Summer 2012

ImageMe and my tandem skydiving instructor, Thomas, free falling more than 12,000 feet in the air in Middletown, Ohio.

Earlier I was cleaning my room even though I had just cleaned it two days ago. My mom considered my room to be a “trashed mess” because I had a pair of cargo shorts, a Subway visor, a Macbook charger, and two or three t-shirts sprawled throughout my brown carpet. When I bent down to pick up my charger I noticed something under my bed, a receipt from the month of June.

I think of myself as a hoarder when it comes to these slips of paper. My mom owns her own business so she has saved receipts since I was little so I have gotten in the habit of doing the same. The slip was from a Five Guys Restaurant in Columbus that my dad and I stopped at on my way home from college for the summer. When I looked at the receipt date of Friday June 8th today, I couldn’t believe that two months had already gone by since then. I realized that my summer was spent and that in just under a week I would be moved in back in Athens to begin my second year at Ohio University.

To be honest, my summer hasn’t been anything too special. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been bad, but I have certainly had more exciting summers. As most of my friends and family know, I totaled my car back in the winter, which forced me to get a summer job at a factory. After being home for only two days, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. to begin my job at Whirlpool, the largest washing machine factory in the world.

That morning, I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that I would rather be interviewing interesting people, writing stories, or reading a book by the pool. When I walked through the metal doors, my mind was instantly made up that I never wanted to “make a career” out of a factory job. I was surrounded by loud noises, fork lifts (which Whirlpool employees call Jeeps for some reason), and fellow co-workers who looked miserable. You could practically absorb the depression and sadness in the air through the pores of your skin.

My first job was simple, too simple really. My line leader told me that I was to inspect the plastic tubs that the basket of the washing machine is placed in as they passed on the assembly line. I was to look for cracks and other deformities like indentations in the plastic. If I didn’t find any I just took a Sharpie pen and drew a quick line on the tub to show that the equipment had been properly inspected. If I did come across a crack, I was to place a red sticker on it to show that it was defective. At first I thought, “Wow this is cake!” then the first 45 minutes went by and I realized I had 7 hours and 15 minutes to go. I practically went insane. I tried to keep my mind occupied by naming the fifty states in my head, imagining listening to my favorite songs, or planning the rest of my day. I did everything in my power to not look at the clock.

Fortunately I only had to inspect tubs for 7 days, before I got a different series of jobs at the factory. Unlike the inspecting job, I was close enough to other employees to be within speaking distance of them. To help pass the time, I did what a journalist like myself does best, talk to people, and listen to their stories. I met many interesting people at Whirlpool. There even was a 60 year-old lady who called me her “sugar” who told me I was her eye candy for the day. I wish I was joking, but unfortunately I’m not. Although there were a few strange people behind the factory walls, most people were extremely friendly and were just at Whirlpool for the single reason I was… money. I got close to my coworkers and we shared numerous stories about our friends and family with one another. Each and every person I worked with told me the same thing: “STAY IN SCHOOL!” I responded the same way each time in saying, “Trust me, I will.”

I was at Whirlpool for exactly two months. I am so glad to be out, but I really will miss some of the people I worked with.

Besides working at Whirlpool, I also picked up some extra shifts at my town’s local Subway. I worked at Subway throughout high school and am quite the sandwich artist if I say so myself.

Although I did work nonstop throughout the summer, I still managed to have some fun. On my days off, I would try and catch up with my friends any chance I could get. I also read quite a bit, although not as much as I had originally hoped. My two favorite summer reads were Animal Farm and Slaughterhouse Five.

I did have some days this summer that I was down. I felt as though I was wasting my summer away, because I wasn’t at an internship or doing things in my chosen field of journalism. I know now that I made the right decision in working throughout the summer. Given the fact that I am already thousands of dollars in debt with student loans, I needed to make and save money this summer. I know that there is still time to intern at places throughout the country especially since I will be able to graduate a whole year early from college.

After working 10 of the 11 weeks of my first summer after my freshman year of college, my sister and I ended the summer with a bang, or a jump really. I was able to check something huge off of my bucket list. The two of us made the journey to Middletown Ohio to go skydiving, which I have wanted to do since I was 15.

