Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Champion Staff Goodbyes

  • Published: April 29th, 2014
Champion Staff

Champion Staff

Graduation brings a time of transition to the Champion office. Though we are losing these 10 colleagues, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that they are looking towards the future with dreams and aspirations worthy of the legacy they carry. Though they will be missed, we know they are off to change the world.

Ashley McAlpin

Two years ago when I was facing graduation, a new marriage and looking toward graduate school, I remember sitting down to write my “goodbye.” I remember thinking about the transition that lay ahead of me, excited, nervous and intimidated by the large shoes I had to learn to fill.

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Transitioning from the editor-in-chief to the graduate assistant was definitely not seamless — but it was not a goodbye.

Goodbye is so permanent. After five years of laughter, frustration, memories and friendship, I cannot imagine saying goodbye.

Ending a chapter in life is always bittersweet. A new job, a new house and a new city are all waiting just a page away, but my greatest mentor, good friends and lessons learned make turning that page more difficult than I anticipated.

After much prayer, thought and a couple of tears shed, I know that my time here was great, but it was just for a season.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Lynchburg has served me well. It was here that I found my reality in Christ, my husband and my passion. Leaving this place is like leaving a part of my history, my identity.

So before the inevitable turn of the page, close of the chapter and period at the end of the sentence, I have a few people who deserve my everlasting thanks.

To Mrs. Huff, the huffernickle, huffernuff, thank you. Thank you for being my leader, mentor and friend. You have taught me more about journalism — and life — than I ever could have anticipated. You helped me learn to lead with grace, accept my shortcomings and fight for what I believe in. Your legacy will forever live on in my life, as well as all of the lives you touch at the Champion daily.

To my colleagues, classmates, students and friends, thank you for your patience, laughter and commitment. Without each one of you, I would not be who I am today.
Five years has flown by, but I would not change one minute of it. As the page turns I know that the best is yet to come. Until next time, goodbye my friends.

Shelanne Jennings

As graduation edges closer, I am finding myself being faced with questions about why I chose to attend graduate school in the first place. Was the program superior to others? Was I scared about my future? Was I simply feeling unprepared and desired a couple more years of education before I could face the work world? Looking back, it was all of these things, and yet, at the same time, none of them.

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I saw an open door to more education, with the opportunity to train up younger students in the skills I had already acquired. I walked through that door and into the pathway of papers, presentations and more pressure than ever before. Although the road was sometimes shadowed, hazy and daunting, I am glad I took it.

Working with the Liberty Champion and journalism students as a graduate assistant has blessed me in many unexpected ways. It has been four years now that I have worked with the Liberty Champion. The current staff has been wonderful to work with. Mixing fun with journalistic excellence, each member has exemplified how to enjoy what you do and do it well.

As a mentor to the students of Mrs. Huff’s journalism classes, I have seen good writers become great and timid ones find their voice. I have used my experience to benefit others and felt their encouragement uplift me. I am so thankful for both the staff and students I have worked alongside and the ways I have grown because of them. Taking this path was not easy, but the journey was worth it.

On May 10, I will cross the graduation stage for my second time. I know I will be faced with more questions: What next? Where will you work? What will you do now?

I choose to face these questions with a smile, knowing God is in control. He will provide another door, and lead me through it, once again.

Greg Leasure

In almost three years with the Champion, I have had the opportunity to write for every section of the paper. I have covered everything from breaking news to opinion, features and sports. I even took a photograph or two along the way.

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At the start of my Champion career, I never anticipated straying from the sports page. But as I look back, the challenges and benefits of writing for other sections have allowed me to improve my skills and gain experience in ways I would not have expected.

I can still vividly remember my first Champion interview. I sat in my East Campus quad, my heart racing as I waited for what turned out to be an awkward but successful speakerphone interaction with Liberty golf Coach Jeff Thomas. Now, just two short years later, I have found a home on the baseball beat, in addition to serving as the editor-in-chief of Central Virginia’s largest weekly paper.

In addition to taking constant guidance from Champion Advisor Deborah Huff, I have had the chance to learn from people who, I believe, are some of the most talented collegiate writers and photographers in the country. I feel extremely fortunate to have made so many close friendships with these people, and I cannot wait to watch them make an impact in whichever field they pursue.

Aside from those friendships, I think what I will remember most about my time at the Champion are the people I have met and the stories I have told. It seemed like every week in the Champion newsroom brought another opportunity to share an amazing story with our readers. So to those who were kind enough to share their story with me and to those who took the time to read, thank you.

Although my path after graduation is still unclear, I know I will look back on this as the most important experience of my college career.

