Home 21st Century Journalism Humans of OHS Humans of Oswego High School, 2019

Humans of Oswego High School, 2019

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Various faces from the Humans of OHS project

Students in Ms. Hands’ 21st Century Journalism class asked students and faculty members of Oswego High School one question: What moment made you who you are today? Scroll through the gallery to see their responses.

Mason Brauer, junior

Mason Brauer

“I never grew up with a father, so I’ve had to be, like, my sister’s dad, too…[My father] has been in and out of jail…I want to be the exact opposite of him. I want to do good in the world, not bad. I want to help people, not bring them down. I don’t want to do any drugs, I don’t want to sell any drugs. I want to have a hard-working job…radiologist, politician, and graphic design.”

Mason Brauer

(Portrait and reporting by Ryan Zamora, 21st Century Journalism)

Senior Kaitlin Freundt

Kaitlin Freundt, senior

“[The moment] when I realized that I wanted to be a teacher. It was probably when I started my job as a swim instructor, and I realized I liked building relationships with kids [and] making a difference in their lives in some way…I would say it kind of helped me determine what I wanted my future to look like. I was kind of lost for a while, because I’m about to go to college…and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. So that helped me get a little outlook into what my future could look like.”

(Portrait and reporting by Rae Barry, 21st Century Journalism)

Senior Hailey Fox

Hailey Fox, senior

“This year. This year, I haven’t whined…it [has] been a really slow year for me, and I’ve had to go to a lot of [art] shows and walk away with nothing. And it’s like, really been discouraging, but at the same time, it’s just driving me more to work and just keep doing what I’m doing, because I don’t want to change my image to get that award or to get that recognition—I want to do it being me.”

(Portrait and reporting by Brooke Bartram, 21st Century Journalism)

senior Caitlin Guist

Caitlin Guist, senior

“Probably the moment I decided to walk away from soccer [for track]…It sounds kind of weird, because you wouldn’t expect cross country to be such a team-oriented sport, but it was so about the team and about everyone as a whole. I made relationships with these girls that I never imagined I would be friends with…and it sounds kind of dramatic and cheesy, but we like we saw each other at our very best points and our very worst points in life…I liked how running pushed me to a point that I had never been pushed to before. You’re pushed to complete and literal exhaustion… it’s to the point where you can’t stand up, and it was something I had never experienced. [Running] taught me a ton about myself and what I’m capable of accomplishing if I set my mind to a goal… I made some of the loftiest goals that I’ve made in my entire life, and I was able to achieve some of them. And so that sort of gave me this huge self confidence that I never really had before.”

(Portrait and reporting by Becca Corbett, 21st Century Journalism)

Sam Bolander

Sam Bolander, sophomore

Sam Bolander has loved baseball for all of his life. In sixth grade, when a fork in the road (a broken leg) halted his baseball career, although set back, he was prepared to undergo the treatment it took to get back on the field. “I had to undergo a lot of physical therapy,” Bolander said. He was willing to do so, as he “love[s] the game so much, [he] really wanted to get back out there.” He did just that. In spite of being “afraid that something like that would happen again,” he persisted, and resumed his passion.

(Portrait and reporting by Sam Gwodz, 21st Century Journalism)

Vanessa Hernandez, sophomore

Vanessa Hernandez, sophomore

“I think that turning point in life was high school. The people around me [changed me] to who I am today because, like, some of them made mistakes, or did me wrong, and then just kind of like, you know, made me the person I am.”

(Portrait and reporting by Jonny Werle, 21st Century Journalism)

Cori White

Cori White, sophomore

“When I first started getting into music, definitely. The first moment that made me who I was today [was] probably when I first saw my dad play a show. He’s been in multiple bands, including now. He’s been the lead guitarist in multiple bands. That was definitely a big moment for me, realizing I could do the same as him. I can talk about art, too. That was another really big thing that, in my life, that changed me…It’s just a nice way to let out creativity and put [emotions] you can’t put into words into pictures.”

(Portrait and reporting by Jeremy Davis, 21st Century Journalism)

Josie Corrao

Josie Corrao, senior

“I’m gonna say…[my] mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. I think I was in freshman year…It was, like, a week-long. We built a house for a family who needed it…The actual people there show what love is.”

(Portrait and reporting by Jeremy Davis, 21st Century Journalism)

Mia Frances, freshman

Mia Frances

“The moment who made me who I am today is the moment I realized that one of my friends transitioned over into my best friend, and since then, [she] has changed my life in many ways…I met this person when I was very young…we became friends around 7, and since then, we have been really close…every year, there’s this Christmas Party that brings together my mom’s college friends. So I usually see her then, and when we hang out [at the party]. We just talk about literally anything, about our lives and about our problems, and what makes us happy.”

