Feature Editor reflects on journalism as ‘the best thing that could have happened’

Gabriella Winans earns individual, team awards

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Khushi Patel

Senior and Executive Feature Editor Gabriella Winans walks back from the stage after receiving her medal in the state University Interscholastic League Headline Writing contest. Winans has competed for Prosper in UIL journalism invitational and official meets all four years of high school. She placed sixth at UIL State this year on May 6.

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As she walks up to the stage to receive her award, Executive Feature Editor Gabriella Winans ends her last UIL meet as a state medalist. However, her journalism career doesn’t end here, as she plans to continue writing as a Communications major at Dallas Baptist University. 

Her journey started as a freshman, when she took an elective course to pursue a favorite passion. 

“I joined journalism,” Winans said. “I loved writing and wanted to be involved in something media-based at school.”

However, Winans had not always been certain that she wanted to join the newspaper staff. After being in Journalism I and wanting to join the yearbook staff her sophomore year, the deadline passed, so Winans came into Eagle Nation Online.

“I liked ENO just because of the team aspect,” Winans said. “The actual newspaper part is fun, too, but we truly are all so close, and it feels like a second family.”

Winans said her initial goal was to earn a Best of SNO, but her plans changed after continuing to grow as a writer. 

“After about a month-and-a-half later I achieved that goal, so I only wanted to keep improving my skills so I could eventually be an editor,” Winans said. “It wasn’t about the awards anymore.”

Editor-in-Chief and senior Amanda Hare has been competing with Winans for four years. 

“Competing with Gabby is always so much fun,” Hare said. “But I especially love seeing her articles after the competition. She’s so creative and her ideas are always something I couldn’t imagine thinking of. “

Despite Winans’ achievements throughout high school, Hare said she manages to stay humble. Winans was a National Scholastic Press Association Top 10 finalist for Writer of the Year, placed first in District Feature Writing, and has 18 Best of SNO publications. She was also a Headline Writing finalist at UIL State this year. Hare said that there is not just one aspect that makes Winans an award-winning writer.

“She always comes out of competitions saying she did badly,” Hare said. “Then, she’ll place really well. She’s talented, but also just so knowledgeable.”

Seniors Amanda Hare and Gabriella Winans explore the University of Texas at Austin campus after receiving their medals as state finalists. Winans is the Executive Feature Editor and Hare is Editor-in-Chief for ENO. “UIL has taught me so much,” Winans said. “It has allowed me to grow as a journalist with the feedback I’ve received.” (Photo Courtesy of Gabriella Winans)

Winans has received recognition not only as an ENO member, but as a UIL member, as well. However, there have been a few challenges throughout her journey as a UIL competitor.

“Nearly every big UIL meet I was sick,” Winans said. “So, I missed out on some competitions because of that.” 

In January, Winans had COVID-19 and was unable to attend a UIL meet in person.

“Thankfully, I got to compete virtually from my bed,” she said. “But, it was definitely challenging to focus on the competition when I was sick.”

Lisa Roskens, adviser for Eagle Nation Online and Winans’ teacher, said Winans’ ability to weave words into stories is something that sets her apart. 

“Gabby is a fabulous journalist,” Roskens said. “She’s done a fantastic job since day one.”

Roskens said that despite having some struggles with her health, Winans managed to succeed and win awards at the state level.

“She’s done beyond amazing as an Executive Editor of Features,” Roskens said. “She’s always helping and coaching others as she improves her own work every single day.”

Winans has participated in UIL since her freshman year.

“Some of my best memories in my four years of high school have come from UIL,” Winans said. “I’ll never forget the rush I would get waiting for results to come out. I’m definitely going to miss it when I go to college.”

Winans said journalism has also helped shape her career aspirations. Winans has ambitions to become a screenwriter, but she would also like to work at a news station as a reporter or editor. She said she has also made it a personal goal to write and publish a novel.

“I don’t know where I’ll end up,” Winans said. “But, journalism has definitely helped me to narrow down what I want to do.” 

Since her incidental placement on the ENO staff, Winans said it’s somewhat “crazy” how much the team has come to mean to her.

“I’ve made amazing friends in ENO that I can see being lifelong friendships,” Winans said. “Our staff is constantly bouncing ideas off of each other, and we’ve learned to be efficient while having fun.”

Winans said that after being on the team throughout high school, she is “content” with the work she has done. She said UIL and journalism have overall helped her grow and improve over the past four years — not only as a writer — but as a person, too.

“I can happily say that now, as I prepare to graduate, I have accomplished everything that my 14-year-old self set out to do,” Winans said. “It’s funny, because looking back, I can now say that this was the best thing that could have happened to me.”