Hurling my body out of an airplane at 13,000 feet has been the greatest feeling that I have ever experienced in my twenty years of living. I don’t know if it was from the risk of death, high speeds, or extreme height, but I was high on life when I jumped from that airplane. The euphoria is indescribable. All that I can do is just recommend people to go skydiving. I know it is crazy, but it is entirely worth it and the feeling is invaluable. I know that I will do it again and I cannot wait until that day I free-fall towards the earth for those sweet 60 seconds before a parachute puts my thrill to an abrupt halt.

I had a great summer and enjoyed bonfires with friends, lounging by the pool with my family, and of course risking my life by jumping out of a plane, but I am ready to go back to my second home in Athens. I am looking forward to getting back in the routine of going to class and being in a newsroom. Although, I am going to miss my friends and family in Clyde, I know that it will be good to be back at OU.

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An attempt at being philosophical

Even though I am considered a sophomore here at OU (since I racked up so many credits though Post Secondary Options), I still consider myself a freshman. I keep finding myself doing freshman things. Case in point, I just went to my Philosophy class today, and the class doesn’t even meet today. The class meets on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Today is Wednesday. Well, I went regardless. Even though my peers didn’t go to class, I still decided to get my daily dose of Philosophy. No I didn’t sit in an empty classroom and attempt to teach myself, I went to the library instead to do some online philosophical thinking.

My professor has a discussion board on the web where we can respond to various prompts and questions that he asks us. Here was today’s question:

In the film ‘Vanilla Sky’ there is an experience machine which is capable of fulfilling our every pleasure or desire. The experiences from the machine feel real and are indistinguishable from ‘real life’ ones, and if you choose to stay in the machine, your memory can be modified so that you do not remember any reality other than the simulated one. In essence then, you have the choice of starting your life over as master of a simulated reality designed entirely to keep you content and happy. Would you enter the machine and give up this existence?

Honestly, I really don’t like the subject of Philosophy, but this question actually got my brain buzzing. Unfortunately this seldom happens in my classes. What can I say; my lecture classes really aren’t too interactive. Here was my response to the question though:

Usually, I am a yes man and don’t like saying no. I hope to sky dive in my lifetime, bungee jump, feed a great white shark, the list can go on and on. I am adventurous person who takes risks. However, if I were offered a chance to enter an experience machine, I would not go inside it.

Sure, the perfect life sounds great, after all, we always say: “I wish that…” or “God, couldn’t this have worked out differently?” sometimes we even ask ourselves: “Why me?” Even though we question various scenarios, these experiences are what shape us into the people we are today.

We learn from the chances we make. If there were an experience machine, we wouldn’t have any risks because everything would work out in our favor and we would count on it to do just that. Even though we often hope and pray for the best outcomes in our everyday lifestyles, we know that there is a chance of failure or loss. That’s what is so great about life!

From our daily experiences we can make decisions that will either better us, or worsen us. Even when things don’t always work out and we have our occasional “off day,” we always have another day for things to improve. One of my favorite musicians wrote a lyric that says, “Today’s not over if tomorrow’s still a word you use.” I couldn’t agree more with this. We need to live in the moment and live our lives to the fullest, take risks, make mistakes, and have fun. Even if we were guaranteed the “perfect life” by some experience machine, life wouldn’t be worth living if it were flawless.

Before I came to college I was terrified of failure. It may be weird, but now I almost embrace it. I want to make mistakes! Sure nobody likes messing up, but I know that we all have to at some point in our lives.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I completely slipped my mind and forgot to clarify something with a source for a story that I was writing. Sure enough, I was wrong and had to fix the problem after my article was published. It was a minor mistake, but regardless, I slipped up. I got in touch with my source and apologized and admitted to the error. Even though I regretted it, I am glad it happened because I will make sure I don’t do something similar in the future.

I’m only learning and I know that I get to look forward to thousands, maybe millions of mistakes in my lifetime. That’s okay though, because we have the opportunity to set things straight, apologize, and make things right.

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“Try big, fail big”

I had a nice extended weekend this week and it was nice to get caught up on things. I felt like a housewife and was able to completely clean the dorm, do my laundry (which I failed miserably at since the dryer was broken,) and get caught up on some homework.

