Shutdown. Pandemic. Snowstorm. Technology. Zooms. Masks. Protests. Expansion. Mental Health. Personal Battles. These are the issues our warriors of the Student Media Class of 2021 faced head-on during their final year of high school.

Even before the school year started, these students had been part of our rapidly growing media program and award-winning projects — and then COVID happened. Faced with a cancelled end to Junior year and an uncertain Senior year, they rallied to win more awards, cover more issues, inform a community hungry for information, and care for others at an incredible level.

Every one of these students in Talon and Broadcasting played a part in many one or many stories, reports, newscasts, sportscasts, television shows, podcasts, radio programs, videos, events, live streams, TV channels, puppet shows, galleries, Yearbooks, features, recaps, highlights, PSAs, and so much more. You might not be familiar with all their names, all their faces, or all their products but every one has had an impact on our program.

In alphabetical order, these are the Warriors of the Student Media Class of 2021 and why we’ll miss them.

Campbell Choate
Tenacious, talented and more competitive than her kind smile would have you believe, Campbell truly helped elevate both Talon and Sports Network with her super dual skills of creating complete stories on the page or the screen. Truly one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had on our team, it was not surprising to see her writing a sports article in the morning, hosting Beyond the Sidelines during TCTV, and filming highlights or a sports news package. We will miss her determination and dedication to covering our athletes and her friendship and assistance to everyone in all our programs.

Aleena Davis
Aleena has led Talon this year as Editor-in-Chief with a huge heart and strong emphasis on kindness. Though the past year and a half has been some of the most difficult for all of our students, she has continued to persevere through her own challenges and helped others overcome their obstacles. This year, she strengthened her confidence by working with in-person and remote learners even before the school year began, and by contributing to other projects like our podcasts. Meanwhile, she published hundreds of articles and was a reliable force for Talon, TCTV and The Creek Yearbook. Depending on the date and time, she could be writing, editing, podcasting, taking photos, designing, or helping make difficult decisions — but no matter what, she’d do it with skill.

Lauren Graham
Lauren has a unique feature within Talon; she’s the longest serving member of our student staff. It has been a joy to watch her grow from her freshman year (which she was pulled into Talon after Fall semester) to now seeing her fly on to her future. In every year, Lauren has used her writing, editing, design, and photography skills to make a true and noticeable impact on Talon and Yearbook, just like we’d been told she would. Even during middle school, Lauren was known as a student that could do the work of three others (hence the LG3 nickname we continued in high school) and it shows. From award-winning photography, incredible designs, in-depth reporting, and nearly the highest amount of Talon stories ever published by a single reporter, LG3 has been a titanic force in our programs. 

Peyton Lea
In both Yearbook and Talon, especially as the design editor for our Art and Literature magazine, Peyton’s eye for design has been one of our biggest assets. Her ability to create pages and themes that match content, engage the eye, and highlight great writing and photography absolutely increased the beauty and utility of our print and digital products. This year, as we competed with the Art and Literature Magazine for the first time during our national convention, we beat out schools with decades of experience and place 8th nationally with this years’ magazine. A huge portion of that win goes to the designs worked on by our team, including Peyton. We’ll miss her. 

Kat McDonald-Wilson
Kat has made her mark as our Talon Fine Arts Editor this year and the copy editor for our Art and Literature magazine for this award-winning year. Kat’s eye for creativity is matched by her own ability to write captivating stories and get the behind the scenes details on complex productions. Though she was remote for this school year, her contributions reached across Zoom calls and Slack messages into some of our biggest successes this year. We’ll miss seeing her in the classroom, on the Zooms and on stage.

Sydney Shoemaker
As our Talon Features Editor, Sydney found interesting stories — by finding interesting people. Her smile and spirit connected her with dozens of Students With Style and many friendly Falcons.  You could guarantee that she’d appear with a great outfit of her own, write terrific stories, and share thoughtful feedback to help us make the right decisions for Talon. We’ll miss her tremendously large heart every day.

Ainsley Beers
A little more than six years ago, my coworker showed me a short film made by her daughter. To think that by the time that same kid would graduate that she’d be expanding our TCTV Fine Arts coverage, developing a successful comedy/skill showcase Talent Show, editing feature-length videos of theatre productions and still having the ability to create expert level short videos sought after by brides and band directors and everyone in between. Her resume is long and full of fantastic work, but it’s her keen eye for photography, rhythmic ability to edit, and truly inspirational creativity that are some of her many notable features. Watching her grow into a confident young woman has been fantastic, but every once in a while, she still shows that childlike spark of inspiration that’s impressed me for years. “Uncle” Janda will miss you.

Ethan Brann
Ethan was only with us in TCTV for a short season, but immediately made an impact teaching other brand-new broadcasters how to film, edit and be creative. Throughout all that time, he brought a smile and infectious energy to the room or the Zoom and had great insight into how to improve our program. If only we had more time together!

Reegan Brewer
When Reegan started with TCTV, the pairing of her and Brooke Dearing were nicknamed “The Rookies.” After establishing a catch phrase (“Catch Ya Later”) and being in dozens of videos over the year, they’d become kind of a pair that could be counted on to do great work and have fun doing it. That, of course, would be more than enough for us, but it was only the beginning. Reegan became one of the Announcements producers, putting together most of the daily TCTV you’ve seen. Additionally, she was the go-to person for technical direction during newscasts, could edit anything, would perform in skits, and was friends with everyone. If you only knew her from her on-screen work, you’ll note a huge hole in the future. If you could know behind the scenes, you’d see a gap twice as large.

