Kaycie Miller knew she liked to write, so she decided why not take a journalism class. Three years later, Timberlake High School’s newspaper, Tiger Tracks, received national recognition and numerous awards under Miller’s leadership as editor-in-chief; and Miller is headed off to college as a seasoned newspaperwoman.
According to newspaper adviser Katie Suenkel, Miller is a natural when it comes to journalism. “She has sort of a news sense – a nose for news,” she said.
For Miller, it’s just the way she sees the world. “I realize that every person has their own story and although sometimes it’s hard to see past what is going on with us personally, it’s important to know the person we are buying our coffee from has a story – that every person we deal with throughout the day has a story,” she said.
Her interest in telling these stories and in ferreting out news, led Miller to develop a reputation in the community as a serious newspaperwoman, despite her age. She honed her writing skills as news editor her sophomore year, and as copy editor her junior year; then spent the summer before her senior year strengthening her page-layout skills.
By September 2008, she was unafraid to take on any subject she deemed newsworthy: a full exposé on the impact of the worsening economy on Lakeland students and their families; an article on the number of teenagers killed in accidents each year; or a survey on “sexting.”
Miller believed her student perspective offered “a different view,” and hoped to open important dialogue on the subject of sexting – sending sexually explicit pictures to members of the opposite sex via the Internet or cell phones. After interviewing 81 students, Miller determined 42 percent of Lakeland students, ages 14 to 18, have been involved in this latest teen fad.
“It is scary that we have freshmen, kids who are 14 years old, doing this. They have no idea what it means to their future,” said the young writer. “I wanted to give them a wake-up call.”
Miller is the daughter of Kelly Miller; her father, Timothy Martin, and his wife, Susan Stone; and the granddaughter of Betty Martin of Great Falls. The youngest of a blended family with four siblings, Miller currently lives in Athol with her father and stepmother.
She credits her determination on being the youngest. “I’ve had such interesting examples of what I want to do and what I don’t want to do,” she said with evident family pride. “I’ve watched my brothers and sisters grow up; and I’ve watched my sister go to college after becoming a mother at a young age. It’s helped me build the qualities I admired in them.”
Miller also credits Suenkel for the important part she played in her life. “Miss Suenkel has not only been a teacher to me, and a mentor – but a friend,” she said. “She taught me a lot of things about journalism, and about life; and whenever I needed someone to talk to, she’s always been there.”
And there have been times when Miller needed that friendship. During her high school years she worked her way through the chaos and pain of an unstable home life and financial difficulties. Today she lives in a secure family with her father and works 25 to 30 hours each week at a call center in Post Falls, to help with expenses.
School counselor Joey James has also noticed Miller. “She’s just very dependable, always there for her school, paper, and family; always encouraging and looking to see the best in others,” he said of the student whom teachers selected as a nominee for the school’s Tiger Barnabus Award.
“A Barnabus Award student demonstrates the qualities of being friendly, cheerful, dependable and encouraging; and that’s just Kaycie in a nutshell,” according to James. “She is a great example of what you can do when the chips are down – how you can rise above and develop high qualities and strong character.”
Miller will begin college at North Idaho College in the fall with a focus on print journalism; and dreams of attending the University of Idaho, or maybe Columbia University (where she attended the Columbia Scholastic Press Association spring convention in 2008) for graduate school.
But there’s more. “I’ve recently started thinking about traveling to other countries, like China, so I could experience a communist government and see firsthand how that affects the media,” said the young woman who hopes to someday enter politics and even aspires to national office.
If Suenkel’s opinion of Miller is any indication, she just might make it.
“Kaycie has a vision and a leadership that is beyond her years, and she empowers others to be successful,” said Suenkel. “She cares about educating people with news; and she’s passionate about writing … she is an extraordinary person to know.”