Jill Ellis at PRS (POV Laats)

In “The Story of My Story” series, PRS student journalists share the experiences they have, and the lessons they learn, while creating the stories they publish.


photo by Kris Captanis (PRS Communications)

Gwen Laats (front left) and PRS Journalism students backstage with Jill Ellis.

When Mr. Ridge first pitched the idea of hosting Coach Jill Ellis during a Community Life, I was skeptical. Although the Mike Levin event ran smoothly, our Student Council Community Life was not as successful. With the Jill Ellis event, we were determined to create an engaging experience for the community. 

Our class worked throughout the following month to create a solid list of questions through research, surveys and discussion. We went through countless iterations of question lists in the hopes of making the most out of the time we had with Ms. Ellis. 

Although challenging, we decided as a class that it would be beneficial to have students and coaches from the audience asking questions. We wanted to represent the Pacific Ridge community in any way we could. This required extra work and outreach, as we needed to contact and connect with our peers outside of journalism and formulate questions. 

We were incredibly excited and proud when we confirmed the date of the event and realized that Jill Ellis would actually be coming to our campus. 

The organization was the main focus of our group as the event approached. We drew diagrams on the board, illustrating where each person would be sitting. We assigned roles to each class member with specific responsibilities. We designed a schedule that organized the day of the event, and then we redesigned it over and over again until we felt confident that the day would run smoothly. I worked with Liz Thacker to collaborate with our student representatives who would be asking questions. It was our job to be in communication with them so they knew where to go on the day of the event. 

Throughout the planning stages of the event, Mr. Ridge continuously highlighted aspects of the event that seemed inconsequential to me. For example, we spent perhaps an entire class period deciding where each student (both journalists and student representatives) would sit, as well as the seating arrangements of the journalists on stage with Ms. Ellis. We discussed in detail the setup of the video and audio equipment and debated the role that the PRS soccer teams would play in the event. Additionally, we spent a lot of time discussing the specifics of where Jill Ellis would park. 

Initially, I was slightly annoyed and confused with the amount of time we allotted to seemingly insignificant details. However, it wasn’t until the day of the event that I realized I was immensely grateful for the detailed plan we had devised. Knowing ahead of time where Ms. Ellis would park was a lifesaver and crucial to creating a positive first impression with Coach Ellis.

Similarly, I was glad that we had the forethought to plan the time before the event. We knew exactly where and what we would be doing an hour before the event even started. Each member of the class had their own personalized schedule in addition to the greater class schedule. 

The payoff of hyper-focusing on factors that I perceived as minuscule was anything but minuscule. As a PRS student of six years, I had observed that the preferred way of organizing and executing a Community Life was “go with the flow.” In journalism, that didn’t fly. We had learned a thing or two from our previous two events with Congressman Mike Levin and then the PRS Student Council, so we dedicated multiple class periods to planning and ensuring that the Jill Ellis event “flow” went exactly as we intended. 

The reaction to this type of planning was positive from both our guests and audience members. While standing on the side of the stage before going on, Jill Ellis mentioned to my classmates and me that this was some of the best organization she had seen at an event like this. The audience was one of the most engaged and attentive I had ever seen in a Community Life. Part of this was likely due to our notable guest, but I also think our class’s commitment and thought dedicated to this event was evident to the audience. Multiple teachers and classmates congratulated my classmates and me on the execution of our Community Life. Suffice it to say, our class was quite proud of the event and satisfied that our work had paid off. 

Another thing that my classmates and I were proud of and enjoyed was chatting with Coach Ellis after the event. We returned to the conference room as the rest of the school filtered out of the gym to lunch and sat around the table with Ms. Ellis. I felt incredibly lucky and proud that I was able to converse with Ms. Ellis in a smaller group setting, where the answers that Jill Ellis gave to our questions continued to perfectly blend specifics about the world of soccer with more general insights about life that were both accessible and valuable.

To read the main story about Jill Ellis at PRS, click here.

To read about the experiences of other PRS student journalists when staging the Jill Ellis event, click on the following links for reflections by Mykelle Brainard, Nolan Agresti and Evan Buchholtz.