As I look back on my time here at The Vermilion, there’s only one word I can think of that is associated with it: unforgettable. I joined The Vermilion in 2021, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed many restrictions and opportunities for us at the time when it came to reporting or connecting with various sources. 

Actually it was one of our staff members, Malik, that told me about the job. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was still trying to find opportunities to put what I learned from my journalism courses into practice and develop as a young creative since my passion for storytelling was continuously increasing. I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to this experience.

 I came into The Vermilion nervous out of my mind. I would be thinking to myself: How can I keep up with experienced writers, photographers and designers? Don’t you need to focus on your schoolwork? What if they think your writing is trash, then what? 

However, I knew that if I wanted to pursue journalism and take this next step in my journey, then I needed to get the negative and doubting thoughts out and take that leap of faith. So, I was first assigned a “sports story” where I basically wrote about whether or not spring sports should continue in the new semester with the COVID-19 pandemic happening. 

After reluctantly submitting that story, I got so much positive feedback from my writing, and I took that as a sign that, even if I might not know exactly what I’m doing, all I have to do is just continue to show my talents and practice to improve my skills. That’s exactly what I did.

I made sure not to hold back when it came to showing my dedication and desire to learn. I started getting harder stories that involved getting in contact with more challenging sources. The hardest story I remembered covering during that time was a story involving a fire at Legacy Park Apartments.

 I was partnered with another writer for this story, and we had to walk around the apartment complex asking students if they saw or heard anything about it, and we actually got in contact with the students who lived in the apartment that was on fire. 

What we learned about the incident led to so many more layers of the story and tricky sources that involved a serious level of reporting, and because of that, this experience was one I cherished heavily because it symbolized a true shift in my career as a journalist. I started to develop my confidence in myself and my work, and from there, I earned the position of news editor. 

During my time as news editor, I was given the most difficult stories out of everyone, and with that I had been able to grow my network with the various sources I had met, and I had also been able to really push myself as a creative person by coming up with story ideas for people in the news section.

 I had to discover my leadership capabilities with the responsibilities I had as a news editor, and with that, I got more involved with The Vermilion and the staff, which helped me truly develop admiration for the organization, our purposes and our practices. My coverage expanded when it came to impactfulness. 

I had transitioned from writing stories involving enrollment changes and weddings happening on campus to stories involving gender-neutral bathrooms, Nicholls students being displaced because of a hurricane, crime, the Russia and Ukraine conflict and other potentially controversial topics that ended up having a great effect on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette community. 

However, I knew I was making the strides I needed in The Vermilion, when I earned the role of editor-in-chief. It was a true metamorphic moment to see my previous doubts about myself change into the fuel I needed to run this paper. 

I had worked under a couple editor-in-chiefs during my time at The Vermilion, and I made sure to pay attention to what they had working in the office and what could use some work. From then, I worked with literally the best staff this past school year to bring this paper to where it needed to be and to show the public why we mattered. 

I knew my goals during my time as editor-in-chief were to encourage confidence within the staff and establish a positive work environment that was welcoming enough for people to come in and push past their own creative expectations.

 When I tell you, from seeing The Vermilion bring in awards like a second place award from American Scholastic Press Association, a first place award for best newspaper from the SEJC Conference and first place for outstanding student organization of the year (funded) from the university to seeing a great increase of membership to seeing a higher level of motivation for putting out unique content and elements that would enhance the paper, I can confidently say we accomplished the goals I set. 

I am leaving this organization a proud creative, a strong leader and an open-minded and well-rounded journalist, and I could not have even made it past day one of taking on this position as editor-in-chief without my staff, my advisor, my friends, my family and others involved with the university. 

It takes a true level of understanding to see how far this organization has come, and I for one am elated to have been a part of this transition. It almost feels like, in a way, this paper grew with me, and we both got to see each other truly shine despite any personal demons. 

Thank you to every single staff member that has been rocking with us for this time, and I will always be grateful for the commitment you made to this legacy. You are going to continue to elevate this masterpiece and show others what it means to dedicate your heart to something and have it be reflected in the content that is produced. We have made it this far, and there’s still a ways to go, so this is only the beginning for this organization. 

Thank you to Mr. Tarver for being a mentor to me and for always believing in me and this paper. You are truly an inspiration to me, and I know that under your guidance, this paper can only go up from here. 

Thank you to everyone who supported us and who continues to support The Vermilion. It has never gone unnoticed, and you all motivate us to go even higher and do better than what we have done. 

I have been studying mass communications with a concentration in journalism with a minor in African American studies at the university, and I intend on graduating this May. It has truly been an honor serving as The Vermilion’s editor-in-chief, and for now, I say goodbye. I am signing out with nothing but warmth in my heart for this institution and fire in my feet to get to the next chapter of my life. However, this one chapter has truly been an unforgettable page-turner.