Linda Odette

For several years during my newspaper career, one of my projects was an annual section that highlighted the top 100 students at area schools. As I read the details of what each had accomplished during their school career, I started thinking about what I did in high school, and, well … I felt like a slacker. Students featured in this special section had grade points above 4.0, played a couple of sports, tutored, worked for causes like bringing clean water to Third-World countries, belonged to clubs like Science Olympiad, worked a job and somehow slept.

And that was just one student.

I was proud just to play volleyball, softball and be editor of the yearbook.

I knew in high school I always wanted to write for a newspaper and attended Michigan State University to get my degree. My advisor suggested I change my major, saying getting a journalism job would be difficult, so I switched to Agricultural and Natural Resources Communications -- and went on to spend more than 30 years at newspapers.

My first job was at an itsy, bitsy paper in Gaylord, but I kept moving to bigger papers, including the Greenville Daily News, the Ypsilanti Press, the Allegan County News and Gazette, the Holland Sentinel, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Grand Rapids Press. Many of my peers landed their first job right at large papers like Grand Rapids Press, but I came there with lots of knowledge about different communities across Michigan.

My reason for becoming a writer might have started out as just a way to see my name in print, but it turned into the most interesting job out there and a constant learning experience. I loved the stories I worked with that helped others or inspired people. That’s why I’m excited about working for School News Network. It will tell special stories about teachers, students and administrators, show new ways of doing things, and provide a source that informs parents and the community what’s going on in the schools.

Lots of my inspiration has come from dedicated students and teachers. I am a staff photographer for School News Network.

OK, one more story from my past. I had started a new job as the schools reporter at the Ypsilanti Press, coming from a town where attendance at board meetings was about 20 and the meetings were held in a conference room. My first day on the job, the school board meeting I was covering had an audience of more than 200 people wanting to air their thoughts about a controversial issue, and it was held in a high school auditorium. The meeting got out about midnight, and I worked until 4 a.m. to get the story out.

What had I gotten myself into? This is what: Parents and educators who cared about their students, and their sons and daughters. That’s something I know I’ll see a lot of at my job with School News Network. Read Stories by Linda

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