I’ve told the story countless times by now. It seems to be the natural question to ask someone like me, an out-of-state Methodist at a Baptist university in the middle of gigantic Texas. Why Baylor? Most at this school answer with words like “because my parents met here” or “I’m from Dallas, so I wanted somewhere not far from home.” Except that I am a first generation Baylor Bear from New Mexico. A similar question usually accompanies this one, especially from those that realize the current situation in my career field. Why journalism?
I am one of the extremely fortunate people in the world who have had the satisfaction of achieving goals that I was told were impossible. When I was 14 years old, I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up. Unlike most kids that say they have a career in mind, I had a college picked out, knew its web site like the back of my hand and was planning a tour during the following summer. It was not a college I had any connections to, however, or a career I had watched all of my life. I loved both for that very reason. I had lived in my small desert town for 14 years. It was not only my hometown, it was my mother’s hometown and near my grandfather’s hometown. Few ever got out. If they did, it was only a matter of years before they returned. It was not a bad place for a family and a small business, but I wanted more. I craved freedom.
These plans took shape in my ninth grade communications class. We were all given a project in which we had to interview for a job in a future career and explain why we were qualified for that position. This included a résumé with where we had gone to college. Baylor was the only place that met my requirements: in Texas, with high academics and a genuine faith. It didn’t matter to me that their denomination was different than my own; I knew I wanted a university that was truthful about what it was.
I choose journalism because I loved my student publications. I had joined the newsletter and yearbook staff the previous year, the first year we could apply, in eighth grade. I loved it so much I went to a yearbook camp over the summer and was named editor of our little monthly newsletter. I was hooked. I knew that if I had to do anything every day for the rest of my life, it just had to be journalism. I researched the career field with intensity and passion. My work now had purpose.
Over the course of the semester, I poured my heart into the class project. The final element was a filmed interview for a job in our career field with another student serving as an interviewer. I was chosen as one of these interviewers. In my excitement I practiced my questions until a light bulb simply clicked: I really liked the art of interviewing. I practiced my own answers until I had another realization: I really did want this job. I was going to do in real life all of the things I said in my project that I was going to do.
There never really was a sincere doubt in my mind about it after that. I was laughed at a few times, made fun of, lectured and had several rolled eyes and condescending smiles thrown my way. I learned not to be ashamed of my ambitions. I knew I was different, but it was for that very reason that I knew I was doing the right thing.
I toured Baylor in my sophomore year of high school and learned everything I would need to do to get in. I talked with journalism professors about how to prepare for my classes. I attended all the scholastic journalism workshops, camps and conventions a young teen girl in eastern New Mexico could. Over the next five years, I worked up to be senior editor of my yearbook staff and eventually to section editor positions during my first two years at Baylor. Now I am the editor of our student-produced magazine. I taught myself software programs, spent all of my spare time working on my publication and when my state’s only yearbook camp was cancelled in the summer before my senior year, I made my own curriculum and trained my own 28 brand new staffers.
There were days (and many long nights) where I thought I might give up. Even as the only experienced staff member my senior year, I discovered the secret of why I didn’t. Four years before, I had said I was going to go to Baylor to become a journalist. I knew I would, no matter how many people said that it was not a realistic goal or that I should count on making it work. Even after I left for Baylor, some told me they were waiting for the day when I realized it was time to come home and forget about my crazy dreams. They could not have been more wrong. I love Baylor and journalism increasingly every day as I learn and experience more of them. Whenever I hear that it is an unrealistic ambition to major in news-editorial journalism in this turbulent era, I remember that project six years ago and remind myself: I’ve already done what everyone said was impossible.