Welcome to my JOY Portfolio! I am an all around journalist interested in a focus on newswriting and investigative journalism. I serve as Editor-in-Chief of the Prospector.
Hi! My name is Ayse Eldes; I am a senior at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. I've been involved in my school's journalism program, The Prospector, since the first day of freshman year. This program has really defined my high school experience, and it will continue to define my life afterwards because of the skills and memories it has gifted me. I've learned to pour myself into work, research and communication to be a part of something bigger. As journalists, our responsibility is to record history as it unfolds, regardless of the challenges that come with that role. If you don't know where I am, try the local library or a classroom at school-- I'm most likely conducting interviews or research for an upcoming article ;)
Personal statement/Self-analytical essay
The first time I saw Maudlyne Ihejirika was on my TV screen during the 2015 Chicago protests following Laquan McDonald’s death. Not even an hour had passed since the city police released a dash-cam video showing a white police officer repeatedly shooting the black teenager. Michigan Avenue was lined on both sides: those demanding justice on one and those preparing to prevent a violent protest on the other.
Ihejirika, a pixelation on our Sanyo box TV, was on neither side, but rather standing in the middle, holding a notebook, pencil and recorder. Immediately, I became obsessed with this Sun Times reporter, reading every article, every investigative piece Ihejirika published to find how she dove to the center of her coverage.
She became my secret weapon. I began to avoid the sidelines when covering events and in-depth features for our own school newspaper. The key is to dive right to the middle of the action, forget about the awkwardness of standing out, and soon I would become undetectable as a reporter.
By seeking to stand out, I may have mastered every teen’s desire to blend in, so much so that I forgot why I stand out in the first place.
Muslim teens like myself still endure their fair share of stares, discomforting comments and unnecessary pat-downs at every airport. A couple of months after 9/11, my father’s airplane was emptied because he was the one Middle Eastern man in the seats. He waited 17 years to share this with me, but, of course, that didn’t make me feel any less of an infiltrator to my surroundings because my father was not the last to suffer the blow of that tragedy. In fact, hate crimes against Muslims returned to its post-9/11 height in 2016, two years before what is now a crucial time for Muslims to establish their role in this country. The question of how still remains: by blending in or standing out?
The answer is particular to every individual. My parents tasked me with finding my own answers, so I sought them in the richness of journalism, carried into the corners of Paul Krugman, Thomas Sowell and various journalists through a multitude of news outlets. It was apparent that in suburbia, I was becoming the embodiment of different. I stood out as the Muslim, as the sibling who read daily news and as the best friend of the only black girl in my Indiana school.
The dichotomy proved less contradictory as I grew up. With the 2015 military coup, we lost touch with my relatives in Turkey. Turkish refugees began to appear in my community, many of them Muslim teens like myself. Some had crossed the Evros, witnessing painful sacrifices. Some numbly boarded planes without packing. Entering my world of American paradoxes with these unique stories, each one faced the same dilemma: choosing between the vulnerability of standing out or retreating into the comfort of blending in. The answer was obvious for me: I jumped to the heart of this issue, just like Ihejirika had. Just like a reporter should.
I began aiding Turkish refugees settling in Chicago after the coup – first as a family assistant, then as a translator and lastly as a case manager for an inner-city law firm expediting asylum applications. I received the Gold Medal Congressional Award after helping establish Huddled Masses, the first nonprofit to aid Turkish immigrants settle into American life. I also ranked first in the IJEA statewide journalism competition for reporting on Turkish refugee students at my school.
Maudlyne Ihejirika showed me that embracing distinctiveness isn’t just a secret weapon for successful journalism. My headscarf may distract people into reducing their understanding of me to that one aspect of who I am. But for me, the disappearance into that agitated Chicago protest is what makes me completely oblivious to being the elephant. I’m thrilled to change the world one stare at a time. That comfort starts with me.
When I joined my high school’s journalism program on the first day of my freshman year, I discovered a pathway to balancing this dichotomy I struggled with personally. A reporter’s job is to blend into their surroundings, become a fly on the wall, and journalism taught me that I can do that while also being the elephant in the room.
Telling people’s stories, however, had a greater influence on my view of the word than just navigating my role in society. The greatest journalists are those who can take vital and complex information and convey it in an understandable way to the masses: “democratize” information in a sense. This concept is what pulls me into the backbone of what I like to think of as the philosophy of journalism.
This entity of democratizing plays an underestimated part in shaping every country’s culture, politics and education. This art of story-telling blows my mind when I grasp the power it has, whether that power is used for good or bad. I believe history is only half told when the news, press, propaganda and courageous journalists who sacrifice everything aren’t brought to light.
For me, journalism means truth-telling and analyzing that truth to help others understand why it matters. The average person doesn’t have the time or ability to know what’s happening every moment of the day across the globe, nor do they always know how it affects them. That’s why journalists entertain the impossible by conveying that information to the world.
I hope to pursue this role with my own experiences in journalism. Indeed, I joined the Prospector program because I liked writing. However, journalism gives a deeper meaning and greater mission to accomplish with writing. Anyone can write a good storybook and incorporate noble themes and good messages for the reader. But a journalistic story is about real people’s emotions and experiences with real events; therefore, these stories become stoppers in time that anyone can use to time travel and learn history and lived realities.
