I spent four 80-degree summer days inside a freezing air conditioned classroom being challenged to become better. To become a better journalist. To dig deeper into a story told through video and find the emotion inside a person and not just the facts. To share stories and let them be shared.
I knew I loved journalism and knew it was something I dreamed about pursuing ever since sixth grade. However, it was not until I was surrounded by a group of people who inspired me and made me fall in love with something I got to do every day. The KEMPA Scholastic Journalism Workshop 2015 changed my life for the best. It was the moment I understood that my love and passion is what I get to do for the rest of my life.
Our second day at camp the directors set up a Skype call with a former student of theirs. Sarah Beckman, a reporter in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time she was covering the beginning of the Iowa Caucus. A political junkie’s dream come true. She shared her insight on what it was like to be a professional journalist, shared some insider tips for the budding journalists, and even cracked a couple jokes about the outrageous things she had done for her job. Ask any journalist and they’ll have some crazy story about what they did to get their story. For me, staying until 12:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night to report the future of our administrators has to be one of the craziest things I have ever done.
Watching Beckman speak, and the reactions of all my fellow campers, I realized that I belonged. It was a sense of belonging that I never felt before. As if all of us were in on some big journalism inside joke and we understood each other that an outsider could not explain. All the activities I have participated in my 17 years of life, I’d never had an experience quite like that. I was surrounded by people who loved doing what I did almost as much. Then my thoughts wandered and I came to a simple realization: if this is my job, then I will always have this feeling inside. The feeling of joy and happiness doing something no one can ever take away from me.
The second day we had gathered in the same room to congregate the entire camp. This time, one of the speakers was actually a teacher at the camp. She had spoken about personal writing and how you must learn to be vulnerable to be your best. Writing your opinion for hopefully the entire world to hear can be difficult. This person is our very own NWN adviser, Ms. Evelyn Lauer.
Her lesson made me realize that being a journalist only makes you stronger. As a journalist, we have one of the hardest jobs. We ask questions that some people are afraid to ask but must know the answer. We share knowledge and opinions with the world whether you like it or not.
I have not only been inspired to become a stronger writer and share honest thoughts, it has translated to my decisions as a person. Recently I have come to the conclusion that I have changed since freshman year and I find that journalism and NWN is the reason why. I will admit that I was the “push over” type of person, always scared to make decisions and take chances. I would do anything someone asked. Now, I am no longer like this. I can say no and make decisions. I am not scared to take chances and to challenge myself. I have learned to make mistakes and accept them. It has also taught me how to accept criticism. I may hate it, but it is completely necessary if I want to be better. Journalism as whole has taught me how to be the best person I can be.
The moment you realize you are in the right place doing what you love, you’ll never forget. My last day at camp I looked around the room, at the friends and memories I made, and how bittersweet it all was to be ending. I couldn’t help but Tweet to the world “being surrounded by people who love what you do just as much is the most amazing family #kempasjw15.”
As Scholastic Journalism Week comes to a close, I realize that my greatest high school memories have come from being a journalist and a part of NWN. I have travelled the country with my best friends, been mentored by the greatest in the field of journalism, and made connections. Honestly, I would be lost without my passion for journalism. Convincing my mom to let me quit band and take Journalism and Broadcast Production sophomore year were only the mere beginning to an adventure I am thankful to have for the rest of my life. It’s the one time I can say, “I told you so,” Mom.