When people ask me why I decided to move back home to accept a position with the Turlock Journal just one month after I graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, I would simply tell them that I was looking to get some real-world experience as a news reporter that I would need if I ever wanted to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a broadcast journalist.
It wasn’t until I was visiting an apiary out in Hughson a few short months later getting attacked by a very, very angry swarm of bees that I realized that I was in for more than just standard newsroom “experience.”
Before I get too wrapped up into how I calmly—well, as calmly as I could—ran away from an exceptionally enraged hoard of bees as they buzzed around in my hair and interweaved themselves in my conveniently bee-attracting, bright sweater, and before I tell you how I sped home immediately to ask my dad to delicately remove the stingers from my head—a task at which, despite his efforts with tweezers and a credit card, he failed at—I should start from the beginning and tell you about my story as the education and agriculture reporter with my hometown’s beloved community newspaper.
Although my bee story has understandably garnered a lot of laughter and teasing in the newsroom—especially from my editor who constantly tried to convince me to cover more life-threatening bee stories—it is definitely not the only memory I will cherish looking back at from my time spent working at the Turlock Journal.
As the agriculture reporter, I didn’t just write about local apiaries, but about the promise of an El Niño weather system to provide relief to California after what has become a historically scorching drought, how the state and local cities were faring in terms of meeting their water saving goals under Gov. Jerry’s Brown’s emergency conservation regulations, and of course about the Turlock Irrigation District, whose employees and Board of Directors were always kind enough to patiently answer my never-ending stream of questions.
I will never forget my second day on the job, which also happened to be my 22nd birthday, at which time I attended my first ever TID Board meeting. After having sat through a daunting meeting filled with talks of groundwater, irrigation updates and electric service division reports, I returned to the Journal newsroom with an unmistakably dumbfounded look on my face, wishing I were only smart enough to record the audio from the meeting.
I like to think I’ve learned a lot since that second fateful day.
Over the past year and a half, I have also been responsible for covering education, which unlike agriculture was a topic I was slightly more familiar with having grown up with a mother who is also a teacher in a neighboring school district.
However, even though I was a proud student of the Turlock Unified School District since the second grade, it never failed to shock me when I realized how much I didn’t know about the schools I attended for the majority of my life. This growing awareness would occur as I sat in on countless TUSD Board of Trustee meetings, where the District would deliberate important matters like the expansion of the dual immersion program at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy and ultimately appoint new Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan.
I also attended Denair Unified School District Board of Trustee meetings every month and watched in awe as the District’s dedication and hard work continued towards regaining fiscal solvency, and shook hands with Stanislaus State President Joseph F. Sheley, who after a successful term at the University announced his intent to resign at the end of this academic year.
The stories I covered were not entirely limited to my two assigned beats, however, as I also got out in the community to write a myriad of other stories, including two Make-A-Wish reveals for Alan Ojeda and Koran Rudd—both of which left a grateful smile on my face—the 2015 Stanislaus County Fair, which brought in a record-breaking number of visitors for the year, the Dubyak Family Chiropractic annual pumpkin pie contest, downtown Turlock’s Festival of Lights, and the courageous account of Anry Fuentes, Denair High School’s first openly-transgender cheerleader.
Above all, the thing I will miss the most about working at the Turlock Journal will be my coworkers, who I shared countless laughs with, and the people of Turlock and surrounding areas that I had the honor of meeting every single day.
Even though I will be moving to Southern California in hopes of advancing my career as a Multimedia Journalist, I will never forget my hometown or the Turlock Journal. Looking back on time spent in this newsroom as the education and agriculture reporter, I can easily say that the experience, friendships and memories I made were worth each and every one of those traumatizing bee stings.