My biggest takeaway from the project is that I actually do have valuable storytelling and journalistic skills to contribute. This might sound silly, but in college it can feel like you are slogging away your life working towards some inconceivable end goal. I was sitting through classes about photojournalism and web design, and writing articles for classes while editing for my school paper, but it was as if I’d forgotten why I started doing all of those things in the first place. This program woke me up from what felt like a strange and endless sleepwalk. I suddenly remembered why I was honing all of these skills in the first place, and I wasn’t just some lost 21-year-old anymore. I became a professional (sort of?) with an understanding of media and journalism and the skills to back it up. This isn’t to say I don’t have so much more to learn, but it was nice to see something culminate out of my efforts beyond some abstract grade in a class. 

There are so many takeaways from this week that are shifting the way I think about my future in general. While my passion is still to work in social justice and human rights, I’d also love to work in audio journalism and be able to tell important stories that way. I like the idea of using Headliner more in order to create a polished representation of my work, and I think I might start making an effort to learn some basic Adobe cloud skills (at least in Audition and Premiere) so that I can do some work in audio and tell stories that matter. I’ve been publishing articles and taking photos for a while now, but this is the first time something I’ve created has felt like proof that I really do have what it takes to be a journalist and social advocate. More importantly, I realized that being those things doesn’t have to look like just one thing. There are many ways to share stories, and many ways to advocate for minority communities. I learned that I don’t have to narrow myself in some box or category because I think that is what I should be doing.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this. I never realized when I became a part of this project that I’d be getting a found family out of it. Not only is it amazing to be surrounded by journalists and intellectuals, people who have interests and passions in many of the things that I do, but to feel like there is a place for you among those people is more than I could have ever hoped for. The concept of networking can feel like some foreign and faraway thing when you’re in college. No one knows your name or your drive, and you haven’t had the chance to establish yourself so it can be easy to think “well, what do I have to offer?” but I’ve learned the answer to that is so much. I have so much to offer. Learning and growing doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive with being confident in the skills and talents you’ve learned thus far. I’ve learned that it’s okay to believe in yourself and say, “Yes, I am good at this thing even though I have room to learn and grow,” and that knowledge is more valuable than anything I could have ever created here at Next Gen… although a multimedia piece is pretty amazing too!