a huge sports fan, so working within the sports world has been an amazing experience for her.

“[The] Golf Channel was one of the first places I interviewed, and I could see that the culture was fun and that people there really loved their jobs,” McDaniel said. “TV is fast-paced and stressful, but at the end of the day, you’re creating content for people all around the world to enjoy.”

McDaniel said she learned skills from her time at the Bay that she still utilizes today to help with her job. She said she gained her writing foundation in high school that allowed her to succeed in the business.

“Classes I took and teachers I had at the Bay really changed the course of my life.

Without the guidance and encouragement from my teachers, I wouldn’t have thought anything of my writing, wouldn’t have applied to such lofty universities and really wouldn’t be who I am today,” McDaniel said. “Mrs. Weiss was a huge motivator for me. She was the newspaper teacher when I was in school and really helped me understand what journalism is and how to set my sights on different goals.”

As sports editor her junior year and editor-in-chief her senior year, McDaniel said she was given amazing opportunities. McDaniel was able to oversee the production of the paper and attend all of the Friday night football games for press coverage.

“I loved working on the newspaper. It really was a place where I grew the most in high school,” McDaniel said. “I thought for a lot of my adolescence that I might want to be a journalist, but other than watching ‘All The President’s Men’ a few dozen times, I didn’t really know what that meant until working on the newspaper.”

McDaniel attended George Washington University, where she majored in journalism and mass communications. She took multiple writing and television courses and worked on the student-run news station called GWTV. She said she learned to balance on-campus activities, internships and paid newspaper jobs every semester and summer.

“One semester, while working an internship, I met the sports editor for the Associated Press in D.C., and we started talking and exchanged email addresses,” McDaniel said. “On a whim, I emailed him asking if there were any internships, and he said, ‘Well, how about a job instead?’ I started working as a stringer for the Associated Press for my last two years of college, getting paid to be a sports journalist, something I dreamed of.”

McDaniel was the first person in her family to graduate from college and pay for her own tuition. McDaniel said throughout college it was hard to see her peers, whose parents paid for their tuition, not have to balance a part time job, an internship and a full academic course like she did.

“There were days I’d be up at seven for classes, go to my part-time job on campus at noon and then make it to the ballpark in the evening for a baseball game for the Associated Press and wouldn’t get home till after midnight,” McDaniel said. “But if I wanted to succeed and be at a great school, that’s what I had to do, and it was all worth it.”

Working on a team is one thing that McDaniel said she loves the most about her job. Although writing is mostly a solo job, she said television production is much more of a team effort.

“I have relationships that are unique to working in television production that make coworkers more like friends and family. You all sort of go through a lot together: stressful times and exciting moments are all spent together,” McDaniel said. “You spend a lot of time in the studio, and that creates a pretty tight bond.”


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