Writing has always been something I'm drawn to. Creating something powerful, impactful and special makes all the difference to an author when sitting down to tell someone's story. Sharing the lives of others, the people who don't have a voice, has struck a special cord with me and has motivated me to pursue it.
I was initially shut down by my co-editors about promoting a donation link for a student. Lexie Quinata is a sophomore with Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumors (pPNET) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) that underwent a full tumor resection and mouth reconstruction surgery in October. I truly felt that her story needed to be shared, so I got in contact with her and her family while they were in the hospital and wrote an article telling her story and diagnosis while simultaneously getting donations. I was really glad I wrote this article despite what my other editors said, Lexie's mom said she was excited to be in the school paper.
Published on Vistanow.org on Nov. 1, 2017.
Sophomore Lexie Quinata is a bright face in the halls of Vista. She is an avid basketball player and video gamer, with an interest in fashion designing. Quinata enjoys watching Cake Boss, eating tacos, coloring and playing with her dogs.
“I got to know Lexie when I was in Peer Intern last year, we clicked so well,” Senior Averi Dyer said. “She would do anything for you and is so selfless. She likes drawing other people’s pictures and making them jewelry.”
Even though Quinata keeps a bold smile, she has had a difficult past, with an upcoming challenge. Quinata was diagnosed at 22 months with cancer that has returned several times throughout her life.
Quinata is diagnosed with Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumors (pPNET) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). pPNET is a cancer that forms in bone or soft tissue. COPD is a disease that affects the airflow to the lungs. Quinata obtained this through the years of radiation on her lungs.
On Oct. 23, Quinata underwent an extensive surgery to extract a recurrent tumor. Unfortunately, Quinata’s insurance doesn’t cover her recent removal and reconstruction surgery so Quinata’s family is reaching out to the community for help and strength throughout the surgical and recovery process.
“Lexie is [a] very loving person and always in high spirits. She loves binging at school and I will say [it] is the first school she ever felt that way,” Quinata’s mom, Laura Yanez said. “No matter what, Lexie always has a big smile on her face.”
Quinata will be out of school for several months, but still in high hopes, she wants the community to know that she loves Vista.
In MV Media, staff members are assigned beats about clubs, academics and sports. Below I've included my best story that went in the 2017 Aerie yearbook. It is about a student who followed his dream of playing baseball at the Air Force Academy.
Published in the 2017 Aerie Yearbook.
Cole Blatchford, 12, has been an avid baseball player as long as he can remember. Not only is Blatchford a passionate player, but he is eager to show his pride for the Chicago Cubs. Blatchford attended the World Series this past fall to show his support for the Cubs and experience the once in a lifetime opportunity. “It was a special atmosphere [because] I have liked the Cubs as long as I can remember,” Blatchford said.
Also this past fall, Blatchford decided to further his baseball and education career. He is verbally committed to play baseball and serve at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. This summer, Blatchford will begin his basic training. During basic training, new students have their physical and mental abilities put to the test in an eight and a half week long excursion. On top of training to be an officer, Blatchford will always be busy due to rigorous baseball training and academic classes. “It will be more difficult than if I went to a different college because there won't be as much free time for the activities I would like to do,” Blatchford said. Blatchford not only raved about the Division I baseball program at Air Force but the opportunities the school provides him. “It has a lot of benefits outside of baseball like inexpensive college, becoming an officer and having a job right out of college.”
Blatchford proved himself worthy of a Division I bound commitment early in his life. In his high school baseball career, Blatchford impressed coaches quickly; he swung Varsity his freshman year and continued the following three seasons on Varsity. “I probably knew since I was in middle school it was something I really wanted to pursue in my future,” Blatchford said. Representing your high school is an important part of playing high school sports. This comes hand-in-hand with the important friendships with students who value the similar things. “It has helped me meet a lot of great people and create friendships,” Blatchford said. Blatchford has shown exemplary qualities on the baseball field and with his teammates and coaches. “Playing with Cole and being his friend has been a blessing. He is one of the kindest and most diligent kids I know,” Daniel Cook, 12, said. “He is always there for you as a friend and teammate.”
Blachford created a legacy of being a determined athlete and inspiring friend at Vista, no doubt it will carry on into his future playing baseball and being an officer at the US Air Force.
Wish Week is a very special time at Mountain Vista. This year, I decided to take the lead on organizing MV Media's role. I also decided to do an all-inclusive Wish Week mini newsmagazine. This story is important to me and the student body, it introduces deeper information into Gabby (our Wish Kid) and her diagnosis. I felt like a true journalist when writing this. I drove an hour to meet Gabby and her family, got over 45 minutes of interviews and had to research more about her diagnosis to write a correct article. It was inspiring and empowering to be apart of a special moment at Vista and with Gabby.
Published in the third issue of the Eagle Eye, our newsmagazine, on Feb. 2, 2018.
