Two years ago I came to the Dyersville Commercial and Cascade Pioneer right after finishing my freshman year at Loras College. At the time, it was my first “real” job after only ever working at Payless Foods and Loras’s campus dining. Since getting my big break, I’ve been able to spend my past three summers as an integral part of the newspaper and public relations business. 

For me, part of that “public relations” bit was the realization that the tie between the newspaper and its community is a very important association. Local newspapers are the heartbeat of their coverage areas, and our job is to cover the news effectively and reliably.

I didn’t fully understand this relationship until I was able to step into my reporter shoes and see the newspaper from the inside. It’s difficult to imagine how much work goes into a weekly newspaper—from design to advertisements to the stories themselves—and the process of bringing the finished product to the community has been perhaps the biggest eye-opener for me over the past few years.

In this business, things don’t always go according to plan, but I’ve learned to relax and say, “I’ll handle it.” Each summer has brought me more confidence in what I’m doing. I feel less like the awkward, young intern and more like someone who’s actually supposed to be there, and now I’m able to hold my own. 

The past three summers have been huge parts of the most rewarding years of my life so far. Gaining work experience was one thing, but the lessons I learned along the way will play a part in my life moving forward. The job hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been rewarding.

For the first time in a while, I’m unclear on next summer’s plans, and I’m truly sad to be leaving this job. I’ve been able to find fulfillment in the smallest things and the most unlikely places. Being able to tell a story to a mass audience is a feeling like no other, and I will never be able to express my immense gratitude for being allowed this opportunity to grow and learn. The question of passion versus paycheck is something that so many people struggle with, but I’ve been able to get both out of my job. 

It seems boring and cliché to say that I’ve grown so much over the past three summers, but it’s true. I’ve evolved from a lowly intern to someone able to hold my own and handle the job. To quote the rapper Drake, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”