McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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The Messenger Class Of 2024

The eight seniors on the Messenger staff, though all different, have one thing in common: they found a way contribute to their community through journalism
Leylah Moreno
Some senior members of the Messenger staff are new to Newspaper this year – even this semester. Others have been writing for the Messenger for four years. All of them have helped tell the story of the MCHS that readers will appreciate for years to come.

Four years ago, “Tiger King” was Netflix’s biggest product, The Weeknd released “After Hours,” Donald Trump was still President, murder hornets invaded the U.S. and in the midst of a world pandemic, the Class of 2024 was starting their freshman year. 

Four years later, those same freshmen (previously known only as little boxes on a screen) are walking across the stage as graduates of MCHS. Within the McHenry Messenger, many of these soon-to-be graduates got a chance to talk about high school and what comes next. 

This year’s graduates include Editor-In-Chief Mackenzie Sroka, Artistic Director and Head Of Broadcast Anchor Coverage Leylah Moreno, Marketing Director Paulina Borowski, Online Managing Editor Lola Cassidy, Opinions Editor Lydia Lawrence, and staff writers Jennifer Landa-Tolentino, Alexis Januk and Zach Benton. Each has contributed to The McHenry Messenger and left big shoes to fill for our underclassmen.

Describe your high school experience.

Paulina Borowski: “My high school experience was definitely a good one. We started during Covid and it was a really weird way (to start) because I was in eighth grade going into Freshman year with no graduation, no expectations, no nothing, so I was just kind of thrown in there. It wasn’t necessarily bad because I was a really motivated student so I did pretty well for being a zoom kid. Then as soon as we went to hybrid, I kind of kicked off from there because like I was finally in person, I could finally meet people … As soon as we got fully in person like junior and senior year, it all grew from there because so many opportunities opened, but it was just a weird journey because you were first by yourself and then fully around everyone.”

Leylah Moreno: “I think when I started out high school in the heart of the pandemic I was kind of an anxious wreck and I was kind of scared of everything and everything was a lot different then. Since then I’ve grown and become comfortable in my skin and more confident and everything. I’m not really involved in sports or anything but I’ve kind of found my own home in Warrior Student Media.”

Lexi Januk: “Well Freshman Year was definitely — it wasn’t the worst, but it took time to adjust, which is what a lot of seniors would say … Nothing really out of the ordinary ever happened, but sophomore year was really where the workload started to pick up, and like when everyone came together they didn’t know how to handle it. We all remember the first day, when school came together the hallways were so crowded and a lot of people were late every day and it was just the worst. Junior and Senior year were probably the best years because that’s like when you get a lot more freedom; get your license, your first jobs … I think junior and senior year was where I was at my best. Senior year is very stressful right now, but I’m just happy to get out of here I guess and move on with my life. It’s not the end like a lot of people think high school is.”

Lydia Lawrence: “I think my high school experience was very enlightening compared to middle school. There’s a lot more to do here, a lot more teachers, a lot more people to make connections with, and a lot of different people from different areas. In terms of work it shows me what I need to work on in the future like with my work ethic. Emotionally I’d say I know who I’m looking for when I’m picking my friends, the people I let influence me, because there are so many different people at this school and observing them shows me who I want to be and who I want to be to others. The teachers, especially Erbach, probably impacted me the most because freshman year I wasn’t even in Newspaper but I had him in English and it was really hard to adjust to that but he was really fun and he made it interesting. He was a jokester and he brought up the newspaper class once, and I was like “this teacher is honestly so fun, I like writing and I want to be around this teacher and the energy he has,” because he was always so supportive of his students and especially me … I’d say having a teacher like that was really inspiring … Coming to school was always a hard thing for me … I think high school helps people figure out who they want to be before they have to go into the real world.”

How has being in Newspaper impacted your high school experience? 

Mackenzie Sroka: “Newspaper, funny enough, that’s where I met my best friends. Newspaper is really what brought me out as a person. I found it Freshman year, second semester, and I was terrified but I was motivated. Everything went back to normal sophomore year and I feel like that brought me out and made me push myself. I think I became a lot more connected to my class. Every semester I feel like I’ve had someone I’ve been close to. It’s nice being in a classroom environment where I know who I’m with.” 

Lola Cassidy: “I just joined Newspaper this year but I think it’s been an extra thing that’s made my experience worthwhile.”

Zach Benton: “I’ve only been in Newspaper for a year but I think it’s opened up a path of like, I like talking about things, I like being passionate about things … I like talking to people about things and that’s essentially what Newspaper is.”

Jennifer Landa-Tolentino: “It’s definitely advanced my writing in general.”

Do you plan to pursue journalism after high school?

