Unlike most high school seniors, I will forgo my last semester of high school to enter Syracuse University early, and maybe more importantly, I know what I want to major in.
I have the Altoona Mirror to thank for both.
I was chosen from a group of Altoona Area High School students last spring to spend the last two hours of each school day at the Mirror.
When I started at the Mirror in August, I had the opportunity to write stories each day, which led me to find that the only career I could see myself in was journalism.
I never expected that this chance would propel me forward to leaving high school early and be fortunate enough to be accepted into one of the top communications schools in the country.
I've worked on an array of stories, anything from a local teen being offered a place with the New York City Ballet to the damage de-icing salt can have on trees.
The story that stands out the most was about a young boy, Ryder McDermitt, who has battled cancer since he was a baby.
As a freshman enrolled in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse, I will attend classes to prepare me for a career in the newspaper or online journalism field.
The experience at the Altoona Mirror has laid the foundation for this preparation.
I never appreciated the work that must be completed before a story can be printed. A tip for anyone who has been contacted for an interview by a reporter: Be timely with your response!
I never realized how one call that isn't returned could affect the entire perspective of a story.
While working at the Mirror, I never felt any less important than anyone else, despite being just a high school student.
Throughout my time at the Mirror, the entire staff, especially News Editor Margaret Moses, was more than accepting of me and my limited writing experience.
Margaret never treated a question I had as absurd, even though many were. I can't express how grateful I am for each story I was given.
One of my reservations before I started at the Mirror was about the repetitive nature of the work involved in journalism. However, I soon realized that each story is unique and must be handled differently.
After working here that reservation has completely disappeared. Two reporters could pursue the same story but write it from a completely different perspective.
The newsroom at the Altoona Mirror has been the best classroom experience I've had. The lessons I've learned at the Mirror are irreplaceable.
When I interviewed for the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse in early December, I was told that my time at the Mirror was a major factor of my resume.
My time here, though, was more than just a resume booster. It served not only as a break from the monotony of the school day but as a glance into the "real world."
This experience has taught me that a newspaper doesn't just simply convey news, it impacts lives.
Editor's note: Becca Milliron was a community service student from Altoona Area High School. She wrote nearly three dozen stories during her tenure with the Mirror. We wish her the best of luck in her college career and beyond.