France Aravena
Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

From Fiction to Nonfiction: France Aravena on Breaking Into Journalism

While paging through Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan, first-year student France Aravena, like many other young teens, fell in love with the Percy Jackson series. It wasn’t just the fantastical plot that grabbed Aravena, but the hook Riordan used to entrance readers: the iconic disclaimer that Percy makes to the reader, warning them that if they continue to read this book, they will be in mortal danger. 

Because of their interest in the series, their enthusiasm for reading only grew. They hungered for similar adventures and thrills. This propelled their writing career, but unlike other journalists, Aravena first started out with creative writing.  

“I come from a background of creative writing, so I knew that I wanted to get into a field where I could use my writing for something,” Aravena said.  

It’s said that fantasy brings imagination along with it, and imagination was as easy as breathing for Aravena. 

They soon found immense comfort in writing. Creating magical escapes quickly became second nature. They described their writing process: “I would consume as much information as I could about the topic and then I would create characters and then make them go through all these fun adventures.” 

During their sophomore year at Wayzata High School, Aravena stumbled across ThreeSixty Journalism.  

Aravena participated in different academies, camps and teams under the “ThreeSixty umbrella,” which helped them discover their future.  

They explained, “I started ThreeSixty not really knowing if I was going to college, how I was going to afford college or what I was going to do. ThreeSixty really gave me the opportunity to focus on a field that I liked and it gave me the opportunity to have those resources to become a part of that field and actually be a part of a really good school.” 

From reading and writing magical fantasy stories to reporting and sharing information, Aravena has always found comfort in writing. However, after discovering the world of journalism, they knew that this is what they wanted to do. Before that, they didn’t think writing was a possible career. Aravena is now enrolled at St. Thomas after receiving a four-year, full-tuition ThreeSixty scholarship. They say that being a student at St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences has transformed their writing style.  

“I was always going online and always seeing the media around me. I saw that there was a lack of representation for minorities and diversity,” Aravena said. “I really want to use my voice to be able to amplify other people’s voices and try to get those stories heard.” 

From where they are now, they urge other high schoolers interested in writing to keep going no matter how foggy the path seems. They said that in doing so, “You will find people, you will find things, you’ll find opportunities and they’ll help out in the end.” 

A note about the author: Sophia Yoerks, Eden Prairie High School, is a participant in the ThreeSixty Journalism program. A version of this article was first published by ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas that uses the principles of strong writing and reporting to help diverse Minnesota youth tell the stories of their lives and communities.