Madeline Reali, CA

Junior Writer

Newly graduated from California State Northridge with a bachelor’s in journalism, Madeline has experience writing news and feature stories in school newspapers, from being a Features editor at Thousand Oaks High, to writing on the newspaper at Moorpark College, to contributing to The Sundial at CSUN. Her passion for interviewing, hearing stories about the lives of others, and writing fitting narratives of their life experiences has led her toward writing the more in-depth pieces that come with writing biographies. Having worked in customer service throughout her life to pay her way through college, she is comfortable, understanding, and kind when dealing with people. She also has experience working with exotic animals and is an absolute die-hard animal lover.

As a Story Terrace writer, Madeline interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Close Call on Santa Cruz Island

I had the privilege of having an unconventional early education in third and fourth grade that influenced my life far beyond my childhood. It was at a school called Orca School, which focused on arts and crafts, beach days, hiking, camping, and natural history.

Orca School was a small Waldorfian-meets-outdoor-adventure-school in Santa Barbara, California. My experiences there shaped who I became—someone who respects and loves nature and seeks out new experiences thanks to my two teachers, who were referred to as Rob and Dave.

All 20-or-so students, as well as a few parents and Rob and Dave, would go on a yearly camping trip to Santa Cruz island. The week was filled with exciting adventures. We hiked across the island, swam in the frigid waters, and kayaked in the exposed underwater caves. It was during the latter adventure that things went awry for myself and my kayak partner, Dave.

We paddled out, just the two of us, to kayak through the caves at low tide. He was doing something special for me so that I could view the caves without the clamor of my classmates to distract from the experience, as I was a quiet child who enjoyed basking in nature’s beauty in thoughtful silence. However, Dave soon noticed that perhaps it was not as close to low tide as we had thought originally. The water was rising and the waters outside the cave were getting choppy. In the few minutes we had been inside the cave, the situation had grown dire.

The cave was filling with water and we began to float upward toward the top of the cave. Paddling with all his might, Dave struggled to get us to the ever-shrinking cave entrance. I realized then the kind of danger we were in. There would be no way to breathe if the cave filled up with us inside, and with the choppy water outside, it would be impossible to reach the beach by swimming.

Through Dave’s sheer strength and power of will, we narrowly fit through the cave entrance. Knuckles white and breath heaving, Dave thrust the paddles to either side of the kayak, fighting against the tide. It seemed likely that we could be dragged out to sea. Kneeling at the prow, I watched as the beach drew closer and, miraculously, Dave saved our lives by steering us to shore with nearly superhuman strength. We collapsed on the shore, panting and shaking. Dave’s arms were limp and trembling from the strain of the last several minutes, but we were safe.

That day upon the treacherous waters of the Channel Islands, I learned strength, bravery, and respect for the elements and nature itself. I carry these lessons with me always, as well as the many others I learned at Orca School. But boy, was that a close one!

Get in touch today to work with Madeline!