Editor Starts New Year at Hayfield

Editor Starts New Year at Hayfield

Hayfield senior Sadia Latifi participated in several journalism workshops over the summer.

<bt>Drinking coffee and staying up late to complete the front-page article before the 9 a.m. deadline, then re-reviewing pages of notes to determine if something is missing, and finally becoming a staff member at Rolling Stone magazine.

A dream?

Not if you're Sadia Latifi, 16, who watched the movie "Almost Famous" and believed she could achieve what she once thought impossible.

Sadia has two loves, music and writing, but at age 14, she decided music was an unrealistic dream for her to pursue, though she still writes song lyrics and wants to learn to play a variety of instruments.

So Sadia enrolled in a journalism class at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria. Since then, she has worked with The Orange Peal, its student newspaper, learning the basics her first year and later developing the center spread and feature pages for the publication.

Now a rising senior and the lone student in the Journalism IV class at Hayfield, Sadia serves as the editor in chief of The Orange Peal this fall.

Ken Baldassari, an editor in chief during Sadia's sophomore year, described her as outspoken but modest and very excited to be involved in the student press. She was always willing to do more than required, said Baldassari, a rising sophomore at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

"She was probably the best feature writer my staff had throughout my entire time on the staff," he said.

Even though Sadia wrote about interesting topics throughout her junior year, she said she didn't think her writing improved. She decided to attend journalism workshops this summer.

Thus, she has participated in the African-American, the Hispanic-American, the Asian-American and Native-American Journalism workshops at the University of Missouri-Columbia and more recently, the High School Editors Workshop at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond.

Eleven other students also attended the editors workshop the third week of July at VCU, where instructors taught the students ways to improve their newspapers and staffs.

"I want (this) next year to be a good year," Sadia said, adding that she really wanted to learn some quick and easy techniques to help train her newspaper staff.

THE STUDENT EDITOR refers to her junior year as the "year of scandal" because she and her staff always had a worthy front-page story. Her most memorable story, she said, involved 20 senior computer-hackers who changed the school's record of their attendance and grades.

The administration, Sadia said, tried to avoid issuing severe punishments for the offending students because it wanted to keep the entire situation "hush-hush," until the newspaper staff learned of the incident. Though the hackers were suspended for only five days, Sadia said she thought they should have been expelled.

The newspaper staff received letters from the seniors’ parents threatening to sue if the paper identified their children in the article after they heard by word-of-mouth that the staff was investigating the incident. But when The Washington Post reported on the incident, S. Mitra Kalita, a Post reporter, quoted Sadia's article because The Orange Peal first published the story.

The student editor said she wants to know the minute details of a story, likes to write about controversy and enjoys everything about journalism, including shooting photos and being in charge of a publication.

Besides journalism, Sadia remains interested in dancing, singing and theater. Although she misses being onstage, she said journalism limits her participation in other activities.

"You're too busy covering events to participate in them," Latifi said, adding that she hopes eventually to "live vicariously through rock stars" while achieving her dream of working at Rolling Stone.

She is the daughter of Rukhsana and Nasir Latifi, also of Alexandria.

Jaime Park represented the Kecoughtan High School at the High School Editors Workshop sponsored by the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia High School League and Virginia Commonwealth University.