I have always had a passion for writing. However, it wasn’t until last year, my junior year of high school, that I decided to write for my high school’s newspaper: The Hilltop Beacon. Little did I know then what I had gotten myself into.

I signed up to write for the magazine section and was added to a group chat on text. For each issue, there would be a mass-text sent out with a list of articles to claim. The battle for these articles was more intense than on an episode of Chopped.

I immediately felt like a novice on an all-star episode. I remember sitting at my desk in my room like a Chopped contestant in the kitchen. One that had just opened his or her basket to find outlandish ingredients—completely hopeless and disappointed after I did not receive an article topic. I knew I needed to come up with an out-of-the-basket idea in order for it to be approved.
Emma Fein

I pitched the idea to my editor to write about açaí bowls—are they a superfood or super hype? I did research on the origin of açaí, interviewed a local açaí bowl place, and did a how-to on making one at home. I discovered the creativity behind food writing, and even better, the array of açaí photos I already had because as we know, the phone eats first.

Emma Fein

I soon realized that my photography could be a key component to all my food writing. When mixed in just right: the bright, colorful, aesthetically-pleasing photos enhanced my articles.

I experimented in my free time with food photography and learned the proper composition and lighting as well. I would make ice cream sandwiches and stack them to have the warm cookies melt the cold ice cream. The smell in my house would have my whole family running downstairs faster than the Museum of Ice Cream tickets sold out.

Now, in my senior year of high school, I am co-photo section editor of my school newspaper. It feels good to be on the other side of things and take on a leadership role. I get to show the lowerclassmen at my school about my passions and hope that they either already have or develop them too.

Emma Fein

Beyond food writing, my high school newspaper has prepared me to write for Spoon University through its similar structure. They both have a similar editing process, in the sense that you work with the editor in order to cook up your idea, but then you write independently. In both cases, you send it back to the editor in order for he or she to give you any feedback or edits they may have.

Now, I get to sit in the Beacon Office, and edit people's photos while giving them advice. Maybe, one day, I will be an editor of Spoon University as well. One day. 

The secret ingredient behind all of this was my independent study—writing project and teacher. This program allows students at my high school to sign up for a free period once a week with an English teacher and conduct a study.

My first year I did a spin off of the well-known Humans of New York blog. Here, I discovered my love for photojournalism and it allowed me to take off. Then, after seeing how my food writing and photography was a success in the newspaper, my teacher suggested that this be my topic for the year. My teacher always wanted my study to be something I loved, not loathed, and when it comes to food, I am always hungry for more. 

Emma Fein

So, a special shout out— or"brownie points"—to my Independent Study mentor and all the editors of the Hilltop Beacon because that’s what guided me to be where I am today: a writer for the high school chapter of Spoon University. If you would have told me this a few years ago, I would have just asked you what type of brownies you liked. Now, I would ask you to take pictures, and write an article about them.