(Portrait and reporting by Nathan Ely, 21st Century Journalism)

Mia Frances

“We talk about literally anything…”

– Mia Frances
McKenna Engler

McKenna Engler, sophomore

“When I was diagnosed with diabetes. [Diabetes] kind of shaped and formed me to be confident, even if [I’m] not a regular teenager…I am who I am today and…it’s taught me a lot, and it’s going to keep teaching me a lot. I’ve met a lot of new people because of it, and I’ve seen who my real friends are because of it…I had lot of people be there for me, and…I feel like I can help a lot of other kids with it in the future.”

(Portrait and reporting by Becca Corbett, 21st Century Journalism)

Evan Brown

Evan Brown, sophomore

Evan Brown, an athlete for all of his life, took competition and inspiration from his family and friends to carve out the athletic career he has today. “I’d say collectively watching my brother play sports as I grew up with him was a huge part of who I am today,” Brown commented. Not only did Evan soak everything in visually, he took pride in getting better by competing against his family and friends. He commonly played sports with his older brother and neighbor, believing that they made each other excel in their respective sports. “…competing with all three of us kind of just made us each better with competing with each other,” said Brown who also derived inspiration from his dad who played “as a high schooler and into college.” Being surrounded by athletes in his early years made Brown into the athlete he is today, one who continues to grow in just his sophomore year.

(Portrait and reporting by Sam Gwodz, 21st Century Journalism)

Dana Flores, sophomore

Dana Flores

“Just seeing how my parents work. I mean, I don’t want to say I’m lazy, but like, I used to be more…I used to slack off a lot, so [when] I see my parents work it’s like, that motivates me. So, now, I try to do the same as them. Now, I’m hardworking. I’m in AVID, and so that helps a lot.”

(Portrait and reporting by Sammy Hernandez, 21st Century Journalism)

Rebecca Schoolfield, sophomore

“There’s a lot of moments that made me who I am today. I think, like, when I was very little, I really enjoyed art, so it was more of a gradual thing rather than one moment. But, I really enjoyed art, and I kind of just wanted to pursue [it]…I have a lot of different inspirations [from] artists on social media and stuff that I follow.”

(Portrait and reporting by Sammy Hernandez, 21st Century Journalism)

Isaiah Spencer

Isaiah Spencer, freshman

“Somebody fell on me during basketball practice [and] I had a spinal cord injury, which caused my left side to become dysfunctional and lose feeling. It made me realize that things aren’t always going to be perfect for me, [and] it just made me more grateful for what I have and the people I get to be around every day.”

(Portrait and reporting by Molly Leubner, 21st Century Journalism)

Mr. Aaron Henricks, teacher

Mr. Aaron Henricks

“Sept. 11, 2001, definitely got me thinking a lot more about modern history…that [has] been my passion area to study and learn about ever since 9/11. That definitely was a major turning point in my life. It’s probably the most significant event in world history, since I have been alive. World War II was the first [event] in history I fell in love with, so I still teach that in class. But realistically, Nazis are not going to be an essential threat to the United States in today’s world. I knew [the morning of Sept. 11], the world is not…the same as it was when I woke, and it’s never going to be the same. I knew the world was going to be different.”

(Portrait and reporting by Ryan Zamora, 21st Century Journalism)

Emilio Ramos, junior

Emilio Ramos

“I went to Mexico to study abroad to see how it felt to study in a different country…I studied the basic stuff that freshmen would learn here, like health, biology, math—basic things…The Mexican school system was a lot better than the American school system, in my opinion…the teaching methods are better—more interactive with the students—and actually cared about their students and if they passed and where they got in life.”

(Portrait and reporting by Jack Murray, 21st Century Journalism)

Alex Allard

Alex Allard, junior

“When I was in, I think, eighth grade, I was in Auburn, Alabama, and I auditioned for an honor band that was in Troy University. I was really nervous, and I was really prepared for me to be somehow disqualified, even though it’s impossible for you to be disqualified in that kind of thing. You could get either bronze, silver, or gold band…Somehow, I got gold band, so that made me more confident as a person and a player, and that’s what made me who I am today.”

(Portrait and reporting by Maggie McCabe)

Vanessa Smith, freshman

“… this world is very cold…to be an independent black woman. [My dad] wants us to be very successful, and basically not to take crap from anyone…[and] basically when my parents are dead and gone, my sisters- my siblings are the only thing I’ll have.”

Morally embedded daughter Vanessa Smith reflects on some of the most valuable life lessons that she has applied to her life, many of which she has learned from her father, who is dedicated to family orientation and unity.

(Portrait and reporting by De’Ja Smith, 21st Century Journalism)

Beckett McGraw, sophomore

“I started swimming when I little. I always loved going to the pool, so [swimming] was the sport. I was really bad at every other sport. My best stroke would [have to be my] 100 free and 200 free. I [want] to swim throughout college. I was around 8 years old when I started to swim.”

