When a friend of South Forsyth High School student Alyssa Freyman suggested that she should try out for the school’s student newspaper, The Bird Feed, Freyman said that she was game to give it a try, but had no idea how she would fit in or what was in store for her.
Despite the uncertain start, Freyman, 18, has risen steadily through the ranks, learning how to write, report, edit, and eventually becoming the publication’s editor-in-chief.
“At first I didn't know how it was going to go, but I ended up loving it a lot,” Freyman said.
"I really liked writing ... that kind of drew me at first,” she said. “And as time went on I kind of figured out that I liked journalism because I get to learn more about the people in my community. I get to interview people who I haven’t met before, and I get to learn their stories."
In late March, Freyman’s hard work at the publication was given a whole new level of recognition when she was named the 2019 Georgia Champion Journalist of the Year, an award given each year by the Georgia Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association.
When asked about the moment she got the call about the award Freyman said, "I was so excited … It felt really good; it felt like all the hard work that I've done over the past three years has really paid off."
The award seemed like a longshot to Freyman, partially because she found out about it just two weeks before the deadline, but also because seeking out that type of recognition just wasn’t something Freyman had ever considered.
"Honestly, I had no idea about it until my teacher told me about it, a week or two before the deadline," she said. "But I wouldn't have done it, or even known about it if not for my teacher."
Her teacher, Clori Rose, said on Monday that Freyman’s natural leadership and drive made her a perfect candidate for the award.
Rose said during her time advising the newspaper at South, Freyman has displayed some of the strongest natural "soft skills" she has ever seen.
"She is a phenomenal leader, so off the bat, I think this just reinforces those leadership skills," Rose said. "She has a lot more of a ‘global picture’ than I've ever really seen a person her age has."
In addition to her leadership duties as editor-in-chief, Freyman also serves as president of South’s National Latin Honor Society and volunteers with the local charity Meals By Grace about once a month.
Even more impressive, Rose said, is that Freyman has no background or specialized training in journalism but was still able to earn the award and be recognized for her skill and dedication.
"We're just super proud of her," Rose said. "This is the first time that I've ever had a student win this award, and it's the first time I've ever had a student apply for this award, so for her to apply and get this recognition is really amazing."
After Freyman graduates from South this spring, she’s headed to Berry College in northwest Georgia where she plans to keep honing her journalism and leadership skills by pursuing a degree in communications.
She hasn’t decided whether she’ll actually want to become a professional journalist or whether she’ll get into the film industry, another one of her interests, once she graduates.
But what she knows is that she’s going to keep learning about other people and sharing their stories with the world."I'd really like to continue telling peoples stories,” she said. “I really like to do that – interview people and learn what makes them special … just sharing that with the world is something that I'd like to do."