By Sarah Yaacoub, Gatton Academy
One of Kate Neal’s dreams came true when she was accepted to duPont Manual High School in the Journalism and Communications program. It provided the rising senior and Louisville native the opportunity to explore journalism and a school culture that was different from those of her previous schools.
She appreciated the motivation she saw in her peers at her magnet school: They raise their hands in class. They actively participate. They care about their grades. They share a common interest in reporting as well as a drive to try hard and do well.
Neal also enjoyed the benefits of a varied student body not seen in traditional district-based schools – its minority population was large compared to many area schools, comprising 34 percent of the total composition, according to a document on the US News and World Report website, and she found the diversity a key part of the culture she’s experienced throughout her high school years.
When asked about the origins of her love for journalism, Neal explained that it went back quite a while, to elementary school and even before.
An avid reader as a child, her literary interests gradually grew to include writing, and she began to write and illustrate stories in her spare time.
With her move to Manual, her focus shifted more toward nonfiction and reporting, a field in which a number of her relatives have found success. Now, she said, she’s considering a major related to journalism, although she remains undecided on what she wants to study after high school and where she plans to attend college.
While Neal, a self-described homebody, doesn’t want to go too far from home, she wants to experience life outside her hometown of Louisville, thus ruling out schools like the University of Louisville. Neal is considering a smaller liberal arts school in the state, with Transylvania University in Lexington and Centre College in Danville currently holding the top spots in her college search.
Neal’s writing led to the discovery of other passions. She described a lengthy research paper she authored over this past school year on the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and how writing about agriculture sparked an interest in environmentalism after seeing Cowspiracy, a Netflix documentary that prompted her topic selection and inspired her to delve more into science.
Of research-based academic writing, Neal said: “It’s different than anything I’ve ever done before… It requires you to actively research, use databases and synthesize facts and statistics.”
Neal, an AP student with a heavy course load, excels outside the classroom as well. A member of the National Honor Society, a service organization for students with high GPAs and a desire to improve their communities, she logs volunteer hours with local organizations and attends regular meetings, in addition to being a part of her school’s broadcasting program.
She also plays field hockey for both her school and a select club, Bluegrass Premier Field Hockey Club. The sport, she said, keeps her active and she has made some of her best friends through it. When she’s not on the field with a stick in hand, she’s there refereeing and coaching hockey to elementary-aged children in the community.
Neal’s talents and interests have evolved throughout her childhood and adolescence, but writing has remained a consistent part of her life. Although she hasn’t made any certain plans as to her future, she wants to continue to pursue journalism and writing.