Student of the Week: The only thing she doesn’t do is nothing

BND, By Mary Cooley, Photo by Derik Holtmann

Ivy Truong may give an initial impression of being a soft-spoken junior at Belleville East High School. But wait until she gets in front of fellow debate club members to lecture on the ins and outs of Lincoln-Douglas debates. Her voice rises with authority.

“Think of sports,” she says. “It always comes down to two teams. Like in debate, there are two big things of value.”

Debate may be the only activity in Ivy’s school life that comes down to two things. She’s taking a full load of classes as a junior, has at least one club meeting every weekday and attends enough school sporting events to send out between 10 and 15 tweets a week under @Lancer Newspaper. She’s the editor in chief and plans on a career as a journalist.

“The kids always ask if she sleeps, because she always completes every task and comes through with flying colors,” says teacher Jaime Mannino. “She is one of the most phenomenal, the most phenomenal kid I’ve ever met, and I’ve been teaching 12 years.”

Ivy says she does go home at night, debunking rumors that she parks an RV on the Belleville East lot, where she does homework, sleeps and rises the next day to do it all again.


Q. Why did you get involved in debate? Why Lincoln-Douglas?

A. “I originally got involved in debate during freshman orientation in eighth grade. I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to get out of it or what debate actually was, but it was new, and I wanted to try it out. Lincoln-Douglas is arguing about the principles and morality behind a topic. For me, debating about those types of issues can be as personal and as passionate as it gets. An LD debater would be challenging the ethics of someone out in the world. In a round, I would be given the opportunity to maybe change my own beliefs on its head. I sometimes automatically choose a side when a topic comes out, but often I find myself liking the evidence and argumentation of the opposing side better.”

Q. What do you enjoy most about debating?

A. “For someone as clumsy and unathletic as me, debating is an avenue for me to be competitive. But my favorite part about debating is not so much in-round, as it is out-round. I used to be really self-conscious before high school, but forcing myself to debate in front of strangers had forced me out of my shell. I’m more confident and less self-conscious than ever before, and I blame debating for that.”

Q. How did you get interested in journalism?

A. “In eighth grade, I did this newspaper project in my English class. Although I was probably only trying to get an A on it, my teacher loved it and I, along with some friends of mine, started a mini-newspaper in middle school. That was when I was first anchored to journalism, but I would say that I didn’t pursue it as I do now until this summer. I went to a journalism camp at EIU (Eastern Illinois University), and we had to search for a story on our own in a small town. We weren’t given a specific assignment or anything, but I somehow wandered into a small art gallery with an address ending in  1/2 because the gallery didn’t even take up a whole building. Yet, up the narrow stairs, I discovered a retired teacher renting a space and paying the bills just to receive no profit whatsoever from the gallery: her main goal was to encourage young artists without placing a burden on them. It changed the way I thought about people. Everyone has a story, even in the most unlikely of places. They just need an outlet. I have the opportunity to be that voice.”

Q. How long have you been involved at the student newspaper the Lancer?

A. “Since freshman year.”

Q. How long have you been Lancer editor in chief, and what does that entail? Can you talk more about the redesign and what you hope to accomplish with it?

A. “This is my first year as editor in chief. This year, it entails coordinating the stories and photographs between all the staff reporters, photographers and editors, helping the first-year reporters learn how to write stories, and being in charge of the print design. The print design this year, which was launched with our first issue in September, was meant to remake the paper. The original design had existed since my freshman year, and although it and the people behind it meant a lot to me, I wanted to have a design that reflected myself and Belleville East this year. The design involves a new nameplate, a brighter accent color, more white space, more photos, and more serif fonts. Our teasers are also more prominent on the page, as they all include some kind of visual. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it so far, which is great, but we’re constantly looking at ways to improve the output.”

Q. How do you find out interesting things happening at Belleville East?

A. “I just listen. While the East campus is physically spread out, we are all connected somehow. My teacher might mention something in class about a club he or she runs, and I would immediately jot down a note about it to revisit in the next newspaper issue. My friend might mention something about the band, and I would immediately start asking questions.”

Q. Why did you develop a Twitter account for the Lancer? How many contribute to it?

A. “Twitter and social media have been the ways which my friends and I have found out news over the past few years. A lot of people I know don’t immediately jump to the New York Times when they go on their phones, they go to Twitter. I really wanted to capitalize on that pacing, because I feel that a constant presence, not involving going out and getting a paper, would help other students be more aware of any news at school. For instance, over the summer, I tweeted about the new cell phone policy, and we got a lot of interactions with that tweet. Everybody with a Twitter knew about it in July. My friends without a Twitter, however, didn’t know about the new policy until the first day of school. For now, I’m the only one ‘directly’ contributing to it, but, really, anyone who @’s us on Twitter or gives us an idea in person contributes to the Twitter. I just put it in 140 or less characters.”

Q. How do you handle all the clubs?

A. “Very carefully … some are in the afternoon, some in the morning. … I usually have newspaper meetings twice a week and debate twice a week too.”

Q. Do you even have a day you go straight home after school?

A. “No. I wish.”

Q. Are you thinking about college?

A. “I should be…”