Unlike most journalists, I think I am doing a great job at unprocrastination, a word that I made up meaning not procrastinating. I wrote two papers this weekend one of which is due Thursday and the other Monday. I like getting ahead that way I can sporadically cover things for The Post if anything comes up.

I love my classes and all, but they are just so repetitive and I just can’t wait to get out there more and report. I have such a passion and hunger for journalism and want to explore. What’s nice is that I have the Internet and I am able to blog and write for numerous publications and have a voice that has the potential to get heard. I would much rather be editing a video or story than sitting in a lecture about the history of Nazi Germany. I am so anxious to intern and eventually get a job. Sometimes I wonder if I am crazy for thinking about these things as a freshman, but hey, I’m an unprocrastinator, remember?!

I had a great ending to my long weekend and had a Skype chat with Drake, and I don’t mean the rapper and ex-paraplegic on “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” I chatted with Drake Martinet, who is the Social Media Editor at The Wall Street Journal for All Things Digital.

Martinet was able to give me some firsthand insight about his career as a journalist. He was nice enough to share some “tricks to the trade” and tips on scoring internships. We even discussed when it is appropriate to break a story and when it is crossing the line to do so. During our chat, Drake said four words that will forever stick with me:

“Try big, fail big.”

As I mature I am realizing that I am starting to be more of a risk taker. When I came to OU I had the notion that I would be more focused on multimedia content compared to writing. However, I knew that The Post offered the best opportunities for my future and chose to take a risk and focus on my writing instead and do multimedia on the side. I still was able to do multimedia work in my JFreshman Newsroom class and will do multimedia work for AVW Productions. I’d assume that I will eventually edit a video or two in my Future of Media Course this quarter as well.

Anyway, Martinet’s quote really struck home with me because I want to take risks in my career, or as Steve Jobs once put it “Make a dent in the universe.” I even took a risk getting in touch with Drake. He could have easily said, “I’m too busy for a silly little freshman.” but I thought what the heck, I’ll shoot him an email and try to schedule something.

What I am learning about the journalism field is that under most circumstances fellow journalists will have your back and will try to help with almost anything. Scripps has put me in touch with some great people who want to help. If I never came here I probably wouldn’t have been able to meet Brian Stelter, a New York Times reporter, Peter Shaplen, a free-lance producer based in California, Phil Rees, a documentary filmmaker, Eric Olander who is from France, the list can just keep going on and on and it will only continue to grow.

Not only do I want to take risks in building connections and meeting great people, I want to take risks in my content. I hope to report great stories and break news of my own. Heck, me and Drake were just talking about how Brian Stelter tweeted about Osama Bin Laden’s death a whole 10 minutes before CNN or Fox News reported it. I’m going to make tremors in my field. I don’t know what I’ll be writing, filming, shooting, editing, producing, whatever, ten years from now, but I assure you, it will be great and will be my best work, and I’ll be proud of it.

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Back in the swing of things

It is hard to believe that I have already been back in Athens for nearly two weeks now.

I think that keeping insanely busy really helps make the time fly by. Between classes, The Post, and squeezing little time for a social life, it is hard to just relax.

Honestly, today was the first day I actually was able slow things down a little. Trust me though, I’m not complaining. The life of a journalist is one where you get scramble around like a chicken with its head cut off in order to desperately get that last source that will tie your story together perfectly. I love the feeling of putting so much effort into a story that I can be proud of.

I’m really excited because tomorrow I have my first big story of the quarter. I guess you could say it’s my first big story of the year too. It’s funny, just when I get used to writing 2011 on my papers it’s already 2012. Heck, I even remember when we went from 1999 to 2000. I must be getting old.

Anyway, about my story… I wrote about the Stop Online Piracy Act and how two OU grads that started their own website, Imgur, recently decided to stand up against SOPA and switch over their domains from GoDaddy, an ex-supporter of SOPA legislation. It’s really interesting and if the bill passes the Internet we’ve all grown to love really could drastically change. Stories like my Imgur story are really the type of journalism that I could see myself doing in the future after college.

This quarter I also decided to mix things up and volunteer to work for AVW Productions’ Tech Heads blog. I did my first review of my handy Nook Color that I take with me everywhere. My Nook actually has all my textbooks on it, which still blows my mind. You can check out my review [here]. Oh yeah, and I also took my picture for my story. I’m so terrible at this whole photography thing, but I’m learning. I need to read my instruction manual but I have been reading textbooks instead.

