Senior Column: Executive editor reflects on journey, looks to future


Kalyani Rao

The picture above illustrates a graphic compilation of different photos of Kalyani Rao throughout her senior year. Graduation this year will take place at 7 p.m. on May 25 at the the Ford Center of The Star in Frisco. “If I never joined the newspaper, I don’t know who I would be today,” Rao said. “I hope the next generation of ENO staff will be able to inspire readers as much as we have this year.”

In two weeks, I’ll walk through the halls of Prosper High School for the last time. It’s hard to believe I spent four years of my life here, yet I can remember all of the things that happened during that time. I still remember, in my freshman year, staying at school until 1 a.m. for a debate tournament. We sat in the hallways, and the lights kept turning off. I brought sushi in my lunchbox that leaked everywhere, and I painted in my sketchbook while my teammates did similar things to pass the time between events. I remember the sound of tinny notes from a mobile piano game radiating from a phone.

After the tournament, it felt like I knew the school. Seeing normally brightly lit and loud hallways turned dark and quiet does something to humanize the place. After that, the time passed quickly.

I always moved around growing up. I never spent more than a few years at a school before moving again. Irma Rangel, a girls magnet school in Dallas, was the only school that I really liked. I spent one year there, with a close circle of friends, before leaving Dallas and moving to Prosper. Starting sixth grade at Reynolds Middle School pushed me into an environment different than any I had experienced previously. Dallas was a multi-ethnic, diverse area with people of many different income levels and experiences. Although Prosper has changed a lot since 2016, when I moved here, it felt like I was alone in a sea of upper middle class, Christian students, who were mostly white.

In my first few years here, I was quiet, and I was bored. I found the academic side of school easy, and my only real extracurricular was playing the violin for the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, which didn’t involve Reynolds at all. I had nothing to tie me to Prosper, and all I wished for was to move back to Dallas.

When I got to Prosper High School, that dream had been mostly dashed. I had been in Prosper for three years, and there was no sign of me moving back to Dallas.

Joining Eagle Nation Online

Sophomore year was when it really started to change: I joined Eagle Nation Online. I had never written for a school newspaper – Reynolds either didn’t have one, or I never knew it existed. There was only yearbook, and I didn’t like photography as much as I did writing. To join ENO you needed to take Journalism I, but I actually didn’t take the class. I emailed our adviser, Lisa Roskens, and I told her how much I felt like the newspaper would be right for me, and she agreed.

My first year, I was intimidated and nervous. Most of the members of the team were older, and they were confident, outspoken and kind. Writing articles brought me a kind of joy that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, though, and the Editor in Chief during my first year, Grace Williamson, made me realize the importance of student leaders who can guide inexperienced ones, just like she did when I was there. By junior year, I was assistant editor of the opinion section. I became fast friends with members of the team, and was sorry to see them go at the end of each year. I grew tremendously as a person in the two years I spent interviewing people and advocating to tell stories of those who needed theirs to be told. By the middle of junior year, I knew that I needed to be editor in chief, to give back to the team and help encourage others the way I was encouraged back when I first joined.

Senior year tested me. Editor-in-Chief of ENO was the biggest leadership position I had ever taken, and sometimes it felt like the editorial board and I were alone, due to all of the seniors leaving last year, who made up more than half of the team. It was a huge adjustment, but I think we did alright. We’ve won awards, as individual staff members and as a team, and I’m confident that the next generation of leaders will do great things next year.

Looking to the future

I’m ecstatic to become a freshman at Rice University next year on an academic scholarship. I had always hoped to leave Texas for college, but I know that Rice will be right for me. I’m going to major in History, and I’m not sure of my minor, but I’m in between Museums and Cultural Heritage,Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Transnational Asian Studies. I might double major in anthropology, depending on how many archeology classes I’m able to take.

I don’t feel 18, for some reason. In my mind, I’m still that awkward middle schooler wandering the halls of Reynolds and hiding under the bleachers with friends instead of walking the mile. I’m about to enter a new stage of my life, and I’m scared. But, I know it’ll be good for me.

The most important advice I have to give is to break free from your comfort zone. Whether you think you’re not talented enough to write articles, or that you’re not a good enough photographer to make slideshows, or that you’re just not a people person, you can do it. You are good enough. Talent can’t trump hard work, and if you work hard enough, you can do anything you put your mind to. It sounds like a platitude, but it’s true. I did it.

I wouldn’t have gotten into Rice without my achievements from my time working on the newspaper. ENO allowed me to make friends, get out of my comfort zone, and write articles that I’ll be proud of forever. If I never joined the newspaper, I don’t know who I would be today. I hope the next generation of ENO staff will be able to inspire readers as much as we have this year.

Signing off,