From the editor: Billings Gazette launches series on students to highlight the good in our communities
By Darrell Ehrlick – Printed in the Billings Gazette October 10th, 2018
Like most things, I have a keen ability to see great newspaper ideas and think they are ridiculous.
Whatever the opposite of visionary is, I plead guilty. This will come as no surprise for many people who read me often.
There was that time I mocked the companies who would dare put camera to cellphone — what a ridiculously impractical idea that was. Then, there was the time I thought no one would read stories about Vietnam. Again, another big miss by me.
And yet another miss was the time when my boss in Minnesota suggested we start a series of stories that profiled high school students who were overcoming tremendous obstacles to graduate or who were giving back to their community in ways most adults would never imagine.
Pshaw. No one wants to read those stories…
More than a decade later, the Above and Beyond program is still going strong in that community. And, it has produced hundreds of good stories of high school students who have served as inspiration for the entire community.
One of the students we featured had aspirations of becoming a journalist. With some scholarship money and a lot of hard work, she went on to college — the first in her family to do so. Then, I got the privilege of hiring her as an intern, and then was blessed again to give her the first full-time job of her professional career.
It was from that story — that special highlight — that she began to believe that she could not only graduate, but go on to success, something that was hard to fathom with a father who had been in and out of prison.
Today, we’re kicking off the “Above and Beyond” series of our own. Like its predecessor in another community, we’re reaching out to high schools so that they can share their success stories. This series isn’t meant to highlight the valedictorians or the star athletes (though their accomplishments are also inspiring and worthy of praise). Instead, we’re trying to find other students whose stories might miss the limelight, but are nonetheless examples of grit, determination and inspiration.
We’re excited to present this series of students, a profile every other Wednesday through the spring. It will feature students from area high schools and communities who have overcome adversity or given back selflessly.
We are lucky to once again have sponsorship and support through MasterLube, which also partnered with us in other large projects like “YelCo 52” and the “Vietnam Voices” series. Their mission to serve the community and develop potential dovetails well with this series of stories.
Today, we begin the first in a series. We plan to try the program for two years throughout part of the school year.
So much of the news is clogged with stories of acrimony, gridlock, anger and destruction such that the world can seem hostile. Journalists keep so busy with the other news that sometimes we don’t stop and force ourselves to find the uplifting news. Granted, it may not always get the emotional knee-jerk response of some political shenanigan, but it’s vital that a community newspaper also call attention to what is good and positive.
We hope by running this series that folks will think of other stories that are worthy to be shared and celebrated. After all, we are simply a reflection of the community — and there is so much good to highlight.