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Before coming to Waubonsee Community College, student Anna Dutton, of Oswego, was named Northern Illinois' High School Journalist of the Year. Aided by a prestigious Lucile Gustafson Scholarship, Dutton is now using her time at Waubonsee to grow as a writer - in the classroom, through internships with local newspapers, and other media - as she prepares to launch her career in coming years.

Beginning her story: Student Anna Dutton Leverages Experience, Recognitions to Pen Story of Student Success

Anna Dutton, of Oswego, has been named Waubonsee Community College’s Student Success: Featured Student for February. For her work on Oswego High School’s student newspaper and as a student columnist for the Oswego Ledger-Sentinel,she was named the 2014 High School Journalist of the Year by the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.

When Anna Dutton’s guidance counselor enrolled her in her first journalism class at Oswego High School, she thought there had been a mistake.

“I tried to get out of it,” Dutton said. “I didn’t want to be there. I begged.”

But about three years later, and just a few months removed from her moment on stage before a roomful of applauding professional journalists, accepting the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association’s award recognizing her as the best high school journalist in the state in 2014, Dutton can’t imagine her future not including the title of “journalist.”

“I’ve discovered my passion for journalism,” she said. 

And over the next two years, Waubonsee will become a key part of helping her achieve her dream of attaining her byline. 

For her achievements, past and present, and her commitment to pursuing her dream, Waubonsee is pleased to recognize Anna Dutton as the college’s Student Success: Featured Student for the month of February.

As she neared graduation at Oswego High School, Dutton, like many graduating seniors, paid a visit to a number of prospective colleges.

Ultimately, she said, she fell in love with the University of Missouri, home of the Missouri School of Journalism, one of the most heralded collegiate journalism programs in the U.S.

However, as the daughter of a blue-collar family, Dutton said she recognized attending “Mizzou” would not be easy, given the massive annual tuition bill she would face, particularly after just missing a key scholarship opportunity at the school.

But Dutton refused to let her dreams simply fade away.

Her passion for news writing was first kindled in that OHS journalism course during her sophomore year.

“I had told my guidance counselor I, maybe, wanted to do something with writing,” she said. “Then my counselor took the reins, and put me in this class.

“And the worst part? I was this sophomore in a class full of seniors.”

However, soon after publishing her first few articles in the school newspaper, the Panther Paw, Dutton said the lure of the written word proved irresistible. By her junior year, she was serving as editor at the newspaper, while continuing to write stories of all kinds.

“I love telling the kinds of stories that bring recognition to the people who normally don’t get noticed, to give them a voice,” Dutton said. “I really want my writing to be what the news should be.”

Outside of school, Dutton landed an internship as student columnist for the Oswego Ledger-Sentinel newspaper. Coupled with her work at the high school’s newspaper and yearbook, the columns she penned set her apart in the race for NINA’s recognition as High School Journalist of the Year.

In recognizing Dutton, NINA’s judges said they “were especially impressed with the professional quality of Dutton’s writing and reporting.”

Dutton’s achievements went beyond editorial, however. At Oswego High School, she also worked to promote the newspaper on campus, ultimately succeeding at recruiting some of the high school’s student athletes to help sell copies of the paper to the rest of the student body.

“It was amazing,” Dutton said. “People started reading the paper.”

It was in that moment, she said she began to recognize leadership qualities within her, qualities including a desire to gladly accept new challenges and to persevere.Those qualities, she said, helped to steer her to Waubonsee.

Leveraging her high school leadership experiences, Dutton landed a prestigious Lucile Gustafson Scholarship through Waubonsee, securing free tuition for two years at the college and enabling her to pursue her associate degree without financial worry.

Even after just one semester, Dutton said the program has helped her grow even more as a leader.

“Being part of such a great group of people, I’ve learned so much about myself, about where I am as a leader.”

In coming semesters, she said she hopes to continue to develop leadership opportunities through campus organizations, including Phi Theta Kappa and Delta Sigma Omicron.

However, she said her academic experience at the college has also helped her further develop her writing skills – a development she attributed largely to Associate Professor of English Billy Clem.

“I’ve never had a teacher who made me want to reach perfection before,” Dutton said. “Billy Clem did that for me.”

And, while Waubonsee does not publish a campus newspaper, Dutton has continued to work toward her professional aspirations, securing an internship this summer at the Kane County Chronicle newspaper in St. Charles.

From Waubonsee, Dutton intends to transfer to a four-year college with a journalism program. At this point, however, she has shifted her focus from Columbia, Mo., to Columbia College in downtown Chicago.

“I’ve discovered I am good at writing,” she said. “Now, I want to develop it, and see where it takes me.”