By COLLEEN PEGHER
From the time I was about 12 years old, I wanted to be a sports journalist. Every day, I would come home from school and turn on ESPN to watch “Around the Horn.” I loved watching sports writers like Bill Plaschke, Woody Paige and Bob Ryan debate about the latest sports news, and I idolized Jackie MacMullan, one of only two women to appear on the show’s panel. I wanted so much to be like them, to spend my life doing what I loved most: talking about sports.
Almost ten years later, I still love sports, but I no longer have the time nor desire to watch “Around the Horn” every single day, and I certainly do not want to be a sportswriter. After four years of writing for The Campus, and spending three and a half years on its editorial board, I won’t be applying to a single job in the field of journalism. Instead, I will be entering a graduate program to earn my masters in special education.
There wasn’t any particular reason or negative experience that turned me against journalism. In fact, I loved every second I spent on the staff, and I enjoyed interviewing and writing about the different sports teams here at Allegheny. In a strange way, it was the lessons I learned from journalism that led me away from it. I have journalism to thank for my future in education.
In my time with The Campus Newspaper, I have worked with passionate journalists. I watched both of the newspaper’s advisers, Caley Cook and Cheryl Hatch, dedicate so much of their time to making this a better newspaper. I listened to stories about professor Hatch’s experiences travelling around the world, covering wartime in Afghanistan, and even suffering and recovering from a life-threatening illness in Kuwait. Their passion for journalism and the lengths they have gone to in order to capture the story are admirable, but I thought, “I would never want to do something like that.”
I have seen the impact that a dedicated, hard-working journalist can make on a community. My first year at Allegheny, I watched an older member of the staff cover a controversial story about racism on campus with such dedication and genuine interest. Many of those involved were so grateful to her for giving them a voice. I admired the difference she made with just one story, but I thought, “I would never want to do something like that.”
I have seen the perseverance that good journalism requires. My sophomore year, I watched two of my fellow members of the newspaper staff follow the infamous “tan-on-tan” man around Meadville, all the while talking to whoever they could to make more information available to students through our website. I respected the risks that they both took and the perseverance it required to get the story, but once more, I thought, “I would never want to do something like that.”
Feeling unsure about journalism after my first year of college, I took a job working with inner city students in the Pittsburgh area. Most of the campers who I worked with had learning disabilities and/or behavior problems. Within the month, I had to search through about two hundred lockers to find a runaway student, pull a student out of a live penguin sanctuary and break up at least ten fights. I learned that doing a job like this would require me to travel outside of my comfort zone, but I know that I can do that.
The summer after my junior year of college, I took another job working with kids, this time in Meadville.
The camp worked with children who had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other behavioral and emotional difficulties. During my time there, I met children who often struggled to interact socially, both in the classroom and at home. I quickly learned that just by showing a special interest in each child, I could make a difference in their lives and impact the community in a positive way. These children need to find their voice, and need someone to help them get there, and I know I can do that.
This past year, I worked for a tutoring program at the local elementary school. Most of the children I worked with hated reading, and were difficult to motivate at first. The one student I worked with each day, was less than enthused about the after school reading program, and was definitely not excited to work with me. Every Monday and Wednesday from September through April, we worked together, reading books and short stories, even if he was unhappy with me that day. About two months ago, the student told me, “I like reading now.” A few weeks ago, when he found out I wasn’t coming back next year, he said, “I am going to miss you even more than the cotton candy that you bring me.” It takes a great deal of dedication and perseverance to make a difference in a child’s life, and to create the sort of bond that impacts a child in a positive way. Every child, especially one that is struggling, needs an adult who is dedicated to their success and improvement, and I know I can do that.
In reflecting back on my time working for The Campus, I can see how the values taught to me by journalism have impacted my future. While I will never become the next Jackie MacMullen, I hope to become the most dedicated, passionate educator that I can be, and I have journalism to thank for that.
In closing, I would like to thank the staff for their hard work and their friendship. Working with you has built lasting memories and friendships, and I will miss you all.