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The things I've seen

I can recall the day I sat down with my college advisor during freshmen orientation. Although that day was riddled with financial paperwork and awkward student ID photo shoots, my conversation with him stands out clearer than the rest.

Simply put, he asked me what I wanted to do.

It wasn't a difficult question for me to answer. I wanted to be a political reporter.

It was 2002. Our country had just been rocked a year prior with the devastation of 9-11. I was more aware of political turmoil in our nation and world than ever before. It was for that reason I adopted a concentration in international studies, to go along with my political science degree and journalism minor - a combination my advisor said would help get me to where I wanted to go.

Ten years later, I'm thankful for that firm advice.

I didn't expect this to happen, but I'm ending my time at the East Otter Tail Focus with a job lined up in the Twin Cities. I'll be writing for a new national news website, one that specializes in in-depth political reporting. I'm ecstatic - and incredibly nervous.

After a post-graduation stint in Australia, I've had the privilege of working in rural Minnesota communities, covering news and telling people's stories.

It's what every new graduate is told they need to do to gain experience and hone in on their reporting skills. But for me, it's been more than just a passing of time to get to the next level. It truly has been rewarding. I've met people whose stories have the ability to inspire beyond belief. I've become familiar with how small city governments work, which is something that largely goes unrecognized by larger political bodies.

I've also been able to write stories that, I hope, have genuinely helped people. I've made great, life-long friendships and have learned more than I can really even believe.

In this community alone, I've sat down with people in the midst of cancer battles, those who have survived the disease and those who have lost loved ones through it.

I've seen young people rise to impressive levels far beyond their years, all to honor friends who left this world far too early.

I've seen a town rally around a team in a way that's deserving of a cinematic performance.

I've seen residents battle with flooding that's devastated lake communities.

I've watched city employees put in the extra effort to do right by taxpayers.

In essence, I've been inspired. I'm thankful for each and every person who has revealed to me what true community spirit is, and how powerful it can be.

I have really come to hate the notion that small town journalism 'isn't as important' as it is in larger cities. Anyone who says this hasn't covered news in a small town. I've learned that, no matter what level you are at, what you are reporting on matters to people. It doesn't matter how many people it matters to, so long as it does.

I hope I've served you folks well. I know I'll be interested to see what happens with the Ditch 25 flood alleviation proposal and how Perham residents will vote on the upcoming levy. I'll also keep tabs on how students remember Tabby Belmonte each year, and those affected by that tragedy will never leave my thoughts and prayers.

And every time I see a turtle crossing the road, I'll think of summer days in Perham - and smile.

Thanks for having me.