Heads or Tails?

A lifelong writer, Emma Diehl had three separate teachers recommend that she pursue journalism as a career, yet she was still uncertain as she considered her first elective choices.

It started with a coin toss.

Heads: incoming J. W. Mitchell High School freshman Emma Diehl signs up for Hoofbeat, the school newspaper. Tails: she joins the yearbook staff.


Fast-forward four years, and Diehl is enrolling in Florida Gulf Coast University as a junior in the Honors program. She finished high school with a diploma and an associate’s degree; she plans to study both communications and political science.

Why the double major? Well, as a staff reporter and the eventual editor-in-chief of Hoofbeat, Diehl had to travel across the country, interview people, and learn a lot about the world around her. She even interned with Senator Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign!

Nothing surprised her more, however, than her newfound love for public speaking.

See, there was a time when Diehl’s anxiety made it difficult for her to even get the mail for fear of having to interact with neighbors. But midway through her junior year, Diehl suffered an anxiety attack so powerful that it sent her to the emergency room. “I was in denial,” she says of her mental health challenges, “but that anxiety attack probably saved my life.”

Now, Diehl is doing things that she never imagined, like working in the front office at an elementary school and presenting at national journalism conferences. “Don’t be afraid to seek treatment,” she says. “No matter how cliche this may seem, it really does get better.”

Diehl credits the “close-knit family” of the newspaper staff for helping her through that difficult time. She also names the newspapers advisor, Susan McNulty, as her go-to person for support as well as editorial help, like design tips and funding advice. Seeking out an advocate and advisor like McNulty is Diehl’s best piece of advice for students who are trying to decide if student journalism is right for them.

Or you could just flip a coin.

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