The Bright-Eyed Owl Behind Eyes On Owls


In the month of November 2020, iHoot began to recognize some of the many valuable members that make up iUniversity Prep’s student-run newspaper. The iHoot newspaper has been a creative outlet for many students at iUniversity Prep, open to all students despite past journalism experience. A vital piece to the iHoot puzzle is the Board of Editors, made up of students who work together to edit, review, and publish articles. When it came to naming November’s BOE of the month, it was surely an easy decision, as Natalie McLaren was named the first BOE of the month for the 2020-2021 school year.


Our Very Own Eyes on Owls Editor, Natalie McLaren!


Before Natalie joined iUniversity Prep, she spent her previous school years at her local brick-and-mortar school, where she spent a large amount of dedicated time toward theatre and fine arts. Little did she know that simple schedule conflict would set her down a new journalism-involved path, and after taking photography as an optional class, it wasn’t long before others began to recognize Natalie’s journalistic potential and she was quickly referred to her school’s journalism program. Natalie quickly moved through the course, skipping standard prerequisites that resulted in her being the youngest in the advanced journalism course, as a 7th Grader. However, her involvement in journalism was just beginning. 


Natalie soon joined her school’s news broadcasting team where she deepened her journalism-based knowledge and continued to thrive in an almost family-like environment that she remembers so fondly. When Natalie made the transition to online schooling, she had prepared herself to leave journalism behind as she was almost sure she would never have the opportunity to participate in a similar environment online.


The minute Natalie learned of iHoot, she was ecstatic about the idea of a student-run newspaper and joined without a second thought, and after applying to become part of the Board of Editors, it wasn’t long before she was accepted.  

Why Eyes On Owls?


I recently met with Natalie to learn more about her not only as a person but as a journalist. When I asked her about the reason behind her choice to become the Eyes On Owls Editor, she explained how she felt that the Eyes on Owls section related most to her past experience in broadcasting, where she focused on student features and had the opportunity to showcase fellow peers and teachers. Natalie views student and personal features as a unique side of journalism and believes that the writer of these articles is tasked with a difficult but distinctive duty of conveying the featured individual in a way that they want to be showcased. Natalie is a natural when it comes to the challenges of conveying a person in an article, and was a perfect match for the Eyes on Owls section.


I also had the pleasure of getting to talk with staff writer, McKinnley Rupp, who has written for Eyes On Owls in the past. We began our conversation talking about first impressions. “I was told that she was nice, but didn’t really expect much,” Mckinnley began, “However, she far exceeded nice, and was in fact considerate and welcoming.” We continued talking about what it’s like working with Natalie as an editor. “She is so well-structured and maintains a good balance between not being too easy, but not being too hard on the writer either.” McKinnley went on to describe the final result of her articles after working with Natalie. “She literally took the baseline of my article, and because of her advice, I was able to advance it far beyond what I imagined, from a 3-star to a 5-star article! After my past experience working with Natalie, it’s easy to see that she is perfect for Eyes On Owls, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to work with her!”

Along with speaking to McKinnley, I had the opportunity to speak with another staff writer, Sophia Sokoll. Sophia has also written for Eyes On Owls in the past and describes her initial interaction with Natalie. “When I began talking with her, I could tell she was a caring person. She was really nice, and I immediately like her a lot!” When I asked Sophia about her experience working with Natalie as an editor, she enthusiastically replied, “Working with her is such a great experience! I’ve learned so much from her and she’s really helped me polish my articles.” Sophia finished, “She is a great leader, is extremely patient, and appreciates everyone’s special talents, which allows her to be the amazing Eyes On Owls editor she is.”


Helping iHoot Even Through Innovating Ideas, Like Owlside


For those who are unaware, Natalie is not only a vital part of our school’s newspaper but of a new part of iHoot, known as Owlside. When a fellow student approached Natalie with the idea of taking journalism to the next level, through broadcasting, Natalie’s creative spark was once again re-ignited with the possibility of using her previous experience to bring broadcasting to iUniversity Prep. She saw this as a sign from God, and even though she had effectively left broadcasting behind when moving schools, she simply couldn’t let this opportunity pass by. After getting Owlside up and running, it’s now a fully-functioning virtual broadcasting network, with a couple of student-produced episodes, each including news, sports, entertainment, and other segments that are already available for viewing.


Although Owlside is only a recent part of iUniversity Prep, Natalie can’t help but have high hopes for the future. Owlside has a great amount of potential, and Natalie feels it will allow students to learn to tell stories not just on paper, but with new skills involving imagination and creativity. Natalie has helped lay the foundation for Owlside and continues to build upon the values of creativity, truth, teamwork, and resilience that have allowed the new broadcasting network to be successful even in its beginning stages.


Bright-Eyed Journalist, and Student Alike


Outside of iHoot and Owlside, Natalie is still a busy sophomore trying to juggle school along with these extracurriculars and many more. Despite her many commitments, Natalie manages

to maintain high grades and set’s her own challenging academic goals to get the most out of her iUniversity Prep education. Natalie overall enjoys her classes and considers herself to be a lifelong learner. She has even further continued her academic endeavors outside of school by taking an anatomy course in order to deepen her medically-related knowledge, with future hopes of entering the medical field as a respiratory therapist. Aside from being academically wired, Natalie remains to make time to be social and build upon the many new friendships she’s already made, despite being in a covid-19 restricting and virtual environment.


Busy In and Out of School


Natalie manages to stay just as busy outside of school as she is within iUniversity Prep. Most of her outside time goes towards voice and piano, a skill that has allowed her to be recognized state-wide and will lead her to Carnegie Hall, where she will be performing this summer. She spends roughly 6 hours a week challenging herself musically to build on her talent. With an enthusiasm for volunteering and helping others, Natalie is heavily involved in a non-profit based around supporting our senior population through student connections. Through this, she contributes by taking part in one-on-one bible studies, along with utilizing her talent through musical performances. 


Thanks to her love of reading, Natalie has taken to YouTube, where through her channel, Nattie’s Nook, Natalie reviews her latest reads and provides useful advice and recommendations for her ‘Nookers,’ otherwise known as her viewers. On top of the Nook’s YouTube channel, Natalie runs Nattie’s Nook’s Instagram page. As if her love for literature wasn’t already evident enough, Natalie is also an aspiring author and spends as much time as she can writing and working on her novels. 


The Natalie McLaren We All Know and Love


If you’ve been a part of iHoot for any amount of time, you might know Natalie from weekly training presentations, or you may have even had an article edited by her. From whatever interaction, you’re had with her, most of us have had the pleasure of getting to know the outspoken, driven, and charismatic sophomore behind Eyes On Owls and Owlside. As seen in her article “2020 Hidden Happy Edition,” Natalie is always looking on the bright side and continues pursuing her own happiness, whether that be through helping others, strengthening her connection with God, prioritizing family time, binging Netflix’s Cobra Kai, or simply enjoying some processed taquitos and a delectable ‘pazooki’ for dessert. 


Natalie is a valued, and vital part of iHoot, Owlside, and iUniversity Prep, along with everything else she takes part in. Her hard work and dedication remain continuous and consistent, and her recognition as this school year’s first ‘BOE of the month’ further proves that none of her contributions go unnoticed. Natalie continues to be the bright-eyed owl behind ‘Eyes on Owls’ and it’s safe to say that our newspaper wouldn’t be the same without her.