Borowski: “If engineering is long gone, in the back of my mind, I definitely do want to write. One of my main goals in life is to write a book and journalism will definitely help with that.”

Moreno: “I plan to go to a four year university, and although I don’t know for sure which one, I know I’m going to major in journalism.”

Januk: “It’s something I definitely want to look into. It’s definitely a hard field to get into without college or anything but it’s something that I’d want to try.”

Lawrence: “I didn’t think I wanted to up until this year. Even now it’s still a little “I don’t know” because I like to write but I don’t like to write under deadlines. But after doing sectionals and getting recognition it’s kind of given me confidence I didn’t know needed. It’s like “if you guys think I’m good and you guys think I have good ideas, why not try it out?”

Sroka: “I don’t. I plan to go into nursing. I think it was a debate for a minute, but I decided against it. I think if anything I’ll continue with photography in some way but I don’t think I’ll write again.”

Cassidy: “I do not.”

Benton: “It’s an option but I’m most likely going to go for music.”

Landa-Tolentino: “No, just because I have a dream career that doesn’t involve journalism. I want to do nursing.”

What other extracurriculars are you involved in and how have they impacted your experience?

Borowski: “I’m also in theater, and theater was a huge part of my experience because I did four years, starting in Freshman year, even when everything was closed. It was great because people were locked in their houses for a year and a half and we still got to put something out there. I did theater in middle school and honestly I thought I was so bad at it but I’m like “maybe this will be different.” It was a lot of laughter, a lot of crying, a lot of stress, but it was so worth it.”

Sroka: “I have played varsity soccer since I was a freshman. I’ve grown a lot in that program as I am confident in myself and my skills. Junior year I started playing golf because of the girls on the team and the family feel that it provided.¨

Cassidy: “I play lacrosse, which anyone being on a team understands. It’s kind of like a family and you get to make new friends and see them every day. I’m also in the NHS and have gotten to volunteer and help the community.” 

Benton: “I’ve done band since middle school, that’s something I’ve done for a really long time … I didn’t really think about any of these things, during high school to be honest.”

How are you feeling about college?

Moreno: “I feel terrible about it, personally. I feel extremely overwhelmed and right now it kind of feels like a lot of people are really sure of where they’re going or they have no idea and I’m somewhere in the middle where like, I know what I want to do but actually committing to a plan and a school; there’s a lot of doubts and uncertainty and it’s scary being in a new place with new people and on my own for the first time, but I’m really excited too.”

Januk: “My plan is to move to St. Louis, Missouri, and I plan to put myself through school there … Moving is probably my option right now, I don’t plan on going to school right away, I plan to take a gap year.” 

Lawrence: “I feel pretty ready. Until Senior year I was always like “I got time, I got time,” but now that it’s actually time to think about it … I’ve always known I want to go to MCC, but I actually have to figure out where I want to go from there.”

Landa-Tolentino: “I’m actually pretty excited and ready. I think I’m gonna do two years at MCC and then Loyola after.”

Are you happy with how high school shaped up? 

Borowski: “I think so. It started so weirdly and I think it really shaped who I am now. I’m so used to sh*t hitting me in the face. The journey was long and rigorous, but I think coming out of it I’ve achieved so much that I’m just like, ‘Okay. I can finally be proud of myself,’ because looking back I’m like ‘I did a f— ton.’”

Moreno: “Yeah, I’m happy with how my high school career went. I think the whole point of high school is to make mistakes and try things out and figure out who you are, or at least start to, and I think throughout my time in high school that’s exactly what I did.”

Januk: “Yeah. I feel like people are prone to regretting their high school experience but like, you’re a kid, you’re learning how to live and be yourself and you don’t even fully know who you are yet. I think it shaped me the best it could and it went the best it could and it’s not the end of the world if something went wrong.”

Lawrence: “I’d say I’m definitely satisfied with my high school experience. I’ve learned what I wanted to learn and seen what I wanted to see. I feel more confident in my work and who I am and what I bring to the table so I think that school was very helpful.” 

Sroka: “I think that high school is very challenging, and I think if my senior year wasn’t ending with the friends I have now, I wouldn’t have been, but I love where I am now with my friends and who I’ve become and so I think that I am.”

Cassidy: “Yeah, I think so. I think I ended up exactly where I wanted to be and with great friends.”

Benton: “Yeah. Especially senior year, senior year has been really good. I’m very happy with all of the experiences I’ve gained in high school. Some of it was really rough but it helped me become a better person.”

Landa-Tolentino: “Yeah I think so. I think it made me a better person in general.”

Whether they have been on the staff for a year or four years, and whether they will be journalists, or nurses, or studying aviation in the future, their impact here at the McHenry Messenger will be felt for years to come.

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