I am sick and tired of reading, and I love to read! My first quarter I rarely was assigned to read but this quarter it’s obviously the trend. While reading my textbooks, I frequently find myself zoning out and having to re-read pages I’ve already read. I drift off in thought and instead think about the other 250,000 things I have to do, rather than comprehend the material I’m reading. So far though, all my classes are going well and I enjoy each and every one of them.

I lucked out again and have a couple hands-on courses in addition to my two lectures. I’m most excited for my Future of Media Course which is laid out much like my JFreshman Newsroom class that I took last quarter. Although I’m pumped about the long weekend, I’m kind of bummed that I won’t have my Future of Media class because it is only once a week and the holiday just happens to fall on Monday.

I keep finding myself writing these blog posts at crazy hours of the night. I love blogging and am really trying to do it as much as possible, but at this rate I may turn into a caffeine addicted journalism zombie! Just kidding, I’m one of the few journalism students at OU who doesn’t tote around a Starbucks cup. No thanks, I’ll stick to my FIJI Water instead.

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From Clyde to Pittsburgh to Athens

A shot I snapped on my cell phone of Pittsburgh at night

The past week has been one of the best ones that I’ve had in a while. I managed to squeeze in some last minute time with my friends from Clyde before I headed back to college.

I am blessed to have such great friends. They mean so much to me and it is awesome to always have a handful of people to have my back no matter what. I know that my friends will always be there to support me and be by my side.

It was nice because I was able to have my friend Jim, from OU, come five hours from Northern Michigan to meet my friends and family.

The two of us then made a three hour trip to Pittsburgh to meet up with Kristin, who like Jim and I, studies journalism at OU.

Pittsburgh is incredible. I could honestly see myself living in a city like Pittsburgh after college. The people there are very friendly and the city wasn’t overwhelming like New York is.

I’m proud of myself because I didn’t really spend a lot of money there, buying things that I don’t really need. I am really going to attempt to save money this quarter in Athens, especially since I just made a major purchase.

Just before the New Year, I decided to get a DSLR Camera–a Canon T3i. When I originally was looking for cameras I had my mind set on a 60d or a 7d body. After totaling my vehicle, I decided to save a little money and opt out for spending my money on something that isn’t the top of the line, even though I usually get the best of the best.

I’m learning that the hobby of photography certainly isn’t a cheap one. Lenses can run upwards of three grand and there is a plethora of accessories available. I ended up getting one lens, a decent memory card, two extra batteries, and a leather ONA bag to hold all of my gear. I love being able to support myself at college and purchases on the things that I want with money that I earned.

To tell you the truth, I still haven’t opened anything! I can’t wait to get shooting, but I am psychotic when it comes to protecting my gadgets. As crazy as it sounds, I probably won’t start to use anything until my camera bag comes in. I did the same thing with my Macbook Pro. I refused to take my shiny, new, aluminum computer out of the box until I had my invisibleSHIELD applied to it. After spending several hundred of dollars on something, I certainly want to protect it!

Now that I am back in Athens I can’t wait to take advantage of my camera to add to my news content. I really want to incorporate multimedia like photos and video to really help get the message out in my storytelling.

I am so glad to be back at Ohio University. I always said that Clyde would always be my home, it still is but Athens truly is like a second home, I guess you could call it a home away from home, if that makes sense. I just love the atmosphere here so much.

Despite the just above freezing temperatures, I went on a nice relaxing walk tonight. It was crazy because I didn’t see a single person outside. I guess some people weren’t as excited as I was to get moved back in.

Anyway, the feeling that I get when I step foot on the brick sidewalks in Athens is almost indescribable. I know that I made the right decision to come here and I know that I have been doing the right things. I have associated myself with all the right people and have gotten involved with the things that interest me. These people and activities will not only make me a better person but will also help get me further in life.

As I walked up Morton Hill (which was quite difficult since I just had surgery a little over a week ago) I thought to myself, “It’s great to be back, and I couldn’t be any happier right now.”

Although I am going to miss my family and friends from back home in Clyde a lot, I can’t wait to start classes on Tuesday.

