Note: This article belongs to a collection of features of the Post’s staff members in the graduating Class of 2022.
It’s 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night and Carly Heltzel’s hunched over a computer in the Oracle classroom, hard at work.
The recent Mountain View High School graduate has spent countless nights like this: staying up late to edit articles, make graphics, layout pages inDesign and look over the final paper. Then, in the morning, she sends the paper off to be printed. It’s hard work, but a role that Heltzel was almost destined for.
“In the same way she does now, she loved journalism, and she loved Intro [to Journalism],” Mountain View High School graduate and Oracle co-editor-in-chief Natalie Arbatman said. “She put her whole heart and soul into it.”
When it came time to assign editors, Oracle adviser Amy Beare said that even though Heltzel was straight out of Introduction to Journalism, it was a “no brainer” to put her on Web News.
“Mr. Kahl and I always think ‘Oh, we got a hot one,’ when we know somebody’s gonna be really fired up about journalism,” Beare said.
And that’s exactly who Heltzel was, or really, who she continues to be; Arbatman recalled how the two spent hours in Heltzel’s car just reflecting on their journalism experiences after Oracle’s last production night.
“[We were just] talking about Oracle, and journalism, and all of the articles, and the class, and how passionate we both are, and what it means to be a journalist, and how it’s so great to be able to tell all these stories and how we’re so proud of everything we’ve done,” Arbatman said.
Beare said Heltzel’s passion and desire to improve is part of what makes her such a good editor-in-chief; it’s something that Heltzel carries with her, whether she’s in front of the class or 300 miles away at a Journalism Education Association conference, receiving a critique of the paper.
“You come back from this experience where somebody has basically all the things you’re doing wrong and Carly’s whole attitude was like she had just won the lottery,” Beare said.
“She will literally stop at nothing to make something good,” Arbatman said. “She will not accept a half-assed job on anything and if that means she has to take literally everything into her own hands, she’ll do it.”
How does Heltzel keep it up? According to Beare, “really good batteries or something.” Still, Heltzel always makes time for her friends.
“She has a lot going on in her life: she does Track and Cross Country and Midpen and Oracle and like a million things,” Mountain View High School graduate Ella Blatnik said. “But she’ll put it all aside to help you and it makes you feel so special, and [it] warms my heart that I’m so privileged to have a friend like that.”
Mountain View High School graduate Katherine Healzer said Heltzel’s ability to bring joy and help her friends through hard times is part of what makes her so special.
“Carly is going outside into the brightest, most sunshiny day,” Healzer said. “And it doesn’t matter what happened before — if you were in a dark, closed, cold room — [she’s like] stepping outside and just feeling the warm rays of sunshine just instantly beat down on you.”
And sometimes, that dark room is a freshman year Biology Honors class.
“We spent a lot of nights studying very late because [in] freshman year it was the biggest thing — that was our hardest class — so we just sent a lot of Facetimes and we really bonded and grew a lot closer through that,” Blatnik said.
In fact, Heltzel was such a good study buddy that she inspired Blatnik to take AP Biology the next year.
“And I know they don’t tell you to take classes for your friends, but I totally just took AP Bio because she was taking AP Bio,” Blatnik said.
Even after spending hours studying over Facetime, Heltzel’s deep love of learning never falters. Healzer said not only has Heltzel become a “huge advocate” for truth and equity in media, but her love of learning extends far beyond just journalism.
“Ms. Wu was talking on senior valediction day about Carly and how she just has a genuine love of learning that you can really feel — and that she wants to be learning everything and she gets so excited and passionate about whatever she’s learning,” Healzer said.
Whether it be dealing with the extreme struggles of an AP Biology class, or you’re just having a bad day, Heltzel’s friends know she’ll be there to help them through, all with a smile on her face.
“The thing that really stands out to me about her is that she has this amazing, warm, inviting smile that just makes you want to go up to her and instantly become friends with her,” Healzer said.
And even when Heltzel’s running eight miles up hills at cross country practice, that smile doesn’t fade.
Mountain View High School graduate and Cross Country captain Ellie Montgomery said she recalls the first run she went on with Heltzel: It was at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, and though Heltzel was having breathing issues, she powered through.
“Just within that season she went from … that to an insanely talented runner,” Montgomery said. “And it was so cool and exciting to see; she was quickly on varsity and was doing super well because she worked really hard.”
Montgomery said the two would often spend just as long taking after practice as they did in actual practice, and though Montgomery knew Heltzel before she joined cross country and track, the sports brought the two much closer together.
“When you’re on the runs they’re either really fun and you’re just kind of chatting and getting to know each other … or it’s, like, really hard, but you’re still sharing that experience,” Montgomery said.
Hills don’t just stop at cross country practices for Heltzel, though. She’ll bring even her most self-proclaimed unathletic friends with her — and somehow make it a good experience.
“I went on this huge horrible hike with her: We went up the PG&E trail,” Healzer said. “And I’m the opposite of athletic … It was horrible — the worst hike I’ve ever done in my entire life — but I had such an amazing time, just because I was with her and with her amazing attitude.”
And it’s that contagious positivity that Heltzel radiates that’s sure to set her up for success.
“I don’t doubt that she’ll continue to do whatever she wants and do it well in the future,” Mountain View High School graduate and Oracle co-editor-in-chief Sidney Rochnik said.
“I’m just very excited to see what she does in the future because I know it’s going to blow everybody out of the water,” Arbatman said.