“Tiana, why do you always play with boy toys? Barbies are better than Spider Man, that’s a boy movie,” said my childhood friend, Dali.

But they were not.  

Barbies were cool and all, but “boy toys” were so much more intricate. As my friend Dali’s words rang through my kindergarten mind, I remember sitting my Barbie-sized action figure down and wondering what could possibly be wrong with it, and why only boys could like cool toys. Why was it wrong for a girl to figure out how a toy transformed into a car?

As a child, I never really remember sharing a great deal in common with my peers, however this has prompted me to have become independent in my own shell, and harness the skill of leadership, through powerful ideas from personal discoveries. Although the skills I have are noticeable, how I gained them is hidden in a deep abyss of stories, adventures and hardships. A large realization many students may have when entering their last year of high school is that everyone has a story. Whether that be a personal discovery, hobbies, talents or situations that impacted them greatly. I, however, am choosing to view my life as chapters of many stories, because I would not have become the person I am today if there had been only one event that changed me. I see my development as a leader not to be delicately sculpted by the gifted hands of an artist, but rather chipped away throughout the years- uncovering a work that will strive to be successful.

Living under the roof of two type A’s, not many of my peers realize that the only constant in my life growing up, is change. My father, being a turnaround consultant turn CEO usually worked and still works out of state, I have relocated seven times, and lost count of how many schools I have attended. When you move at a young age, you look forward to meeting new people- initially coming from my small arts school of about 320 students, I only left behind one close friend. But being immersed into Minnesota at age 10, I definitely experienced a small amount of culture shock. This seems far fetched, “How could Minnesota be culture shock? It’s not like you’re from China,” is what I usually hear when I make that statement. But my statement could never more hold so much accuracy in my opinion. The constant nagging that you talk funny, the absence of arts education in my new elementary school(s), the bus rides, the below zero winters, the lack of friends. Then again, sophomore year, my family moved to Kentucky, and back to Minnesota four months later. Experiences like this I see as something that assisted in my own independence, as I had to learn for myself how to cope with these new- and very uncomfortable- situations, which in the end, actually made me more worldly.

My own conclusions and observations throughout my life have brought about life altering new ways of thinking. I have learnt that the solution to a problem constantly needs to be looked at from a unique angle, factoring in not only observations of what went wrong, but what you have individually learned from completely unrelated situations, that can relate in one way or another. When presented with a problem, you need to look beyond what you have been given to find the solution. This process may differ from my peers, as many do not see that a solution may be very far fetched, or I am told that my way of going about things is not logical.

Walking into journalism was never a plan I ever had in mind. I was an art student- I enjoyed drawing. I was a nature child- I could not go one spring day without searching up biology online or taking a trip down to the neighbors retention pond to catch frogs- and yet I have found my passion in journalism. What began as daily therapy diaries to cope with change morphed into thematic essays for honors English. My first true English teacher, Hayley Wender, was by far one of the most inspiring mentors I have had. She went against the books- teaching it her way. If she was having a bad day, she would let you know- and if it was a good day, you felt successful as hell. She sparked my inner essay writer to explore further than book essays- I wanted to find the story, I wanted to give my view.

Enter newspaper. Rachel Steil, my advisor, is another large member in prompting my success. She had faith in me as a student-after having been with me for three years she saw the same leadership aspects I had recognized within myself. Moving into newswriting was difficult, I was not super sociable and I struggled with contacting strangers- but two or three stories down the road and I found comfort in the new style. When I discovered better methods of doing things, I immediately would pass it onto a nearby staff member, and I would take lead in helping teach trying my best to articulate strategies to other students. Therefore, I earned my position as Online Editor-in-Chief, my second year on staff.

This year has been full of ups and downs, and all-arounds. Immediately I learned that our batch of students was just different than the years prior. It was not necessarily a bad thing, it just meant their priorities were different- they were not in it for the extracurricular aspect of the group. This was a hard thing to encounter, for all of my head editors. With over a hundred staff members, it was difficult to even pluck the 30-40 some odd students that would participate extracurricularly as online editors, print editors, photographers, sports editors, cartoonists and social media managers. Furthermore, there was an initial slack with articles being turned in, and jobs being left essentially unfinished.

This needed to change.

As head editors we made the decision with our advisor to alter our entire production cycle in a way that would give everyone more time to interview and write, and leave less room for errors in multimedia such as photo stories. This helped greatly. When I have the time, I also choose to simply engage with students- either they seem like good leaders, they need help, they consistently reach out to me to pass on knowledge, or they discover more efficient ways of working. I tell them they are doing well, or how they can be helped- or I even recommend them as Editor-in-Chief for next year. This positive encouragement, I have found, has helped production greatly, and has prompted numerous students to apply next year as head editors.

To me, how I function is logical- it is how I have grown up, have matured, and have used as an asset to prepare myself for college, the business world and my future. There are many stories that will always remain untold, but the end result to each individual person is a shaped personality with extraordinary traits. For me, my experiences that remain unknown to others are what have guided me in the direction of learning quick, observing, adjusting to change and leading. I feel the traits I have developed are very applicable in any situation or profession, and I hold a great amount of pride in how I have developed as a young woman. Yes, I am Tiana, the girl who preferred to learn how boy toys worked, but I like to discover, and that thirst for discovery has sculpted me into a leader, and will continue to drive my determination.


Super excited to display my portfolio here, feel free look around!