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Just stay positive

3:02 A.M. is what the clock across from my bed reads, telling me that I should go to sleep, but I don’t care I feel like writing.

The past couple of months haven’t been the greatest. Honestly, they have been hell. But I kept my chin up and knew that things would get better. And well… they did.

Way back in the month of October we had to pitch story ideas for a project in my JFreshman Newsroom course. I ended up deciding on covering the cancer cluster that is in my home town of Clyde, Ohio. Little did I know that my choice in topic would be ironic.

I was really excited about getting the word out so the innocent children, parents, and families in the small town of Clyde could maybe get some justice from the dreaded disease.

During the third week of October I came home to conduct an interview with Warren and Wendy Brown who had lost their daughter Alexa to cancer. The day I woke up for the interview just before I got in a shower I noticed something funny, a small pea sized lump just below my waist located on the left side of my groin.

My heart instantly started to race and I felt a sudden lump in my throat. My world began to spin and I got extremely light headed. I felt like someone had just crashed a wrecking ball into my stomach. “I’m only 19 years old, this can’t be cancer, it just can’t,” I thought to myself trying to hold back tears.

I instantly rushed into the living room and told my mom what I found. She thought what every mother thought when their son or daughter gets sick or finds something the matter with them: “Could it be from the cancer cluster here in Clyde?”

I planned on going back to Athens for classes the next day but rushed to the doctor instead. He knew something wasn’t right and told me that that pea sized lump was actually an enlarged lymph node. He prescribed an antibiotic for me and told me to come back in a week.

Because of classes and writing for the Post, the soonest I could come home was 12 days. Well during that time my lymph node didn’t react at all to the antibiotic it actually got bigger and guess what? I found two more enlarged lymph nodes one even on the opposite side.

I went back to the doctor, he told me just to wait it out until I was on break for school. To tell you the truth, I wanted to hit him. How could he possibly expect me to wait another month with these things inside me! For all I knew they were spreading into something that was killing me.

For the next couple of weeks I kept busy and simply ignored them. I lived those three weeks in utter denial. I pretended like the lumps weren’t there and just moved on with my life. For a while it worked but as I would lay in bed each night I thought, “What if it is cancer?” There was so much I still wanted do in my life. I hadn’t even told anybody about my lumps besides my family. “How would my friends react if it was cancer,” my mind raced. “Would people treat me differently?” My roommate was on the bunk above me and had no idea what I was going through. Nobody did, except for my family that was four hours away.

I ended up telling my best friend from home, and my friend from OU, just because they both caught on and could tell something was the matter with me. I told my professors why I missed class and my editor for the paper. That was it.

As creepy as it sounds it is interesting to watch the dramatic change in people’s facial expressions when you tell them you may have cancer. It’s like you are erasing a dry erase board with a nice picture of a flower drawn on it. What once was delicate, colorful, and fun instantly became blank, empty and somber. I hated telling people what I was going through which is why I waited last minute to do so.

When I finally got home I had all these great plans to read all sorts of books, apply for hundreds of internships, and write everyday but I just couldn’t. All that I wanted to do was spend time with my family. I was a mess. But nobody could tell. I just kept it all inside and hoped for the best.

It really sucks, not knowing. You just wait and wait and wait and wait. But hey things can’t get much worse, right? WRONG.

I don’t even want to go into detail because it makes me sick. I ran over a deer and totaled my car two days before my appointment.

The day of my actual appointment I learned that the lumps continued to grow and I had about 10 of them total, roughly five on each side. That’s when we scheduled the biopsy. Which meant even more waiting, but hey life goes on.

I took my car to the body shop and was informed that the cost of the damage was well over 4 grand, forcing me to take my car to the dump. I maintained my composure until I cleaned out all my belongings my car at the junkyard.

I broke down. I just wanted to collapse. It was the first time that I had actually cried about the whole thing. The bearded junk yard worker wearing navy blue overalls probably thought I looked like a child but I didn’t care. I was so upset about losing my car and possibly losing my life. As I said though, life goes on. I had to go to the hospital that day for blood work, my surgery was in a week.

For the next seven days, I spent time with my friends and family and enjoyed every second of it. We all stayed positive and kept optimistic thoughts since that was all we could really do.

