"It's The Small Things That Change Lives"

I’ve heard too many people tell me any type of journalism work I did in high school means nothing when I get to college, but I couldn’t disagree more. Sounds like they didn’t have a journalism teacher like mine.

I first tried to join a newspaper staff in middle school, but once I learned we had to stay after school for an hour a day, once a week studying a grammar book I decided to drop out. (Who knew now I’d be so in love with grammar?) Once I got into high school I was recommended by one of my teachers to join the newspaper staff. After a bit of convincing from my older brother I jumped on board.

I quickly learned I had a love for features. Our newspaper was split up in different sections like opinion, news, a center spread, entertainment, features ect. Anytime I wrote a story, no matter what section, I always unintentionally morphed it into a feature (news is about PEOPLE). My junior year, I guess non-surprisingly, I became the feature editor of my paper. As the years went on, my passion for journalism grew, with a special thanks to my high school journalism teacher who pushed us to do the best we could. And who I truly believe could be teaching college journalism if he wanted.

When I came to college, besides trying to write a collection of features, I quickly lost sight of what I loved to do. I was also told that features weren’t that loved in the broadcast business, unless you had been in the business for a long time, were very trusted, and were good at doing them. I started writing more timely news stories. This didn’t bother me, especially because I fell in love with writing these kinds of stories as well. I’m a huge fan of breaking news and hard-hitting news as well. As time has gone on though I miss sitting down with people and divulging deep into their lives, asking them questions about anything and everything. I just accepted the fact that I probably would never be able to features (although I do still like to add a feature twist to every story I do).

But, hearing Today Show Feature Correspondent Mike Leonard talk yesterday and Lisa Ling talk a few weeks ago has been uplifting, as they made me realized features are not dying and it is possible to become a journalist that does them. As Mike said, “it’s the small things that change people.” I truly believe in this. Hard hitting news and breaking news is important, but features are just as important. Back in high school when I wrote features stories, I looked to provoke thoughts from at least one person, to get them to see life from someone else’s perspective.

Coming to college has helped to inspire my love for hard-hitting news and breaking news, but I will never lose sight of the fact that features will always be dear and near to my heart. (And why not make hard-hitting news into a feature?) In my career, I would like to be able to do both and the best thing about life is it’s an open road. You’re free to travel wherever you like. When people ask me what’s my ultimate dream--- I don’t have one. I have never aspired to be on a certain show or network; I’m just going wherever life takes me. I just want to be able to tell stories, whether it reaches a small or large audience, I just want to be able to affect at least one person’s life. I hear so many journalists aiming for a certain market number, but I feel that I just can’t do that. It’s great to have goals, but I don’t think many realize that there are stories everywhere, even in the small towns. I want to experience everything I can, no matter where it is.

High school began my love for journalism. I credit my high school teacher for taking our staff to conferences were I met journalists in the real world that continued to feed my passion for journalism as well as encouraging the staff to exercise our first amendment rights (paper was censored senior year--- we won!)

In high school there were a million stories to tell… and I don’t care how many people tell me high school doesn’t matter. I would not be here if it weren’t for high school. I would not have a love for features or news in general. And if I could, I wouldn’t change my past in journalism for anything.


I once interviewed a nurse that worked in a psychiatric ward who told me about how one day the nurses were looking for this woman and couldn’t find her. When they finally did, she was scrunched up in her narrow closet; she believed she was living on an Indian Reservation and that Indians were coming to scalp her. The fear in the woman’s eyes was unbearable. “I’ve learned to never take what you have for granted, and to appreciate gifts and abilities,” she told me. “When you’ve been around people who can’t, you learn to appreciate life so much more.”

I once met an 8-year-old African girl whose only dream was to become a nurse to help others. Despite how much she was picked on for wearing clothes different than her classmates, she wanted to be the one to save their lives. Her mother had brought her over to America to lead a better life and within six months this little girl had an ample understanding of the English language and a greater knowledge on US politics than I ever will.

I once interviewed a guy who had worked in the film industry for 22 years and laughed about the memories he had working with actors. But his past life wasn’t filled with so much happiness. “I was raised in a foster family,” he told me. “The hardest part was not knowing if someone was going to come and take me away.”

I once interviewed a homeless man (as many of you have heard) who told me “People look down on me like I’m poor because I don’t have a front door, but home is where the heart is. The world is my home.”

I once interviewed someone who had come seconds away from committing suicide, but a friend saved her. “If he wasn’t there, I don’t know where I’d be today,” she said. “I felt like no one cared, but he was the person who spared my life. He made me realize, by showing me how much life would change if I weren’t there. All that time he had spent trying to convince me to live just wasted if I killed myself. If you know a friend in need make sure you talk to them because it can make all the difference.”

I once interviewed someone who became an All-American Tennis player because the coach of the baseball team he tried out for told him he was too short to be on the team. Because of this he joined the tennis team and later lead him to a career in teaching. Eventually he also met his wife because of this. “I wish I could go back today and hold out a picture to that coach and be like ‘here, look what you did’. I have a wife and two beautiful kids all because of you,” he told me. “If that hadn’t happened then I wouldn’t be here today. Tennis has definitely changed the course of my life.”

I once interviewed an ex-NFL football player who told me about the first time he put on his football jersey: “I felt great pride, knowing that I made it to where I wanted to be in life. You feel something inside and Iʼm sure I had a big smile on my face. My main goal in football was to put on a pro football uniform and play a pro game.”

I once interviewed someone who was so near death at age 13 that her parents had the priest come to the hospital to say last words. As she recalled this memory her eyes filled with tears, she had felt it was her fault that her parent’s were in so much pain. The worst was having them look at her and knowing there was nothing they could do. Now she continues to live everyday to the fullest and her parent’s consider her their “miracle child”. “If I got through that, I can get through anything,” she told me.

I’ve had countless people cry in front of me telling me their life story.

One who told me of her survival from cancer, not knowing if she would live to be able to hold her newborn in her arms and be able to guide him through life like a mother should. One who’s husband has been to Iraq three times and how she watches her kids grow everyday knowing that he's not there to see them. One who recalled the last car ride along the ocean with her best friend before he passed away. One who just loved his job so much, a job that has saved thousands of lives, that he was overcome by emotion as he told me about one of the lives he touched.

Someone who I looked up to that now has passed on…


If you ever interviewed me I might be able to tell you that I love to stand outside during the calm before a storm. I might be able to tell you that I love to sit in the middle of the city and watch people go about their daily tasks (creepy). I might be able to tell you that my favorite thing is to drive to nowhere while blasting music. (yes I am that car with the unnecessary blasting music you hate)

But the only important thing I would want to tell you is what I want to do with the rest of my life: hearing other’s stories. It’s my way of discovering the beautiful things in this world. Journalism has taught me more than I could have ever asked for. Beyond the lens of the video camera, beyond the words on the paper there are real people with stories of struggles, joy, failure, and triumph. The camera and the piece of paper captures these moments to share them with the rest of the world, perhaps giving others the hope they need to move on with life. I want to be that person casting these stories out into the world, giving them a glimpse into what I’ve seen.

Sometimes I ask myself "Am I living or am I just alive?"

I believe that love is the most powerful thing in the world… and my love for journalism keeps me living.

Maybe you should ask yourself what keeps you living?

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.


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