That is my ultimate goal and definition of success in regards to journalism. During my freshman and sophomore year on the Prospector staff, my goal was to only grow specifically as a writer and have extensive practice with the journalistic program. My goal for my junior and senior year turned into genuinely striving towards my global pursuit of spreading information. My journalistic mission statement is no different from my mission behind everything I do: inform people about what I believe is important for our democratic society’s progress.
Languages: English, French, Arabic, and Turkish (Certified document translator in Turkish)
Communication: Facility for conveying information clearly and persuasively. Strong interpersonal skills within work environment.
Technology and Design: Command of programs such as InDesign, Photoshop, Adobe Spark, Microsoft Office Suite, and iMovie
Technical Proficiencies: 3.81/4.0 GPA, 12 AP Courses, 7-semester Honor Roll
Case Manager / Davidson & Seseri LLC
(June 2017- August 2017, Chicago)
Case manager for Turkish refugee asylum cases with attorney Mark Davidson during the summer of 2017. Worked in high stress situations with strict application and interview deadlines. Also gained research skills and experience in legal practice.
Campaign Intern/ Governor Bruce Rauner
(May 2018- November 2018, Chicago)
As an intern, I conducted research, canvassed in residential areas, and completed phone-call surveys.
Math Tutor/ Local
(June 2018- December 2018, Mt. Prospect)
Local one-on-one tutor up to the advanced Pre-Calc level
Student teacher/ Summer school
(June 2017- July 2017, Prospect High School)
Summer school student teacher for entry-level English Course.
Editor-in-Chief/ School newspaper
Fourth year on the Prospector, with extensive reporting and research experience. Leader of 23-member staff consisting of all high school grade levels.
Varsity Debate/ Research captain
2015-present, Prospect High School
Experience with fast schedules and concentrated work in short amount of time. Constant
work with others and speaking skills.
Turkish Club/ President
2017-present, Prospect High School
Main objective is to facilitate discussion among and with Turkish-American students. Turkish Club helps offer resources for first-generation students for navigating the high school environment and college application process.
Feminism Club member, Knights' Way character development program leader, German research exchange member, National Honor Society member, and volunteer for Turkish American Society of Chicago
Gold Medal Congressional Award 2018
Superior Newswriting Ranking: JEA National Write-off Competition 2018
Excellent Newswriting Ranking: JEA National Write-off Competition 2017
1st place: IJEA Best News Story 2018
1st place: IJEA Best Personality Profile 2018
2nd place: IJEA Best Feature Story 2017
3rd place: IJEA Best Multimedia 2017
4th place: IHSA Copy Editing 2018
National Forensic League Qualifier: December 2016
Outside of the Prospector
Although my biggest projects have been through our newspaper, I feel that I have been able to apply journalistic skills such as leadership, curiosity, skeptical inquiry and truth-seeking to many aspects of my life outside of the newsroom. One specific moment that has made my high school experience really memorable was leading the school walkout in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting last year.
As a junior, I was waiting to hear about the senior leaders in our school who were going to plan the walkout, but as we neared the designated walkout day, I realized that no one was taking on that task. I felt foolish, too. Why was I waiting for someone else to take that responsibility? Before reaching out to other student leaders, I had to pause to evaluate what that decision would mean.
Any journalist knows that there is a clear line between a journalist and an advocate. I had to make clear which one I was if I wanted to take on this role. I set down my restrictions: I wouldn’t cover the event or refer to myself as a student journalist throughout the process. Journalism at this point had taught me more than just writing. Regardless of the task, I knew I had learned clear communication, a maturity in voice and confidence in leadership through the Prospector. I wouldn’t have had the skills to lead the walkout if it wasn’t for the skills I learned through Prospect’s journalism program. That's when I realized that I wasn't bound to being a professional journalist if I dedicated myself to that program.
I had learned to question myself and others constructively, to seek information, to promote ideas of democracy and cooperation and set aside my biases. And so I ultimately decided that this would be a nonpartisan walkout. We weren’t protesting gun laws or mental health negligence; we were students who wanted to mourn the loss of other students.
If I’m going to be a leader in my school, I always want to be working for the benefit of our school as a whole. This is really the driving force behind anything I do at Prospect, whether that be Feminism Club, Turkish Club, debate team, Knights’ Way and everything that falls in between. I want to be a learner and an introspective leader.
Outside academics and the Congressional Award
During the summer of my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to attend a summer pre-college program at Harvard University to take a course on legal philosophy. During the program, I applied journalistic skills of skeptical inquiry and research to critical reading and presentation assignments. I left the campus ready to use that practice with investigative projects through our journalism program. This means carrying those skills of skeptical inquiry into the classroom. I am a very active student in class discussions and during lectures, regardless of the subject matter.
In 2018, I was awarded the Gold Medal Congressional Award for volunteer work to help Turkish refugees settle in the Chicagoland area. Totaling over 200 hours of volunteer service for this program and other community service projects, I was invited to Washington D.C. for an award ceremony and meetings with congressional representatives.