Where Are They Now: the Jaguars of Yesterday

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It wasn’t about legacy. But they left one.

The Rosette staff of the 2012-2013 class was comprised of a unique group of students that took a program and completely turned it around for the better. They created the online version of the newspaper and had students awarded and recognized for their journalistic prow. This doesn’t happen by accident, but when you put strong talent and personalities together in a newsroom.

The staff was fairly new at this time and was still trying to get a feel for what they would be accomplishing at The Rosette. They had the potential to be very successful as they moved forward framing the foundation of the newspaper.

“We got better and better every year, we were getting to know each other and figuring out how we wanted to run things,” Former Editor-in-Chief Clayton Youngman said. “We were a blossoming program. I think it was less about creating tradition and more about making sure we were always pushing ourselves and experimenting with new ways of doing things.”

One thing they experimented with was laying the groundwork for getting an online website and being able to put stories on there.

“A few of the editors came to me about wanting to start an online newspaper,” Adviser Natalie Vigdal. “I told them it was a wonderful idea and we should move forward. These students researched who we should use, found the funding and designed the website mostly on their own. I have never had a group of students take initiative quite like that.”

Once The Rosette had the first online newspaper of Mesquite ISD complete and running, things just became better from there. Within months, the Dallas Morning News selected therosettenews.com as one of the best online high school newspapers in the metroplex.

“I think the biggest impact we left on The Rosette was the online website. Our Editor-in-Chief, Clayton Youngman, and Managing Editor, Riley Roberson, worked hard to make the dream a reality,” Former Opinion Editor Jeremy Villanueva said. “We laid out the foundation of actually getting a website and stories on there, but the staffs after are the ones who truly molded the website into what it’s going to be.”

While the newspaper staffs each year continue to benefit from what the 2013 staff began, the 2013 members also gained journalistic experience during their time at The Rosette that they still use today.

The Rosette gave me the writing tools and skills needed to work in a group full of your peers,” Villanueva said. “We held each other accountable at the paper, and that prepared me well for stepping into the college newsroom.”

An adviser who required them to meet strict deadlines and run the newspaper like a professional environment, while still maintaining a student-run aspect, really the staff to build skills beyond the classroom.

“I give credit to Vigdal,” Youngman said. “The program really gave me a foundation. My senior year I got to the point where I thought I could do this as a career. I applied for an internship with the Dallas Morning News and that really opened doors for me.”

Today, Youngman is the Digital Content Producer for KTUL which is the Tulsa, Oklahoma Channel 8 news station and he is not the only student from the 2013 class who is pursuing journalism or writing in some fashion. Former Photo Editor Scott Hiney is the Sports Reporter and Multimedia Producer for the Oklahoma Daily at the University of Oklahoma, as well the Video Production Specialist for the OU School of Dance. Villanueva is the Sports Information Student Assistant for the athletic department at Sam Houston State University. Former Managing Editor Riley Roberson is a professional writing major and the International Missions Director at a nearby church.

“Now my writing process is probably a little different than that of my friends who were in the class with me,” Roberson said. “I major in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, and I work as the international missions director at a church just east of Dallas. So when I’m writing now, it is either fiction or faith. And those differ from print journalism in a major way, one similarity that [they] have though is this: I think you write best when your passion and energy find somewhat of a balance. Sometimes you’re better off writing in the morning when you have more energy and less passion. But sometimes you’re better off writing at night when you have no energy and you’re full of passion.”

One thing all fair gentleman can agree on is that their time spent on The Rosette was valuable. It’s followed them throughout their varying pursuits within the journalism world and it has served them well. They hope to impart upon future staffs the importance of being a journalist.

“I’ve really learned that how you perceive something is directly correlated to how much you enjoy that thing or how successful you are within it,” Hiney said. “So, do what you want, but when you do something, do it well and to the best of your abilities because what we produce says everything about who we are as people.”

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