“You better be aware of my sassiness, I’m always sassy,” Gabby, the 2018 Wish Kid, said. Gabby is an 8-year-old who truly is the queen of sass. She was diagnosed with Pre-B-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with IMP 21 gene on July 26, 2016.
The reason Gabby’s diagnosis is unique is because of her 21st chromosome. The chromosome produces leukemia and is typically found in kids with Downs Syndrome, making her situation very rare. Only two percent of kids with leukemia in the world that have the same diagnosis as Gabby.
Gabby’s wish is to be famous. “Just so you know, this wasn’t her first idea. She wanted a monkey,” Gabby’s dad, Jon, said. “So her wish is to be famous and to throw a big epic bash to do all the things famous people do. It didn’t surprise us at all, that’s just who she is.”
Part of her wish came true recently, when she met the band Imagine Dragons. While performing at the Pepsi Center, the band brought Gabby on stage and helped her hand out autographs. “I gave people my autographs at the concert and I saw this lady crying so I gave her another,” Gabby said. “So if you’re sad and you find my picture, you can look to me.”
The concert crowd chanted Gabby’s name but she is ready for a better roar. Part of her wish is to have the student body chant her name. “She’s so not shy, she loves attention, I think it’s perfect for her. She loves owning a room,” Jen said.
Although Gabby is the most upbeat eight year old, she has had a difficult past year and a half. After being diagnosed, Gabby and her family of seven practically lived at the hospital. “I think we just do things big now. The first year we asked, ‘what if she doesn't have a Christmas ever again?’ So we made an amazing Christmas. We asked, ‘what if she doesn’t have another birthday?’ So we had an amazing birthday. That’s how you think at first,” Jen said.
A year and a half filled with struggling took its toll on Gabby and her family. “I think her strength is [that] she’s not afraid. She fights through her fear because she doesn’t want us to see that she’s struggling,” Jen said. Without hesitation, Gabby said the only thing that helps her get through her chemotherapy treatments is God.
Gabby’s parents are the biggest support system while she’s been in and out of the hospital for the entirety of her treatment. For adults, putting on a brave face is not so easy when cancer surges through a child. “As a father I want to be able to fix it and I can’t, you know,” Jon said. “I’m supposed to be the guy that can fix anything and that was one of my biggest struggles. I couldn’t fix it.”
Gabby has kept a brave face throughout her treatment which was installing a port. It is a small piece of plastic that is inserted just under the skin that is connected to a vein. Gabby’s chemotherapy medication is injected through a needle that fits inside the port. “My sister asked to feel my port, she said it felt gross and she didn’t know that it hurt my feelings, so my mom and dad got tattoos that has the same scar and dots as my port,” Gabby said. Her parents proudly showed off their matching tattoos on the left side of their chests.
Gabby is currently fighting off a parasite that brings her a lot of fear. After being sick for over a month, her sister’s high school volleyball team dedicated a game to her. “When we took her to that game, she was motivated, she saw how many people loved her and were supporting her,” Jen said. “She came home and that whole event changed her. My hope is that [Wish Week] will give her another push to the end of her Chemo.”
Vista is known for its spirit and sense of community when it comes to Wish Week. Last year, Vista topped the charts when it came to donations and vibrancy, granting 5-year-old Kenyan’s wish along with 17 others. “I love Kenyan, he’s a good kid,” Gabby exclaimed. Gabby hopes that this year the Vista community will stop at nothing to make it the best year yet.
Gabby is a generous and thoughtful 8-year-old. She is always willing to make others feel better, even in her own time of struggle. One of Gabby’s biggest concerns was whether or not her hair would fall out. Even though her treatment didn’t make her hair fall out, she turned her fear into something bigger than herself. “She made the decision to shave her head. She wanted the other kids in the hospital with hair missing, to feel beautiful and to know that they could be beautiful just like her,” Jon said. “Those are her words not ours.” Gabby’s family shaved their heads alongside her to symbolize that beauty is not determined by what’s on the outside.
As all stars do, Gabby is getting a personal dressing room at Vista when she makes her debut. She asked for her famous red lipstick to be abundant. “There’s not a day I could go out without red lipstick, except for the school days,” Gabby said. Gabby started wearing the red lipstick after she got diagnosed.
The upcoming Wish Week brings a lot of excitement and unification to the student body with the anticipation of meeting Gabby. Wish Week not only brings unique children into the Vista community, it simultaneously unifies the student body. “Wish week is so many things, but at the end, what makes Wish Week most special is that it brings everyone together,” Student Leadership adviser Lindsey Jaffe said. “I think in a high school it is hard for everyone to feel included and involved. The fact that everyone gets to be a part of Wish Week is awesome.”
Although Gabby has had a demanding childhood, she is as exuberant as any 8-year-old. She enjoys watching TV, doing ballet and had a temporary crush on Justin Bieber. She never lets her diagnosis get in the way of being sassy. “I was just a girl getting through hard stuff,” Gabby said.
In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Wish Week, Gabby can’t wait to be famous. “I’m excited for the people there,” she said. Vista is ready for you Gabby.