By Dan Campana
Emma Snyder’s newspaper adviser at McHenry High School calls her a “natural journalist” – it just took a little while for anyone to realize it.
Snyder didn’t get involved with adviser Dane Erbach’s newspaper class and the school paper, the McHenry Messenger, until her junior year, but she quickly made an impression even as a newbie.
“In days, I realized she would not need much catching up. Having developed her skills in our Introduction to Journalism class, Emma already possessed a solid foundation and the discipline to succeed as a staff writer,” Erbach wrote in a letter recommending Snyder for the 2021 Northern Illinois Newspaper Association High School Scholarship.
The combination of Snyder’s quickly developing reporting chops and her leadership as the paper’s editor during a pandemic-disrupted senior year earned her NINA’s $1,000 scholarship.
“I felt like I had nothing to lose. I said, ‘Why not?’” Snyder recalled of her decision to apply.
Snyder credits Erbach for encouraging and inspiring her as she ventured into the new world of reporting.
“I learned how to write better articles; do better interviews,” she said of Erbach’s influence.
What neither Snyder nor Erbach could prepare for was a global health crisis which kept students out of the classroom during most of Snyder’s time as a reporter and editor. Still, it didn’t hold her back.
“Being a student journalist during a pandemic and e-learning taught me persistence, determination and perseverance, all crucial journalistic lessons that I would have never learned … if I had not worked through these challenges,” Snyder wrote in her scholarship application.
Snyder relished the opportunity to take on any story. She showed her range with a crisp pre-pandemic report about the MCHS symphonic band’s historic first performance at the Illinois Music Education Conference in February 2020. She shifted into COVID-19 related news that culminated in April of her senior year when she wrote key stories on teacher and staff vaccinations, as well as a one-year reflection on the pandemic’s impact on the school and community.
“During the pandemic, school was really different, but writing articles that were shared with the community was just a different way of helping people,” Snyder explained.
Snyder is headed to Illinois State University where she will join the staff of the school’s legendary Daily Vidette this fall. She looks forward to writing news and features and is rightfully energized by the idea of being able to stretch her legs beyond just COVID coverage.
“I’m just excited for the hands-on learning experience” at the Vidette, Snyder added.
With her college adventure about to begin, Snyder has her goals set on working for a major publication in a big city someday. It’s not lost on Snyder that this all came together very quickly, writing in her application that becoming a journalist didn’t really dawn on her until this year – and now there’s nothing else she wants to do. “I’m just so new. I did start later in journalism,” she said. “I’m waiting to see where it takes me.”