The last two days before my surgery were the slowest days of my life. I just wanted to get everything over with and know what was going on. The day finally came but after surgery I only found out that I would have to do more waiting. The full results wouldn’t be back until Wednesday.

It wasn’t until today, well yesterday since it’s past midnight, that I learned that all is well. I am so relieved it was like an instant weight had been lifted off of me. The lymph nodes are not cancerous, they are not swollen from bacteria, infection, or a virus either. My doctor said some sort of stimulus triggered them to swell up and he simply doesn’t know why.

I was carrying such a heavy burden and fear from the unknown that I struggled to do the things that I wanted to do. Sure I was the same person, but all my plans for winter break were held up because I knew my heath, both physical and mental should come first.

All while everything was going on I was angry because so many of my friends were doing great things with their time while I was being eaten alive from now knowing what was inside me–well what is still inside of me.

As I write this my lymph nodes are still there on my left side of my groin, they are the same size as they were when I found them in October. However, there is a two inch incision on my right side of my groin where the doctor removed some of them.

But it doesn’t matter. I’m healthy and that’s all that counts.

Although my winter intercession was absolutely terrible. I had my friends and family there by my side every step of the way. It is almost a new year and I will have a clean slate. I can’t wait to see what great things I am going to achieve.

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The Friday that changed my life

Just like any other school day, my alarm clock obnoxiously buzzed at 6:57 AM. Little did I know that September 23rd 2011 would substantially impact my life. That morning I quickly took a shower, got dressed, had a quick breakfast, and then went out the door. I was on my way to Scripps, my second “home” on campus for my favorite class, JFreshman Newsroom.

We JFreshy3 students immediately got started and began our class by Skyping Eric Olander, who was over 4,000 miles away from us in Paris!

Olander is France 24′s Digital Platforms Editor. The self-proclaimed “social media pixel pusher.” is also the co-host of the weekly global technology show Tech 24 on YouTube.

I see a lot of myself in Mr. Olander. I am entirely interested in technology and would love to report on all the latest gadgets, much like Olander does on his web show. Olander explained to the class that the Internet is the future of journalism and I couldn’t agree more.

Before I came here to OU everyone always asked me: “What kind of journalist do you want to be?” Inside, I would always get a little flustered because in today’s economy, a true journalist has to be specialized in all fields of journalism. Olander touched base on this concept a lot.

“Journalists need to know how to write, shoot video and photos, edit footage, and put their entire projects together,” Olander said.

No longer can journalists specialize in one specific field, like broadcasting for instance.

Olander told us future journalists that it is extremely important to keep up to date on all the news surrounding us, from newspapers like the New York Times, to magazines such as the Economist, or simply the nightly news on television. I truly believe that I am informed with what is going on worldwide, but I know that there is always another story out there for me to experience

After our video call with Olander we immediately Skyped Phil Rees of the United Press International University (UPIU).  Rees is a journalist who is currently located in London. He explained the importance of capturing a very important theme to our pieces that can get through to the audience. He also expressed the necessity to include emotion and human touch to our stories.

“One thing that a journalist should never lose is compassion,” Rees said.

I couldn’t believe that after the first three hours of class we had communicated with such fascinating people over a total global distance of 37,656 miles! But they day wasn’t over yet!

Professor Robert Stewart invited Meghan Louttit, a Scripps alumna and multimedia producer for the New York Times, to class. This time though, we had a conversation face to face instead of using an iMac’s camera!

It was nice to talk to a person who was fresh out of college that has recently taken the first step into the real world. Our class was able to relate with Louttit because we are currently jumping through the hoops that she has already been though. Louttit gave us the insight at how important it is to get involved and apply for internships.

Fortunately for me, I even was able to ask Ms. Louttit a question about her interview process at the New York Times. She described the procedure as extremely tedious. Surprisingly, Louttit went through 3 interviews, both on the phone and in person, numerous e-mail messages, and a written test, which all were spanned out over a time period of about 4 months!

I couldn’t believe the amount of information I was given Friday. My brain still is doing a front flip this second as I am recollecting all the day’s events! I am extremely honored and blessed that I was chosen for JFreshman Newsroom. It has been a privilege to meet so many great people who are willing to offer their time to help me become the best journalist that I can be. My journey has already begun; I just can’t wait to see what will happen next!

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