Welcome, new interns!

  • Kate Schimel, left, and Kindra McQuillan, new interns, on the main street of Paonia.

    Brooke Warren

Our latest interns, Kate Schimel and Kindra McQuillan, have arrived for six months of rigorous reporting, writing and perhaps even a bit of fun. And Sarah Tory, a stellar intern from last session, is now our editorial fellow for the next year.

When Kindra McQuillan was a child, her outer world was often in flux — her family moved nearly every year — but she always made a space of her own for reading and writing, from Farr West, Utah, to tiny Ruch, Oregon. Her extensive reading led her to  suspect that most so-called “villains” were nothing more than the products of stories, that maybe, in real life, there were no bad guys.

This thought followed Kindra even after she left for college, at the University of Montana in Missoula, where she studied Spanish and anthropology. It lingered as she became a substitute teacher, worked in public health education and travelled for a year through Spain. She started writing again, and in 2012, an acquaintance suggested that she might find a place in journalism.

So she returned to the University of Montana, to the journalism school this time, where she reported on science and politics and investigated mercury contamination. She graduated in December, just in time to start an internship at HCN, where she says she’d like to tell the stories that only the West provides. But her thinking on one point has changed: “As a journalist,” she says, “I’ve learned there are villains.”

One fall night in 2010, 20-year-old Kate Schimel left her grandmother’s New York City apartment for what she thought would be a casual gathering of young writers. But the posh Central Park suite was filled with suit-clad documentarians engaged in a moderated discussion on the state of journalism, and Kate, in her baggy jeans and fraying sleeves, shrank into a couch and retreated behind her drink.

This was nothing like Boulder, Colorado, where she was raised. There, she spent winters skiing and summers on Rocky Mountain whitewater. When not outdoors, she wrote and painted, and at one point studied art at Portland’s Reed College. Reading C.L. Rawlins’ Sky’s Witness: A Year in the Wind River Range sparked an epiphany, the idea that she could marry creativity with wildness, as a writer.

That night in New York, the founder of Chalkbeat, a start-up education blog, struck up a conversation with her and eventually offered her a reporting internship. This started Kate’s journalism career, eventually leading her back to the West to finish a degree in biology at Reed before continuing with Chalkbeat as a reporter on rural schools in Colorado.

Just as she was wrapping up that job, Kate was accepted as an intern at High Country News. She’s glad to be back out West, she says, where snow falls on mountains, not penthouses.