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My professional graduation day is here
by Jessica Garcia
Sep 29, 2010 | 529 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’ll consider this Thursday a commencement of sorts. My imaginary cap and gown will likely be a lunch or some brief office gathering with colleagues who truly have become friends and family. My diploma will be a few last-minute copies of the Sparks Tribune in which are printed some of my favorite stories from 2009 and 2010.

But at the end of the day, my desk will be emptied of all my reporter’s swag — my coveted Associated Press stylebook, my voice recorder, even a big stack of business cards that were just changed recently to reflect my unofficial title as “education editor.” It’s all being taken away so that the old wooden desk can be occupied by a new staff member anxious for my corner spot that allows for a certain amount of privacy.

Even all my story files and documents on the company laptop I’ve used will be archived for future reference and I will walk out the door of the Tribune into a very brief three-day period of unemployment.

After four and a half years of entirely new, unexpected and often mind-boggling experiences at my first full-time job, it is time to say goodbye and move on with my career. It’s also time to let someone else further her career in this newsroom.

The good news is my next job is already lined up and there is a new staff eagerly waiting for me to come on board Oct. 4.

I’m enjoying the incredible irony of what this new job is, which is to fill a hole in the communications department of the Washoe County School District. My new employer is the supreme center of the education beat I’ve been covering for two years with, admittedly, a little too much enthusiasm, according to my editor. In a strange way, I’m proud of that because after about six years as a professional writer, I feel I’ve discovered my niche, which I know is difficult for many people to find.

I’m taking my writing skills and the work I’ve done for this newspaper, including developing its weekly School Notes page that highlights the good news in Sparks, Spanish Springs and Sun Valley schools, and applying them to the district itself. Instead of keeping an eye on about 40 or so schools, I’ll now be responsible for scouting out the good news at all 102 schools in Washoe County. Additionally, instead of thinking only about the local and regional levels of that news dissemination, I will now be part of a team that tries to take the district national.

Will it be a challenge? Absolutely. Will it be exhausting? I’m thinking it will.

But just as I’ve sat through three of my own graduation ceremonies, from high school to my master’s degree program, with the message of upcoming challenges all resounding from each one, I also believe I’ll find it incredibly rewarding to find a new place among a large staff of people who genuinely care about helping children to succeed.

I also look forward to watching my own career unfold. This truly is an unexpected turn for me, especially given the efforts of my new boss over the last six weeks to bring me on board.

The entire experience has been reminiscent, in a way, of when I was first offered a job at the Tribune. When I pranced through this newspaper’s doors in March 2006, I was coming with adequate skills to put a newspaper page together and some writing experience — at least enough to put a decent feature together — with hardly anything more than classroom theories in my head about the media and its functions.

Now I’m walking away with real-life newsroom experience, the nuts and bolts of what makes a newsroom tick, the demands of community journalism and how to cooperate with a variety of personalities on a staff. While my new work lies just slightly outside the realm of journalism and the newspaper industry, I feel so prepared coming into it because of all I’ve learned as a Sparks Tribune reporter.

I’m thankful to the staff I’ve worked with in four and a half years at the Tribune and all I’ve gleaned from them about journalism. I’m appreciative of my editor, who always pushed me to do better. I’m grateful to the sources and contacts I’ve developed because they’ve been great partners and many have become great friends. Of course, the readers are equally important in my time here as well; they’ve provided honest feedback and guided me in becoming a better writer.

I wish the Tribune and all its readers the best. Thanks for the opportunity to serve the company and the community, but also know my service doesn’t end here.

Now, hats off and tassles turned!  Next Monday, it’s off to the school district I go.

Jessica Garcia is the education reporter for the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached at jgarcia@dailysparkstribune.com.
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