Sam Clapp
Sam started with us during his Senior year but became part of the team extremely quickly, anchoring newscasts, starring in videos, creating rap parodies (R.I.P. Lil Germ X), and developing some of the most hilarious characters in this year’s TCTV stable. Covid Calvin, Dress Code Daniel, Library Leroy — okay, maybe he has a thing for alliteration, but these were fun, innovative ways to tell information the community needed to know in far more interesting ways. We’ll miss his spark of energy and willingness to do whatever it takes to make things compelling.

Brooke Dearing
Brooke Dearing is the kindest person in Broadcasting, but she was also the boss this year. The fact that many of our announcement shows, special projects, upcoming Senior Documentary, and, frankly, much of the work done in Broadcasting even got done is because she has grown into the best kind of leader: one you want to work for. She started as part of “The Rookies” but quickly expanded her resume, anchoring newscasts, editing reports, writing, and eventually becoming the person that all other Broadcasters have to answer to. That type of role is often difficult, but Brooke handled it exceptionally well. Like her other “rookie,” the lack of her presence next year will be a tremendous hole to fill, if we can fill it at all.

Erin Demel
Erin has been a part of our Broadcasting program for the past three years and has done a little of everything. She’s filmed and edited sports highlights this year, called Volleyball games as a color commentator, helped with live productions, been on podcasts and radio shows, and contributed to a lot of the behind the scenes information gathering needed to set up sports coverage. So, yes, a lot of sports — but also a lot of female sports. In a professional world that often gets focused on the male-dominated sports, Erin has continued to help us develop a program that highlights all sports teams; male and female. 

Chase Dykema
Chase has been part of our sports team nearly since it started. He’s been on podcasts and radio shows, hosted our sports television programs and newscasts, edited highlights and intros and literally built part of our radio studio. Like, with wood. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year as we were working to create safe spaces to work within COVID restrictions, Chase designed, fabricated, built and installed a protective shield for our radio studio so students could safely use the equipment. That one piece helped us create nearly 50 hours of radio content this year, and his insight on football and other sports was featured on many of those.

Lauren Miller
Lauren Miller came to school three days this year, but she’s one of the most important producers to TCFM. Wait, let us explain. Lauren was a remote student this year, yet instead of letting the lack of equipment or even her inexperience as a first-year TCTV student stop her from creating content, she built a whole new podcast program recorded via Zoom and edited on her own home computer after teaching herself audio editing software. We are immensely proud of the fact that she took the initiative to develop her own project and do so with incredible consistency and collaboration. 

Christine Park
Similarly, Christine was another of our remote Broadcast students that started during her Senior year. However, she was able to develop and produce videos even from afar, helped with our swimming coverage, created an entire 4 hour playlist of Korean Pop for TCFM and gave us something that was extremely useful this year: perspective. Christine was able to help us develop and test systems for sending and receiving videos outside our school server system as well as give feedback on our programs and productions via an “outsiders” view. We often reflect on our own work in the classroom, but having Christine available to see things from the viewers’ perspective helped with live productions and our traditional pieces. We’re glad that we won’t have Zoom Broadcast calls anymore, but we will miss one thing: Christine’s smile and helpfulness on the other end.

Korey Sayre
Korey was a new Broadcast student in his Senior year, but he quickly shined not only as an on-camera star in Talent Show, newscasts, and in videos — he also was an extremely talented broadcast writer behind the scenes. Korey often wrote for our newscasts and produced professional level writing even on his first show. His flexibility to be silly or serious, skilled in writing or playing Minecraft, and always giving his all to whatever project he worked on (including learning to be a Sky Dancer) are all features that made him a stand out this year.

Wil Stephenson
Wil was a workhorse this year, producing, editing, hosting, or commentating our two weekly sports programs, The Undefeated radio show/podcast and Beyond the Sidelines television show. Meanwhile, he also commentated (when we could) on varsity Football games, helped encourage younger sports producers and gave them opportunities to truly learn by doing. His intense sports knowledge made him a subject matter expert, but not the singular voice during any debate. Wil’s best work this year was being a collaborative and flexible Sports Network editor that could find ways to make sure many people were involved. We’ll miss that “teamwork” aspect Wil brought to organizing productions almost as much as his reliable sports analysis .

Parker Sutliff
Warrior is the perfect word for Parker Sutliff. In every project he worked on, he battled technical hurdles, deadlines, or just the scope of the work. Yet, in every case, he was able to improve upon the circumstances and create something stunning, powerful, and important. As another remote student, often there were challenges of just having the right equipment, but Parker discovered ways to create compelling content using tools we’d never thought of using. When those pieces also turned out to be excellent pieces for education and resonated with emotions, it showed his talent to create true connections via videos. Keep fighting.

Anna White
She’s just so nice, guys. It’s one of her best personal qualities. But her professional level photography, design, announcing, and news anchoring were also stand out qualities on-screen or in print this year. Joining TCTV and Yearbook in her Senior year, she excelled in both programs by using those design skills and quick learning ability to gain new skills, remix them with her own abilities, and light up the screen or page with stunning work. Anna was always willing to help, filming, editing, writing, or jumping into a scene with a moment’s notice. And she’s just so nice, guys. Her smile and friendly attitude was helpful to all our teams on the hard days, just as her skill and creativity was visible to all who saw her work.

Imani Wilson
The maestro of this year’s TCFM, a behind-the-scenes force for news and sports productions, a great writer and (finally!) on-air within The Armchair Detectives, Imani has been part of Broadcasting, Talon and our media program, helping out in so many ways. This year, especially, she found a stronger voice to help others, developed ways to serve our listeners in other parts of the world, and empowered people to share their voices with our radio programming. This is the year that TCFM began to really feel like a station with it’s own “voice,” and Imani was a key member of making that happen.

By Timber Creek Talon

The Timber Creek Talon is the student news service for Timber Creek High School in Keller Independent School District.