A personal side of the professional life.
The world will try to tell you to just be one thing.
And if you're not careful, it will not only put you in that box, it'll also put the lid on top and toss you on a shelf– completely forgotten, left to gather dust.
I have a problem with boxes. And I've eschewed them at every turn, challenging norms, and questioning whether a dictated path is the one for me even if it *does* make it easier to put me into a box.
So, needless to say, my transition into public relations wasn't a smooth one, but it was a necessary one.
I've wanted to be a journalist since I was 11 years old.
I was a nosy kid and talked a lot. I mean so much so that I received "distracts others" and "talks to her peers" every single report card since basically kindergarten. Move me to another seat? Cool, another new friend. You can drop me anywhere and I am going to find something to talk about with someone. Couple that with a love for writing and, well, journalism just made sense. But I wasn't just in love with journalism, I was enamored by people like Ida B. Wells and Nellie Bly, people who took their writing and made real change.
So I dove straight in, taking a journalism class my freshman year and even reading the New York Times daily. My report that year was on the Black Wall Street bombing. I was a little too serious but I loved that I was already writing about impactful topics so I felt very much like a true journalist. In fact, I thought I was a journalist in everything but byline and that was soon to come.
I had my first internship at about 15 years old for my school district
I met Tom Petronio, chief of communications at the time, at a school expo. It's this huge event where all of the schools set up tables and try to get you to enroll. I was working it for volunteer hours to meet my school's quarterly quota so we both happened to be at the front door. He was making conversation with students and asked what I wanted to be. I told him a journalist and he asked if I knew he was.
I remember thinking: Why would I, old man? (Sorry, Tom, who was surely only in his 40s at the time. But as a teen, even 25 was ancient)
He told me he was the chief of communications for the RCSD and offered to help me learn more about the field, asking me almost immediately to send him some writing samples and a resume for a possible internship.
Yes, a resume at 15.
I still remember that thick, creamy, gold-ish paper. We bought a whole pack and for several months afterward I'd just print random stuff on it.
Anyway, I pestered Tom for 3 months straight, reminding him of his offer, refusing to just shadow, until he finally relented, found space for me in his own office and created work for me to do. There was no real internship program but I didn't let that stop me.
Tom trusted me completely, allowing me to write press releases, scripts for the weekly TV program and even pitching my name for media opportunities. I was appearing on TV, lining up press interviews and working with school leadership, all after school. I loved the responsibility and we were always highlighting so many of the good things happening there. Students who were going to college with a full ride. Little kindergarteners on reading day. Fun stuff that I really enjoyed writing about.
But it's important to know that RCSD is one of the worst districts in New York State and I often had an itch to tell larger stories.
I worked for the office until I couldn't balance it with my senior project (belly dancing) and the work I was doing with RCTV's Talkback4teens, a monthly show I was talked into hosting. We discussed major topics like violence, bullying, eating disorders and so much more. The show was a fun time for everyone involved and we were fortunate enough to bring on dozens of teens from across the area during my time as host but, as a writer, I struggled to make it the best it could be and left it to a more capable host as I transitioned into college, focusing on the website and content creation instead.
Speaking of college, maybe this is a good place to pause things?
I talk a lot but this is getting ridiculous...
OK I'll be back to catch you up on the next several years: college, Talkback4teens, my first jobs (including Open Mic Rochester) and how I started Manon Media. It's an unconventional journey but hey, we don't do boxes over here, remember?