(Portrait and reporting by Jack Murray, 21st Century Journalism)

Mr. Mark Johnson, teacher

“I don’t know if there was one like, ‘aha moment,’ so I think it was a combination of a bunch of different things…for teaching, I think I had several different teachers who were really, really good. I’ve coached since…1996. I don’t coach here anymore, but in high school, I coached a 7-year-old baseball team, and I enjoyed it a lot, so that’s why I wanted to coach and and be a teacher…because of [the] experience and doing that [kind of work] with the kids.”

(Portrait and reporting by Brianna Sadler, 21st Century Journalism)

“I’ve always liked social studies and I’ve always liked sports, so if I wanted to coach, [teaching] was a natural fit.”

Mr. Johnson

(Additional reporting by Samantha Wolcott, 21st Century Journalism)

William Victory

William Victory, senior

“My friend Michael a big impact on my life. Beforehand, [I was] going down a bad road…I’m not doing good in school, not being nice to family members, I’m not really being nice to anybody, I don’t have any friends…This guy Michael, he knew that I liked basketball, and he invited me over one day to play at his house. He just gave me something to just look forward to in my day and he gave me something to just enjoy in life, because I really didn’t find any enjoyment in anything I was doing, and he helped me realize that…He’s still my best friend to this day…that invite was a big, big moment in my life, [and I] kind of just realized how much I love people and myself.”

(Portrait and reporting by Cori White, 21st Century Journalism)

Donnell Elkins III, sophomore

Donnell Elkins

Devoted grandson and dedicated athlete, Donnell Elkins III, reminisces on his late grandmother and the large role she played in his life, in an poignant sit down.

“…I still think about her, often and in everything I do, she also motivates me….well, spiritually…she’s just like that big ‘it’ factor in my life.”

(Portrait and reporting by De’Ja Smith, 21st Century Journalism)

“When she did pass away, it showed me life shouldn’t be taken for granted…I know everyone has their own personal issues, and I witnessed it firsthand.”

Donnell Elkins III
Donnell Elkins

(Additional reporting and portrait by Kevin Jurkovic, 21st Century Journalism)

Alex Macias

Alex Macias, freshman

“The first time when I started playing soccer, I was seven years old. It was my first travel team, and it made me more athletic and like, soccer is one of my favorite sports right now. I want to do something in the future that involves soccer. I would want to play on a premier league in soccer, but usually before going professional, you start of with a team that’s not as big and then you go on from there. [I will] just try to find my chance.”

(Portrait and reporting by Caleb Maya, 21st Century Journalism)

Lane Craighead

Lane Craighead, junior

I don’t know an exact moment but, I got transferred to a new elementary school in fifth grade. It was Homestead [Elementary School]. Back then, I was really shy. I was afraid to tell people jokes…then, I met this girl named Cerstun. The thing about Cerstun was she was a little crazy. She just said whatever and made jokes and didn’t care who was hearing the jokes. She just wanted to make people laugh and didn’t care. That inspired me, and I opened up.”

(Portrait and reporting by Luke Urback, 21st Century Journalism)

Katie Kuhn

Katie Kuhn, junior

“It was the very first game I’d ever played with these girls. [In the] first 20 seconds of the game, I went to take a cross, and my hip…I broke it, basically… I was out for three months. Honestly, that was like the hardest time of my life, you know… all I wanted to do was play soccer because it’s been such a big part of my life, and I feel like this injury really showed me that soccer’s more than, like, a physical game…it also helped me learn a leadership role, because I had been voted team captain, and then obviously having a hip injury, I felt like I couldn’t do enough for my team, like I didn’t deserve that role. But it really helped me… it helped me get a lot of self confidence and learn how to be a good teammate in other ways than just, you know, doing my best at soccer.”

(Portrait and reporting by Lindsey VanDusen)

Molly Krall

Molly Krall, junior

“OK, so I have a twin sister with cerebral palsy, and I think one of the biggest moments I realized that, about Maggie’s condition, was in kindergarten. I got home earlier than she did from school, so I got to spend the afternoon with my mom. But, one day, we got a call, and Maggie had a seizure on the bus, and we had to go get her. It was in the Southbury neighborhood, and we pulled up, and she was in an ambulance, and she was all hooked up. I think that made me realize that this was serious, and as a kindergartener, this was scary to see…I didn’t know what was happening to my sister, and I didn’t know at the time what it was.”

(Portrait and reporting by Lindsey VanDusen)

Lizzie Shields, junior

LIzzie Shields

“The moment when my sister decided to move out and move into her own place with her boyfriend. It has affected me because I really can’t go to her if I need something right away. I’d have to talk to her on the phone, and I can’t really just share clothes with her as much as I used to, and I would always get yelled at for that, but it was worth it. [But] it kind of affected us in a good way, because we always bickered with each other…we got along, just not as well as we had hoped. I think that if she would have stayed longer, then the bickering would have continued, so it benefits everyone, including my mom and dad, because they don’t have to listen to us yell at each other anymore and they don’t have to yell at me for taking her clothes or stuff from her room.”

(Portrait and reporting by Makayla Willoughby, 21st Century Journalism)

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