My 10-week summer internship at The Commercial Review has come to an end.

I didn’t expect this to fly by as fast as it did, but here we are only a couple weeks until I start my junior year at Ball State University. 

Even though you will still be seeing my name in print as I have agreed to continue to work part-time for the paper, I wanted to share some of my experiences and lessons learned this summer in Jay County. 

I want to first say thank you. 

Thank you to every community member and stranger for being so kind to me. Never once during this summer did I encounter an individual or situation in which I was not welcomed. This is a very open, encouraging community.

Completing my first internship only brought further validation as to why I do what I do as a journalist  —  it’s all for the people.

I loved photographing the almost magical moments of the events like the Jay County Fair and Dunkirk’s Glass Days Festival. Nothing makes me happier than capturing the perfect moment when a family is laughing and smiling while soaring through the air on an amusement ride or when a child gently holds a baby chick while listening to its little chirps. 

Not only do those moments make for awesome pictures, they bring me happiness because I’m reminded of home and how it was growing up loving the same kind of local carnivals and fairs. 

I loved meeting people and listening to their stories.

As a journalist, you should always go into an interview with prepared questions, but some of the best stories from this summer were the ones that were unexpected. 

I am thankful I got to meet people like Norma Sizemore, 68, who continues to give her all to her family while fighting stage 4 cancer. Listening to her talk about her faith and how she has been a foster parent to 32 children throughout her life brought me to tears. She was the first person I have ever sat and cried with during an interview. That experience and story impacted me greatly.

I am thankful I got to meet Jim Albright, 82, who was the last correctional officer to work at the Alcatraz Penitentiary. I was lucky enough to meet him the day I was supposed to cover the Vintage Motor Bike Show and I will be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find anything super thrilling there. But he came up to me and we talked and as a result of just sitting and listening to him, I was able to find a unique story. 

Another thing I am thankful for is the amount of people in the community who fight to preserve Jay County’s history. I have never been in a community where people have so much pride in their own culture and history. 

It was so cool to walk around the Glass Museum in Dunkirk and Jay County Historical Musuem and look at the pieces that have survived throughout time. 

I will admit, history was not my favorite subject growing up, but after listening to all these cool, unique stories I have definitely formed an appreciation for the individuals that work to keep it alive. 

Not only have I got to experience some amazing moments turned into memories, but I learned a lot like:

1. Never be afraid of the unknown. At first, I didn’t really know anyone at The Commercial Review, let alone the rest of the community I was supposed to cover. But I went in with an open mind and just learned to listen and observe to what was going on around me. Change can be scary but I have learned that having the confidence to take it on makes the whole thing a lot easier. 

2. Never be afraid to ask questions or for help. At times, I felt like I was annoying for how much I would get up from my desk and ask Caleb Bauer or Rose Skelly a question about crime or looked to Ray Cooney for inspiration if I felt my cutlines for pictures weren’t good enough. But it was the mistakes that I acknowledged and questions that I asked that helped me improve the most. 

3. Always stay in touch. This was not only one thing I have learned, but also a goal I have set for myself as a journalist. I don’t want one interview to be the last time I talk to someone. This summer I have worked to stay in touch with those I have written stories about. I’ve learned that just sending an email or text to say “hi” does make a difference. You can’t cover a community successfully unless you are able to form connections. 

I hope to continue to meet more community members and experience even more opportunities while working for the paper in the future.

This may have only been 10 short weeks, but Jay County, I want you to know that you really have had an impact on my life and journey as an aspiring journalist.