Senior Sendoff: Justin Cho


Justin Cho, Senior Staff Writer

The summer after I graduated from high school, I was in one of the lowest places of my life. I felt alone, lost, and hopeless.

So I started reading.

I found a box of old books while packing to move out of my family’s place. I wasn’t a reader before. In fact, this was really unlike me. I had no patience for reading, and I struggled to keep attention if I didn’t really care. Back then, I remember having to take the SAT three times because I couldn’t sit still long enough to finish the whole test. However, I would gladly spend my day watching a six-hour YouTube analysis about Ben 10 lore.

In my beat-up box of novels, there was a small, blue book titled “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli. I started reading it because it was short, and I thought it was all my attention span could handle. To my surprise, I ended up finishing it in a single night, and the themes of individualism, social expectations, and self-acceptance moved me in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I kept reading after that, but Jerry Spinelli’s novel never left my mind. So I did a deep dive on Spinelli’s life and learned that he sparked his writing career by joining his university’s newspaper. My first quarter at UCSD, I did the same and joined The Guardian.

However, I wasn’t a writer. I was a STEM major from a strictly STEM family, and I had never written outside of school. It certainly showed in my writing — the quality of my work varied heavily from article to article. Despite this, my editors Lara and Nelson had so much patience and worked miracles to truly develop my writing, even if they sometimes roasted me a little too hard.

When the pandemic happened, it was just Nelson and I on the features team. We alternated every week to pump out a new article. It was tough, but fun. I was able to learn a lot from Nelson and make the most out of the online experience. But after a few quarters, I left. I began to pursue other creative ventures, most notably a novel. However, a part of me felt guilty for leaving Nelson. Perhaps I was running away. To this day, this is something I still look back on with many mixed emotions.

Recently, I’ve come back to write one more article for The Guardian to pay homage to everything it’s done for me. The Features team is very different now, but I’m happy to see it is in great hands. The Guardian will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me the push I needed to find confidence in my creative pursuits despite having little writing background. I want to thank Lara and Nelson for helping change the trajectory of my life forever.