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Stott: Positive influences key in our lives

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

We talk a lot about influence. In many cases, influence has a negative connotation. We think of kids being influenced to misbehave and lawmakers being influenced to make bad decisions by persuasive lobbyists.

We often eschew the idea of influence because it supports an assumption that people would act differently if not for the effects provided by someone – or something – else.

The phrase “bad influence” is much more common than “good influence,” right? But good influence is a really powerful tool. Positively influential people hold some of society’s greatest value.

I was proud, but not surprised, when I learned that two of the most positively influential people on my life were being given hall of fame honors for their work with students. These two mentors provided unequivocal value to me and hundreds of other young minds.

On Saturday, former college newspaper adviser Jim Killam was inducted into the Northern Star Hall of Fame for his contributions to student journalism.

Killam was faculty adviser of the Northern Star, Northern Illinois University’s campus newspaper, from 1995 until 2012.

Just a few days before Killam was inducted, I learned that former Kaneland High School journalism teacher Laurie Erdmann would be honored this May with a spot in the Kaneland Hall of Fame. Erdmann taught high school journalism and advised the KHS student news magazine, the Kaneland Krier, for more than 30 years before retiring in 2008.

I first learned about journalism in high school from Erdmann. I started in her introductory class, called J-1, not knowing much about news. Erdmann was excited to teach journalism, and it showed through her lessons every day. I left high school with a really strong understanding of the basics of journalism. Most importantly, Erdmann’s classes made me look forward to learning more.

Entering college, I wasn’t sure what was in store for my education.

I applied to work at the Northern Star, though, and couldn’t have found a better mentor to learn from after leaving high school.

Killam was another dedicated journalist. He made sure Northern Star students practiced good writing and made thoughtful journalistic decisions. Killam wanted to make all the Northern Star staff members good journalists and good people.

This brief column cannot do justice to the amount of knowledge and guidance I received from both of these mentors. But it can affirm the value of positive influence on a young mind.

Learning from Killam and Erdmann, I always knew I was in good hands. They made journalism (and school) fun and interesting and worthwhile, and they deserve thanks for their dedication to providing positive influence.

•••

Some more thanks are in order. I am unfortunately ending my role as columnist to focus on the rest of my education, and I’d like to thank the Daily Chronicle for allowing me to write a weekly column for the past two years.

I have truly enjoyed contributing to a publication that works hard to provide ethical and thorough reporting for the community.

Thanks, too, to the Daily Chronicle news consumers who have spent time reading my columns. I especially appreciate everyone who has provided feedback on my work. I’ve learned a lot about journalism from the Chronicle and from Shaw Suburban Media, and I so appreciate having the opportunity to write for this great community.

• Lauren Stott is a Maple Park native and a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in the master of public administration program. She can be reached at lauren_stott@yahoo.com.

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