FHS Alumni - Where Are They Now?
Guest Article by Laura Hettiger
It is 2:26 in the morning and the alarm rings. The same alarm that's gone off at nearly the same time nearly every weekday for the last seven years.
It is the sound that reminds me to make it a great day, St. Louis.
I am Laura Hettiger, a proud 2005 graduate of Flora High School. I am a television news anchor and co-host of Great Day St. Louis on KMOV-TV Channel 4. My alarm now goes off when I used to go to bed.
A lot has changed in my life since walking across the graduation stage in Conley Gymnasium. I traded in my familiar Flora for the University of Illinois--joining a familiar face, my sister, on the Fighting Illini Cheer Team. Jessica, a 2002 FHS graduate, and I cheered together for one football season and part of a basketball season before a knee injury at an Illinois basketball game ended my cheerleading career. A torn ACL, MCL, meniscus and reconstructive knee surgery later, I realized I needed to change my passion for sports into a new passion: sports reporting.
Throughout the rest of my college career, I wrote for The Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the University of Illinois. I covered everything from wheelchair basketball to gymnastics to football. Luckily, I already had years of reporting experience thanks to Smitty and the opportunities he gave me while a student at FHJHS and FHS. Internships came next with stints at Us Weekly Magazine and American Cheerleader Magazine in New York City, the Big Ten Network and the ABC affiliate in Champaign.
My life took another turn when so many other lives did: the recession of 2008. Newspaper and magazine jobs disappeared and the downturn pushed me to turn in a different direction. I opted to get my Master's in broadcasting at U. of I. Thank goodness I did!
I graduated--again--in December 2010 and started applying for sports reporting jobs all over the country. In the meantime, I became a substitute teacher at FHS. I quickly realized journalism was my calling and decided to take a "find a job road trip" where, quite honestly, I took a road trip across the southeast to look for a job. For a week, I drove over 3,000 miles, showed up at 30 television stations in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina asking for a job. Of the 30 television stations I stopped, I had face-to-face meetings with bosses at 26 of them and ultimately was offered a job at the NBC affiliate in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.
I moved to the Palmetto State only knowing one Flora native and no one else in April 2011. I reported, produced and was a sports anchor there until I realized my heart was truly in the Midwest. Much like how I obtained my job in Charleston, I showed up at KMOV in June 2012 one week when I was visiting my family. A month and a half later, I started at KMOV of the newest member of News 4 This Morning.
Over the last seven years, I've worked exclusively on the morning newscast, first as a reporter and now as an anchor. From 2012 to 2015, I could be found at nearly every breaking news story between 3:00 in the morning and noon. My life took yet another turn when so many other lives in the St. Louis area did in August 2014 when Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo.
For months, I covered the protests, the Department of Justice investigation, the convening of the Grand Jury and the aftermath of the decision not to indict the officer who shot Brown.
I won my first Emmy award for my Ferguson coverage. Since then, I've been nominated for two more. In 2019, I was named the favorite St. Louis anchorwoman and favorite St. Louis Twitter account by St. Louis Magazine.
However, what I’m most proud of is the different charities I have learned so much from over the last seven years. Right now, I am gearing up for the third annual Laura’s Run 4 Kids benefiting The Little Bit Foundation. In the first two 5K runs, we raised over $100,000 for students in St. Louis Public Schools. The third will be in downtown St. Louis on Saturday, April 25, 2020. I am also passionate about helping Pedal the Cause, St. Louis Crisis Nursery and the St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness group.
Life has been busy, crazy, challenging, stressful, early, but overall...a really interesting ride I never would have imagined when I was still a student at Flora High School.
The one thing that I still think about once a day is the advice my mom gave me when she and my dad dropped me off at the University of Illinois: always be proud of where you came from. I could not be more proud to be from Flora and I'd gladly answer to Laura from Flora any day!