By Cassie Means
It's easily one of my most prized possessions. Nestled among scrapbooks of college memories and albums of family vacations is a clipbook of articles chronicling my stint as a Flipside correspondent.
More than an archive of stories, my book gives a glimpse into the life of the American teenager in the late 1990s. From an era when the Rachel was every girl's must have hairdo, "American Pie" was on its first installment and instant messaging was limited to AOL, my scrapbook is a makeshift history book filled with the pop culture of yesteryear.
My pages are filled with feature stories on everything from a deluge of twins at Sissonville High School to an unstoppable majorette to an award-winning show choir member to students relying upon Cliff Notes to make the grade in English class.
There is an advice column to underclassmen on surviving the bottom of the educational food chain, an opinion piece against the stifling of freedom of speech by high school administrators and an examination of statistics on teenage alcohol consumption.
And in the midst of all the glory and stress of being a teenager lies a much more somber commentary on how high school students lost their feeling of safety in the immediate aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre which occurred during my senior year on April 20, 1999.
My experiences as a Flipside correspondent went far beyond filling the pages of my clipbook. I received a hands-on education in newspaper reporting. I attended a conference in Washington, D.C., with high school reporters from all over the country. The folks at Charleston Newspapers were even so kind as to award me with two college scholarships. It was truly an incredible experience for which I will be forever thankful.
Flipside certainly lit a fire for writing, reporting and truth seeking deep within my gut. After graduating high school, I earned a Bachelor's Degree in print journalism from Marshall University. I have no doubt that my experiences as a Flipsider put me head and shoulders above my classmates who were learning the ways of news reporting for the first time.
Although my career path ultimately lead to law school and becoming an attorney at the West Virginia Office of the Attorney General, I still utilize skills learned long ago when my scrapbook was in its infancy.
Happy, sad, inspiring, shocking and sobering, the stories I wrote for Flipside exemplified the individuality of teens while also sharing common themes. Although the clothes and hair have changed in the 12 years since my byline last appeared in Flipside, the issues affecting the students that line today's hallways are much the same.
I wish Flipside another 20 years of success, as it has always done an amazing job of giving its writers a voice and its readers a quality product. Happy anniversary, FlipSide!
Cassie Means graduated from Sissonville High School in 1999. She is an Assistant Attorney General in the W.Va. Office of the Attorney General.