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Cole’s Corner: The Time of My Life

Adam Cole, Editor-in-Chief

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This night everyone arrived we were bussed to the Newseum to play "Newsmania!," a news trivia game. Getting out of the Newseum was the hard part. We got stuck in a freight elevator, which felt like something out of the Tower of Terror.

I’ll never forget the longest walk of my life.

It began with me staring down the entrance of gate four at Terminal A in Ronald Reagan National Airport. Walking through the gate and onto my flight home to Kansas City, I wanted to cry. I just experienced the week of a lifetime and it was over in an instant.

I spent my week at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in Washington D.C., being honored as Kansas’ representative for the conference by experiencing D.C. monument tours, some of the best lunches I’ve ever eaten, and seminars and panels on journalism.

From the moment I showed up to my hotel I was soaking in marvelous amounts of pure knowledge. And while knowledge isn’t always a high schooler’s most prized possession, it was something I couldn’t help basking in from the get-go.

Whether it be seminars on trends in technology or the five freedoms of the first amendment, or panel discussions with The Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic, Bill Clinton’s press secretary, or Chris Berman (Yes, that Chris Berman), there was always something to learn.

Quite frankly, learning was what I did most at the conference. With that being said, the things I got out of those experiences couldn’t add up to the most valuable part of the conference: the friendships.

The friendships I made in those six days were once in a lifetime. And not only did I make friendships, I learned a lot from them as well.

Staying up late at night discussing deadline processes for print newspaper with my roommate was just as valuable as hearing from some of the most respected journalists in the field. The people I befriended were simply the glue of the conference. I made friendships and discovered new people, but they taught me a lot about a field that I hope to make a career in as well. They gave the conference an added value that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

As I finished up the long walk and boarded my plane, I took the tears in my eyes and held them back. I realized, that flight wasn’t the end of a week, it was the beginning of an adventure.

I was coming home with a wealth of knowledge. Not only was I newly versed in the fine lines of journalism, I now had 50 friends who shared this incredible experience with me, and they weren’t more than a text or call away.

I’ll never forget the longest walk of my life. And how grateful I was for it. And how grateful I am to call myself a Free Spirit.

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2 Responses to “Cole’s Corner: The Time of My Life”

  1. Donna Swaffar on July 6th, 2016 10:54 am

    Thanks for being such a great representative for student journalists, the City of Topeka, and the State of Kansas! What an amazing time we live in when it is almost effortless for all who were chosen as Free Spirits to stay in contact. After my two high school travel experiences, I was able to stay in touch via snail mail (about all we had in the early ’80s–long distance was freakin’ expensive!) with a handful of friends. Thirty years later, only one is still instantly reachable, and that was after a decade-long absence. Your generation will know a sense of connectedness that mine never dreamed of, and I have a feeling it will produce some amazing results.


  2. Bill McKee on July 6th, 2016 11:51 pm

    Good, well thought out essay. Love the way you put yourself out there and express feelings. You, like your Mother are indeed a free spirit. Keep up the good writing


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Cole’s Corner: The Time of My Life