I was accepted into my school's journalism program as early as you can as a transfer within the university: as a second-semester sophomore. I tested into one of the core requirement classes and couldn't wait to begin my academic journey with — finally — an official major declared.
The class was difficult. I was already intimidated because most of the students in the class had been journalism students longer than I had. It's the unofficial "weed-out" class, designed to be difficult and really push students outside their comfort zones. My university's journalism school is one of the best in the country too, so it was no joke.
Then the pandemic hit. The class had been prepared to move remotely when the decision was made by the university. I remember my professor talking about moving online and actually laughed. Never did I think such a thing would even become a reality.
Yet, here we are.
We pitched our final projects before spring break: Mine was going to be about the cutting of federal funding to our campus health center for free STI testing, our location one of the many hit in Ohio by a 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruling from last year. I had a list of university faculty among others that I would be contacting for interviews. Pretty open and shut.
But now that I would be working from home, I would have to change my angle to what's local to me. I instead focused on Planned Parenthood, the organization the funding cut intended to affect, and the resulting effects on the community.
For weeks and weeks and weeks I reached out to countless people for interviews. I emailed, phone called, and submitted information requests to so many people and organizations that I could 't even keep track of them all. I even DM-ed the CDC on Twitter. I heard back from almost none of them. When I did hear back they were often rejections, or I was forwarded onto someone else who either didn't respond or rejected me.
I understood what I was doing: Contacting health officials amidst a global pandemic and expecting a response for a student project not even for publication about a topic that wasn't COVID-19. I wasn't anyone's main priority, but I had to get three interviews, no exceptions, or topic-changes. And no satisfactory grading for this specific class. Of course, the class I've been crying over every day for weeks is among the very few classes across the entire university that aren't applicable for the pass/fail option.
I felt low for weeks. As soon as I thought I was gaining some traction, I got another rejection and crashed hard. I thought I would fail the project and fail the class, as my project was worth a quarter of my grade. I had to get a C or above to pass the class.
Slowly, but surely, I persevered. The deadline inched closer and I had one kind of rejection/ kind of interview the week before it was due. Finally, just a few days before the early-bird deadline that would get me a bonus point, someone called me. I talked to an actual person. I thanked her for saving my grade endlessly. I poured over my over 1,000-word feature report for hours. I had my professor review my work once and a classmate review it several times before I finally submitted it one minute before the deadline. There was nothing else I could do. Every other assignment we had for this class had a second submission for a revision and an opportunity for a better average grade on the assignment. Not for this one.
I got my project back with only one error. I got 100 percent and thus didn't even need the early deadline.
I still feel the glow of relief and pride for my work I tried so hard to achieve. My hard work really paid off.
I ask that if a student tries to talk to you for a project, if you have even a minute to spare, answer their questions.
The odds are that you'll make their entire day and save their grade. Remote learning is worlds different than in-person, as I'm sure it is for jobs too. It's a harder time for everyone, so please help people as much as you can.
For weeks I felt like I didn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, I didn't: the people I was trying to contact were busy saving lives. I understood that. But the time they spent typing out a rejection email could've easily taken the same amount of time that answering my two questions I emailed to them would be.
Please talk to student reporters. We will be the ones delivering you the breaking news you've been following so closely recently. We will be the ones keeping you informed. We will be the ones helping you. For now, though, we need your help.
Please help us learn to be the people you count on.