Valedictory essay

It feels a little crazy to even be talking about the fact that I’ll be graduating in a week or so. These past five to six years have been full of ups and downs, but as surreal as it feels, it’s almost a reality. When I was coming out of high school, the only thing that really interested me was crime and learning about the law. My mom is a teacher and has always preached that school should come first over everything. When I was in high school I had the exact opposite mindset, and I wanted to attend a two year school before I went to a university. That resulted in a lot of arguments and my argument always was that I truly didn’t know what I wanted to do yet.

Well, my mom had the last laugh, and I ended up going to UW-Whitewater for my first year. During that first year, I struggled heavily, still not really in the right mindset and was too distracted by things that didn’t really need attention. In other words, I didn’t have my priorities
straight. After that first year I transferred to UW-Milwaukee and switched my major to social work. I was living at home and working part-time as well, which didn’t go too well either. I basically failed out and honestly never thought I’d even go back to college. I started to look for
other options and stumbled upon UW-Rock County and enrolled in a couple classes online and one in person to try and get back on my feet. At this point my mom felt somewhat guilty because she realized maybe I wasn’t as ready as she thought I was.

However, when I got to UW-Rock County, everything started to change. I was at a new college alone with none of my friends and that forced me to prioritize school and only school. I had this one professor who was so engaged in the material he taught and his mindset really motivated me to try and put forth more effort. Eventually I got my two-year degree from there and transferred back to UW-Whitewater. I ended up having Dr. Zukas in my first semester back and everything just kind of made sense to commit to journalism. I’ve always been into reading articles and gathering information on my own, and it seemed very interesting. I’ve always been very skeptical about the things I read and with the world in general, so this path is very fitting.

I think these past two years, even on top of covid have really changed me as a person. I feel I’m a lot more aware of everything around me. I’m extremely knowledgeable on finding information and I feel like I’m a better person which makes me feel very good. The most
important thing I’ve learned regarding journalism is the concept of ethics. That’s a broad term,
but journalism and ethics go hand in hand. Dr. Wachanga’s media ethics class I think will be the class I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I’ve always had this odd feeling that news outlets
and our own government have a tendency to fabricate things or even lie to us. His course educated me on things like this, in a way I would’ve never experienced if I never declared for this major. I feel like Wachanga is such a perfect person to teach that course because he isn’t
from here originally. The masses of people don’t want to cross that psychological barrier that we can be fed lies and have been for some time. Since Wachanga isn’t from here, it’s easy for him to preach this ideology because he hasn’t been spoon fed like most of us have by most news outlets and things of that nature. I will always value ethics and I’d say that’s my biggest/most important takeaway from school here.

Another takeaway that still blows my mind everyday, is how shady and biased journalism/reporting can be. It’s unreal to me how a profession that should pride itself on ethics, we see so often people visibly not following the code of ethics in their reporting. I don’t know if it comes down to the publications or the journalists individually, but there are so many examples I’ve found (especially within politics) of people inserting their own opinions into their writing which should never be done. I feel our job as writers is to educate people and then allow them to
form their own opinions, but it seems that isn’t really the case even though it should be.

I wouldn’t say the reality of college was different because I really didn’t know what to expect. If I could go back I guess I would say I wish I started with journalism from the start, but other than that I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made, and I’m extremely excited to see what the future has in store.

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