Sophia Hahn

For me, the hardest goodbyes are the ones I have always seen coming but never thought I would actually have to face.

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As I sit down to write this, I am at a complete and utter loss for words. How do I start to say goodbye? How do I finish my time here at Liberty?

College passes by so quickly. Yesterday, I was walking on campus for the first time, and in the blink of an eye, I am walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

Senior year is a time for lasts — my last undergrad classes, my last time parking in the wrong zone, my last spring to get a ring, my last time in the news editor’s chair. But more importantly, it will be my last time in the Champion office working with some of the most amazing and talented people I will ever meet.

Even though I am focused on all my lasts, graduation will open a door to many firsts.

I know this is not actually a time for goodbyes. Yes, I am leaving Liberty and I will not see my best friends half as often as I once did, but now should be a time for hellos, a time for new beginnings and a time to look forward to what my future holds.

So in these bittersweet moments I relish the past, remembering the beaten path I traveled to stand where I am today, knowing that my journey is not close to over but, in fact, has just begun.

I will always look back fondly at the years I spent here at Liberty as well as the beginnings of the many lifelong friendships I have made.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Mark Tait

As I look back at my year on the Champion staff, I realize that I have been blessed with an incredible experience, and I could not be more thankful for the countless number of people who made that experience possible.

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A newspaper cannot exist without articles, and I am thankful for all of the reporters in the news section who worked hard and turned in articles every week for their one-credit-hour practicum course.

Articles cannot exist without sources, and I also appreciate the many people who spared even a few seconds of their time to get reporters or editors the information they needed.
My experience at the Champion would not have been possible without reporters and sources working hard outside of our office, but I could not be more thankful for everyone I had the privilege of working with on the Champion staff.

Mrs. Huff, our faculty advisor, worked hard to train me as both a Champion editor and a future journalist. I am thankful for her continual support and willingness to help with anything I have ever needed.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to work with friends, who united around a common cause and always approached negative situations with a positive attitude and good sense of humor.

To the reporters and sources, who made the news section’s content possible, to Mrs. Huff, who trained me to be a better journalist, and to my fellow staff members, who gave me memories that will last a lifetime, thank you.

Gabriella Fuller

If I have had the privilege of meeting you in my three years here at Liberty University, you probably recognize me as the shy, quiet girl with an abundance of pink accessories and a new pair of shoes for each day.

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Introverted by nature, I never could have imagined that my college years would find me sitting behind the most controversial desk of a newspaper that is read by thousands weekly.

Serving as the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion, I have both witnessed and participated in my fair share of debates, arguments and impassioned pro-con pieces.

As an editor, there has been no greater joy than to lead and encourage my section each semester. I have proudly watched as the oftentimes sobering world news presented my writers with the opportunity to grow into men and women of faith who boldly and unashamedly proclaim truth.

As a writer, the position personally challenged me to search the scriptures as I wrestled to form opinions on heartbreaking tragedies and difficult controversies.

Through it all, I leave the experience feeling immensely blessed at having had the opportunity to live and experience the words of Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

I owe each and every member of my staff and of my section a sincere thank-you. For a year we were each other’s iron, and I know that I leave the opinion desk a sharper, stronger Christian and a deeper, more skillful writer.

Thank you to the friends, family members and professors who encouraged my pursuit of writing and helped shape me into the person I am today.

To the future writers and editors of the Champion: remember that every word you write is written first and foremost for the glory of God. Never underestimate the tremendous opportunity you have to impact the lives of your readers.

Cliché as it may sound, I will always remember my time working at the Liberty Champion with fondness and with gratitude. So much more than the overwhelming feeling of pride that comes with seeing your name and writing in print, I leave forever thankful for the people I met and the relationships I built.

Derrick Battle

There was once a 17-year-old boy who started his first semester at Liberty University in search of somewhere he could share his love for sports writing. During his first week on campus, he ran into Professor Deborah Huff at a meet-and-greet session for those interested in communications. After talking with her for five or six minutes, this boy went back to his dorm enthused at a chance to write for the Liberty Champion.

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After a year of volunteer writing, Huff offered him a chance to be the assistant sports editor on staff. Shocked, he gladly accepted the opportunity. The next fall, he began learning how a newspaper operates, how to assign stories, create layouts and edit papers. In the midst of all this, he also learned an important lesson from Huff, who became a mother figure to him while he was away from family. She knew him to be a better leader than he believed himself to be. Now, that 17-year-old boy is a 21-year-old man, just days away from his graduation.

