Tag Archives: experience

I don’t think the past is better just because it’s cased in glass

Hello citizens of the Internet! I’m back (I know I promised in the last post that I was back, but now I’m really, really back!) and better than ever.

Along with the movies I’ve watched, the new music I’ve consumed (St. Vincent, Stromae, Run The Jewels, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend — I KNOW, I’M BEHIND. I’M WORKING ON IT), the late nights laughing ’til my sides ached, I’ve done a couple big things.

(From left to right) Myself, Colin Robinson and Maurice Tomlinson at the Supreme Court of Jamaica during the court's recess on the first day of the hearing.

(From left to right) Myself, Colin Robinson and Maurice Tomlinson at the Supreme Court of Jamaica during a recess on the first day of the hearing.

In March I traveled to Jamaica to cover an immigration hearing for the Belize documentary. There I met Maurice Tomlinson, an absolutely outstanding Jamaican LGBT rights activist who explained the situation on the ground. Maurice lives in Canada — where he fled after he was outed without consent by a Jamaican newspaper — but returned to Jamaica to fight against immigration restrictions on homosexuals in Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. While there we explored Kingston, sat through the hearings and shot an interview that will help round out our film and put it into context with LGBT rights in the rest of the Caribbean, while simultaneously showing the plight of other activists.

Post-Jamaica (like immediately after, less than a week) I began interviewing for jobs in New York City. The job I wanted the most was the most prestigious. The interview spanned two days, and the second day was a grueling journalistic competition, to say the least. I was pitted against one international reporter, one University of Albany student and 10 (yes, 10) Columbia University School of Journalism graduate students. I felt like my odds were slim to none when I realized I was the only undergrad from a school no one had ever heard of. But the experience I accrued during my time working for Naples Daily News proved to be invaluable. I could speak to records requests, content creation and creative thinking, which was on par with my competitors. Although, apparently, none of us knew how to spell (which I still say is a dead skill at this point).

In April I was offered a position with this major international newspaper based in the UK. I’m going to refrain for saying which paper until I’m a little more established, but all I can say is I’m. So. Freaking. Excited. I’ll be living for approximately six months split between London and a soon-to-be-revealed city in England, working with a local bureau. Then I’ll return to London for a month before going to work in their Manhattan office. I guess dreams really do come true.

Dinner with my extended family after my interview in Manhattan.

Dinner with my extended family after my interview in Manhattan. I’m the one in beige on the far left.

The day I found out I got the job in London, I found out I was nominated for four Sunshine State Awards. I’ve been applying to the Sunshine State Awards for the last three years and I’ve pretty much set up a nice, little home in third place every time I apply. I’m nominated for College Journalist of the Year, Best Profile, Best Coverage of LGBT Issues and Best Coverage of Race/Minority Issues. I’ve always dreamed of winning College Journo of the Year, but the good news is the two other student nominees are not only phenomenally talented and beyond worthy, they’re also Will Write For Food alumni. It just goes to show how far a student journo can go if you trap them and their peers in a homeless shelter for 36 hours. If that sounds like something you’re interested in (and want to see a picture of me! — and read my contributions) click here. This year is an alumni year (crying forever because I will be in the UK and unable to attend), so new applicants won’t receive a spot. However, you can learn how to apply for 2016. Do it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next College Journo of the Year.

My cousin Hayley and I at FGCU's Grad Bash.

My cousin Hayley and I at FGCU’s Grad Bash.

In May I graduated college. Anyone who knows me knows I have felt like college was a chain around my ankle, keeping me stuck in one place. A place I didn’t want to be. Well the chain is off, and I’m getting ready to spread my wings (oh, god. The cliches. I’m sorry.) and explore the world.

Before I move, I’m spending two weeks exploring Europe with my best friend. We’ll start in Berlin, head to Paris for a few days, then Amsterdam, and then I have to figure out a final city. I’m debating where I want to go, but let’s just say I have a few choices in mind.

