Our freshman-year journalism class melted. But we’ve refrozen — together.
BY MATTHEW DORON ’23, GRACIE HELFRICH ’23, JAMES UNDERWOOD ’23 AND CARLY WITT ’23
The times were good; the living was easy. As freshmen enrolled in Journalism I (a semester-long prerequisite course to joining Arlingtonian as a staff writer), the four of us studied hard and excitedly learned the skills needed to be a successful student journalist. We also, slowly but surely, built a community within the newsroom, bouncing ideas off each other, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and forming bonds as classmates and later as friends. We were brought together by our interest in journalism and our shared goal of joining Arlingtonian.
When the semester ended and we returned to the newsroom in the new year for Journalism II, our excitement for joining Arlingtonian only grew. The big project in Journalism II is the “spring supplement,” a special issue of Arlingtonian put together by that class that serves as practice and preparation for the real deal.
We were still getting used to dating our worksheets “2020” when, five days into the semester, our excitement was put on hold. The longtime adviser of Arlingtonian disappeared. One day she was there; the next she wasn’t. The administration left us in the dark about what was going on, but it was clear that whatever had happened was sudden and unexpected.
We were the collateral damage. For a while, a rotating cast of substitute teachers greeted us 3rd period with more or less the same line: “There aren’t any lesson plans here. You’re not working on anything in this class? I guess you guys can just have a study hall, then.” It was hardly an environment that nurtured excitement for journalism.
One day, after a week or two of “Journalism II: Study Hall,” we were greeted by a more permanent teacher who introduced herself as Ms. Mollica. We weren’t instantly back on track, but soon we were finally starting to rebuild the community and rhythm we once had as that year’s rising cohort of Arlingtonian staff writers. We held frequent brainstorms for the spring supplement, with each of us preparing our articles and honing our newsgathering skills.
The part of the supplement we were most excited about was a class-wide ice cream review. There was nothing particularly novel about what we had planned; we were just going to taste ice cream and rate it. When review day came, Ms. Mollica brought in the goods and we got to work. We tasted each flavor carefully, taking the occasionally palate cleanser and recording comically detailed taste notes in a Google Doc.
That was Feb. 19, 2020. Within a couple weeks, school closed due to some virus from the other side of the world. Once again, our Journalism II experience was disrupted. The sudden change in teacher-adviser was one thing; school closing halfway through the semester only accentuated the weirdness and incompleteness of our Journalims II experience. It was a double whammy if there ever was one. Needless to say, we never finished our spring supplement.
As seniors now, we are the first cohort of Arlingtonian journalists who never truly knew the pre-COVID, pre-Mollica Arlingtonian, aside from the glimpses we got in our first semester of freshman year. Now, we’re reaching the finish line. Despite the circumstances, we have grown together as classmates and as journalists. And thanks to the oh-so-hard work of Ms. Mollica and the incredible Arlingtonian staff members in the graduating classes above us, Arlingtonian has rebuilt itself anew, like a phoenix risen from the ashes.
Or, to use a more suitable (and more modest) similie, like melted ice cream that’s been refrozen. Yes, we melted. But we’ve reformed and refrozen in an even stronger form, bringing us closer together. In this spirit, and to celebrate our four years together as student journalists, we decided earlier this month to taste-test half a dozen ice cream flavors and brands, just like we did three years ago.
Spending one of the final nights of high school eating ice cream at the upstairs cafe of Market District perfectly encapsulates the bond we have shared the past four years. It was seemingly just the four of us, but in reality we were surrounded by memories. Despite breaking five spoons in the process, we determined that the Jeni’s chocolate blackout cake is fudgy and moose-like, that the Tillamook chocolate chip cookie dough tastes similar to gelato, the Johnson’s cookies and cream has a sludgy texture and the Giant Eagle “cherry on top” flavor was not necessarily the cherry on top of our tasting.