Well, this is it.
After seven years, 67 newspapers and what feels like no less than 8 billion bylines, I have made it to the finish line.
Admittedly, I have fantasized about this very moment.
The moment when I type my last sentence, turn in one last article and export layout for the final time. It seemed unimaginably triumphant, but ever-fleeting. Too far away to touch, yet so close I could almost taste it.
Now that I am here, I am totally unable to believe that this chaotic, exhausting and life-altering journey is over.
I have certainly never been a very forward-thinking person. I am usually buried in the stress of each day, too distracted to ever truly ponder tomorrow.
The end of my time as a journalist seemed far in the fuzzy future, too distant to picture. Even when people congratulated me as my college journey has wound down, their words seemed hollow and untrue.
Then, like a sudden beam of light, in a room swallowed by darkness, I can’t help but be struck all at once that this journey is over.
As I sit here now, 22 years old and mere weeks away from a college degree and a full-time job, I truly find it difficult to fathom how much I have changed since I wrote my first article in 2012.
Unmotivated and apathetic to my education, I registered for my high school’s journalism class as a sophomore. Little did I know, a thoughtless checkmark on my class schedule would lay the tracks for my future and transform me in ways I never could have imagined.
In high school, I was anything but exceptional academically.
Shocking, I know, because now my friends and family can attest that I consider any score under 93% a disappointment.
I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly why I was so lackadaisical about my future at the time, but I can now narrow the problem into two specific reasons.
My lack of motivation stemmed from the fact that I had never found a class that I cared about or a teacher that cared about me. Luckily, I found both in a high school journalism class titled, “Print Media.”
In that class, I cemented lifelong friendships (I love you Reilly Collins) and discovered a passion for writing and graphic design that I will carry with me forever.
I would eventually take print media two more times during my junior and senior years of high school and hunt for colleges with my mind absolutely set on pursuing communication.
When I first joined the newspaper at Waynesburg University, I was timid and unsure of my ability.
On staff, I found myself surrounded by exceptionally talented writers, and in comparison, I felt laughably average. Honestly, I let myself feel defeated for a while, just trying to find peace in turning in work that I deemed “acceptable.”
But, after becoming close with my fellow editors, I found a spark for writing I had never quite felt before. Instead of accepting defeat, I was challenged by their talent and tried to learn more from them to sharpen my skills.
I found a niche in writing pieces that highlighted student diversity, and I truly felt a sense of pride from the work that I was accomplishing. I loved amplifying the voices of people that were otherwise ignored on campus.
Among the staff of The Yellow Jacket, I found myself as both a writer and a person.
Since this is the last time my writing will ever be put into ink and published, I feel it is only appropriate to thank each person who has brought me to this point.
I need to thank the people who have transformed my life in the most major ways imaginable in preciously few words. I apologize for the brevity (the op/ed editor will only let me drone on for so long), but know that I am more grateful for each of you than you will ever know.
I will begin with the man who got me here, the teacher of my high school journalism class, Aaron Fitzpatrick. He was the first teacher who ever truly believed in me and took the time to encourage me to do my best.
Thank you for looking closely enough to find the potential I had in me. Thank you for telling me I had talent and helping me find it. Without you setting me on this path those years ago, I would be without so much that I now treasure.
Thank you to Sarah Bell for being an exceptional advisor and caring friend. Thank you for never giving up on us when many others did.
Thank you, Tré Thomas, for being a friend I could never deserve. Though you would roll your eyes when I left you for the newspaper on Monday and Tuesday nights, you let me go, knowing I was off to be a part of something I was passionate about. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a friend that loves unconditionally.
Teghan Simonton, Mattie Winowitch, Luke Goodling and Tyler Godwin, I miss you each of you dearly. I am so blessed to have your friendship, and I cannot wait to be your cheerleader as each of you continue to accomplish amazing things.
To my mom and Ted, thank you for everything. Words aren’t big enough to encapsulate how much your encouragement and love has motivated me.
Vinnie Rose, thank you for making every bad moment better and every great one sweeter. Thank you for rooting for me no matter what and being the only one who makes me laugh during life’s toughest moments. Through everything you do, you make me better.
To the dozens of others who have impacted my journey, I am eternally grateful.
For those of you who are unaware, I am actually not a journalism major or minor and have done everything with The Yellow Jacket on primarily, a volunteer basis.
I have no intention of entering the career field as a reporter. As a result, many would assume the thousands of hours I put into stressing about, writing for or creating this newspaper a waste.
When I think of the memories, the people and the transformation I’ve undergone, I know it was anything but.
Thank you, each of you, for making this experience one that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.
Gracie out. ***Drops mic.***