For now, I’m just wrapping up my time at Naples Daily News, and trying to remember what relaxing is. Am I doing it yet? And, in all sincerity, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while. And it’s a really nice feeling and a great place to be. I haven’t felt this way in many, many months. But I’m here now, and while I know the tide ebbs and flows, I’m enjoying this moment.

Now we’re all caught up! As these next adventures unfold, be prepared to hear a lot more from me. Until then, safe travels.

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We’ve got no money, but we’ve got heart

I spent last Tuesday night in the Southwest Florida Juvenile Detention Center.

Obviously, I was there as a guest. I tagged along with the Junior League of Fort Myers, a volunteer group of these absolutely lovely women who dedicate their time to empowering other women and children. On this Tuesday they were working with the girls at the Fort Myers JDC and I decided it was a story I wanted to cover.

We arrived around — you know what? I could go into all the boring details of how we got there, how we get wanded down, etc. But, really, all I want to tell you about are the girls in the JDC.

There are only five girls in the JDC population right now. I talked to three of them: Anna*, Amy* and Lily*.

Anna, 17, wants to be a cosmetologist when she gets out of the JDC. You can tell she’s been practicing her coloring techniques because part of her curly, dark hair has been bleached platinum blonde. Sadly, she’s on her 26th round here. But don’t stigmatize her. She’s not a bad kid. Anna is adorable, well-behaved and polite. She tells me her favorite thing she’s learned from the Junior League’s visits is etiquette (a word she can’t pronounce quite right) and she nods at her elbows places just off the top of the table. She tells me her first time in here was because of a small bud of weed she accidentally brought to school in the eighth grade. She’s been in and out ever since. She eats Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets the Junior League has brought and encourages Amy to try her avocado sauce.

Amy is 14. She has long dark hair and freckles. She’s in here for fighting, but you would never know it looking at her and Anna talking. The girls share their food, have inside jokes and once in a while say the same thing in unison, which sends them into a fit of laughter. Amy says Anna is like her mom. Anna corrects her and says she’s more like her Oprah. They tell me they knew each other from school prior to being in the JDC. In their matching heather gray sweaters and khaki pants, It’s almost like they’re at camp. Amy tells me she likes being in the JDC. She says she feels safe here. “You never know what’s going to happen on the outs,” she tells me.

Lily is the last girl I spoke with. She is 14 years old. He blonde hair is buzzed short and two parallel lines shaved into her head end right before her left ear. She’s small (she seems to drown in an oversize orange sweater) but her eyes are big and green with long eyelashes shooting out in every direction. She says she’s been in the JDC for a day. Her mom called the police when she got in a fight with her younger brother, who she says is bigger than her. She has a 21-day sentence at the JDC. She talks about her love of sports and how sometimes she “gets to go out and shoot some hoops.” She says she’s pretty fast. I ask her what basketball team she likes. She says, “the Miami Heat.” I tell her, “me, too.” She smiles and we high-five. Then I ask her what football team she likes. She tells me she likes “the Jets, even though they suck.” I tell her we like all the same sports teams and she high-fives me again, grinning in the warmth of sharing something unique with one other person. She looks me dead in the eye, as if needing to convince me, and says, “I’m not book smart, but I’m very street smart.” I tell her I believe her. Lily tells me she wants to join the military when she’s old enough. She said she doesn’t care what branch, but she said her father was in the military and died in combat “shooting the bad guys.” She wants to do the same. I tell her to keep rooting for the Heat before I leave (we both know it’s pointless to root for the Jets). She smiles and bumps her fist with mine.

So after all of this, I wrote a story, which I could tell was missing something. My editor and I decided I need to go back one more time. So next month, I’ll be back at the JDC to see if any of those girls are still there. For some of them I hope they are, for others I hope they’ve found their way out of trouble. The Junior Leaguers told me this program has a stigma because it’s in a jail. But if anyone met these girls, they’d know how much potential they have, how much heart they’ve got. They just need help and guidance and for society to not give up on them.

This experience made me really want to join a big sister-little sister program, because everyone deserves to feel like someone cares. And after this, I know I really care about what happens to these girls.

*To protect their identity, the girls’ real names are not being use.

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