PARTING SHOT: Cheers to you

sararourkelhornsby

Ah, first-years. Still glistening with the dew of their mother’s goodbye kiss and minted with the University Bookstore’s newest arrivals. Utterly incomplete without a lanyard and seeking companionship from anyone with two eyes, first-years are unabashedly naive — clueless, even — of what the four years they embark upon have in store.

I fit that mold, of course, during my own first year. I was both pre-med and pre-comm, even simultaneously for a time. I, too, frequented Rugby Road with a hodgepodge of faces I barely recognized. Though I have since gathered the courage to cross the Bodo’s threshold with my head held high, I still cringe at the memory of attempting to exchange plus dollars for a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter.

Even so, clueless and naive are words that don’t seem quite strong enough to describe first-year me. I knew not of the competition I would face when signing up for classes, not to mention in the classroom itself or, God forbid, when trying to join a club. As my laundry list of rejections began to accumulate to more than my actual laundry pile, you can imagine my delight in receiving an email such as the following from then-News editor Kelly Kaler:

“Morning newsies! First of all, welcome Sarah Rourke [sic], who is training today! Thanks so much for your interest in joining news! We are really excited to work with you.”

To be completely transparent, joining the newspaper staff was not first on my list of potential involvements (following a review of my initial email to recruiting, it seems I hadn’t even heard of The Cavalier Daily before that day). But Kelly’s email made me feel welcome, wanted, necessary even, and that’s all it took.

As a news writer, I was sent to nooks and crannies of the University that I often never knew existed. I trudged through the snow to an 8 a.m. Living Wage rally, where I caught my first glimpse of the Board of Visitors and their adversaries, thereby shattering my preconceived image of the University as a flawless institution. I took the Northline to the ends of the earth that is the Miller Center, where I exhaustedly attempted to follow a ping-pong-esque dialogue about recent U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I spoke with department heads and politicians and older, more experienced students about their accomplishments, their passions, their visions for the University and beyond.

The Cavalier Daily pushed me outside of the safe zone that was my first-year dorm and into the unknown. I explored corners of the University outside of the walls of my classrooms and the Gooch-Dillard common room, allowing me to forge new relationships along the way. Grounds became colored with the familiar faces of people I had interviewed and fellow attendees of events I had covered, and before I knew it I felt more at home in our community than I ever expected.

Since that first year, my appreciation for The Cavalier Daily has only grown. Following my News tenure, I tried my hand at Focus, where I was continually impressed by the opportunity to gain a more nuanced understanding of a topic or segment of the University population. More often than not, my favorite pieces were the ones that brought attention to members and elements of our community that are often ignored. It has been an honor to record your history and to share your stories.

The dissemination of these stories was made possible by far more than me alone, of course.

To my editors-turned-mentors: Thank you for your guidance and expertise, your patience and your tenacity in instilling a respect for deadlines. Without your iron fist, I can guarantee I would have never taken a Cavalier Daily-related phone call from the shower.

To the nameless, faceless, first-ever Cavalier Daily editorial board: Thank you for the challenging, engaging discussions, your ever-valuable input and, more than anything, your friendship. What a way to end my Cavalier Daily career.

Finally, to the members of the institution we think of as the best organization at the University and in the world: Thank you for the immeasurable work you do for this University. Our trade is often thankless, yet undoubtedly essential. Cheers to you.

Sara Rourke was the 126th Focus editor and a founding member of the editorial board of The Cavalier Daily.

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