Words cannot explain how thankful I am for Professor Huff giving me an opportunity to write sports, as well as other stories, for the Liberty Champion. Through the ups and downs while I was there, Professor Huff and those on staff always supported me, and I could not be more thankful.

Lastly, covering Liberty sports alone has been a great experience full of traveling with the teams and interviewing athletes.

Although this last year with the Liberty Champion has been bittersweet, it has also been the best year I had on staff. The friendships that were built during this past year have been wonderful, and I hope that we stay in contact in the future.

While this chapter of writing for Liberty University is closing, new doors are opening, and it is now time to take my talents to the next place life leads.

Tom Foote

My four years at Liberty have absolutely been a gift from God. I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime and learned more than I thought possible during my time here.

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As much as I enjoyed my first three years on campus, none have compared to my senior year as part of the Liberty Champion staff.

At first I was reluctant to write for the paper, let alone apply for the position of assistant sports editor. However, I eventually succumbed to both. Little did I realize how being a part of the Liberty Champion would be one of the best decisions of my life.

Having the opportunity to cover sports has been an incredible blessing, and I could not thank Mrs. Huff enough for giving me this opportunity and helping guide my career as an aspiring journalist.

The biggest blessing during my yearlong stint with the Champion has undoubtedly been the friends that made my senior year better than I could have
ever hoped.

The little office tucked away in the corner of the first floor of DeMoss became a second home, and, more importantly, the friends created while working for the Champion became a family.

Walking into the office and seeing the doppelgangers and the sticky notes plastered throughout the room or the quote board will always be great memories. However, seeing any of those will never compare to the joy that calling each and every person from the office my friend will bring me.

With this chapter of our lives coming to a close, I know God is writing amazing new chapters for each of us, and I look forward to seeing what those chapters have in store.

As Lloyd Christmas once said, “I hate goodbyes,” and I could not agree more with that statement.

Saying goodbye is a bittersweet feeling — especially when it involves some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for.

So instead of saying goodbye to my friends, I want to say thank you, because I will never be able to truly say goodbye to them and the unforgettable memories they have created for me.

Nicole Steenburgh

At the start, graduation seems like a lifetime away, but it comes faster than expected. Now that it is actually here, I have to say goodbye to the place I have called home for the past three years.

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I say goodbye to the classes and the professors that have prepared me and encouraged me to succeed in a career that I love.

I say goodbye to my classmates. We have learned together, shared in the struggles of reaching the end and rejoiced and laughed through each other’s triumphs. We have ultimately succeeded together.

I say goodbye to the Champion, a family that kept every day new and exciting, and a learning experience that I will never forget. I am grateful to have been a part of the team and to have learned a different side of writing.

While the goodbyes are hard, I value the memories that have come from my time at Liberty. I value the hard work required of me and the experiences that convinced me to stick with my major, even when the to-do list was longer than anything I could imagine pulling off. I have grown to love writing and the satisfaction of hard work. I have learned disappointment and elation. I have learned how to push myself, learned the boundaries of taking on too much and the value of good teamwork.

These are the memories, friendships and lessons that will go with me after graduation and into a new adventure. And on the days that I feel unprepared, I can rest assured knowing that God has brought me this far and given me this time to learn, and I know he will bring me safely into the next place.

Emily Webster

It has been said that life is like a book. As one chapter ends, another begins. My life at Liberty University has been filled with multiple chapters. This story contains chapters with some poor decisions made by an 18-year-old freshman. It has chapters filled with tears from the deaths of family members and friends. Some chapters hold an adventurous tale or two, and there are a few paragraphs on studying tips and toilsome note taking.

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The craziest chapter would have to be this last one. The year-long chapter as a Liberty Champion copy editor quickly filled with edits, articles and interviews. Some pages showed orange edit marks scribbled throughout, and all had the initials ESW written across the top.

While I could quote many inspirational people I have crossed paths with, there is one person in particular who left me with a simple yet powerful statement. These words did not come from interviews with actor Kirk Cameron, producer Roma Downey or Virginia Sen. Steve Newman. Instead, they came from an older gentleman whose name I do not even remember.

He approached me at an event at a time when I was about to interview Virginia senators and delegates. My nervous smile was plastered across my face as I confided in him that I felt I should take a backseat to the professional reporters who were currently interviewing the politicians.

“Never think of yourself as less than who you are,” he told me.

As this chapter ends and I enter into a world filled with people who have more experience, knowledge and connections than I have, I remember his words. I should never think of myself as less than who God has made me, less than who my professors have taught me, less than who my family and friends have guided me to become. And so, despite the bittersweet and nervous feelings that accompany the ending of this chapter, excitement takes hold as I turn the page to find out what happens next.

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