Rachel Smith

Rachel SmithTransylvania University

Georgetown News-Graphic

I wearily straggled off of Delta flight 5236 on June 22 of this year. I hadn’t been back to Korea since I was adopted from there as a 4-month-old baby, so in some ways, this glorious return was something like being born again. Except this time, of course, I was a larger, more jet-lagged young woman who spent the entire first week at home in some degree of “asleep.” Needless to say, when it was time to begin my KPA internship, I was not quite in the state of ready to which I should have been. Jerry, Mike and the rest of the gang at the Georgetown News-Graphic, though, were very understanding. We started the ball rolling very slowly for a bit, starting with type-setting and researching and slowly building up to writing articles.

My first article was published on July 8. It was a brief piece covering the landmark success Toyota as a company—and thus, Toyota’s manufacturing facility in Georgetown—had been as of late. After that, several began rolling out all at once. I wrote a piece about an author who penned her book about Georgetown. I wrote a feature about a young girl who started her own Vacation Bible School in her backyard, which later became my first front-page story. I’m happy with a lot of the things that I’ve written.

The piece I am proudest of, though, is one which tells the story of a family centered around a 29-year-old woman named Amanda Morris. The story began four years ago, when Amanda was a mother of four making above-average salary and living in a beautiful Georgetown home with her family. One day, she received a call that her aunt had gone to jail and that if she did not come pick up her five young cousins, they would go back into foster care. Unthinkably, she did. A couple of years later, her sister followed suit, going to jail and leaving two children who needed care. Amanda took one of them, leaving the older to live with her parents. And unexpectedly, she got pregnant again. So Amanda and her husband were parents to 11. Due to a series of quite unfortunate events, Amanda lost a large amount of state aid which she had been regularly receiving. She soon found herself unable to let the kids do anything which required money and in fear of losing her home. A friend sent her story to our paper and the assignment fell to my desk. After the story ran, the phone calls started coming in. Amanda received several offers, including one to provide free senior portraits to her daughter and one from a Domino’s manager who said he’d feed her family free once a month until they were back on their feet. Her mother-in-law came to the office in tears to thank us.

This internship, and that story in particular, have shown me the positive sides to journalism. I had become convinced that this was simply a good place to gain skills so I could move on to a different area to start my career. Working at the News-Graphic has helped me to realize that one story can change a person’s life. I’ve learned all over again the power of words and how much someone can do with just a few hours and a computer.

I’ve also realized, much to my pleasure, that deadlines which would have seemed unreasonable just a few months ago now sound like a fair amount of time to crank out a story. I have learned the value of “planting you butt in a chair and just getting the thing written,” as my internship adviser Scott Whiddon is fond of saying. I have gained so much knowledge in such a short amount of time from the wonderful people around me that I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. I hope that all young people can go through an experience like this, learning from understanding and experienced folks who are excited to show them the ropes. Though my internship has barely begun, I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity by KPA. The folks at the News-Graphic are simply wonderful people, and I have no doubt in my mind that this internship is both a beneficial stop along the way and a great stepping stone into my future.

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