It’s almost unimaginable that this is my last story for The Battalion when I can still remember my first ones so well.
I wrote a preview article for the annual 3-Day Startup entrepreneurship event. I was nervous for every interview. I asked more questions than necessary and took much too long to write the story. My second article was a coverage of the event. It ended late so the editors tore it to pieces as I was writing so it could get put in the paper in time for publication. I remember calling my mom as I left the library when it was finally finished and telling her how overwhelming it was to write on a tight deadline and have an entire staff edit as I worked. I had no idea how much more intense things would soon become for me at The Battalion.
Between those first articles and this last column, I’ve written more than 100 stories, including coverage of student protests, an incoming student body president and the burial of former first lady Barbara Bush, to name a few. I’ve pulled all-nighters working in the newsroom. I’ve gone to bed worrying about the paper and woken up thinking about story ideas and project details that need to be finalized. The Battalion became a defining part of my college experience. Somewhere between the late nights editing and the frantic scrambles to meet deadlines, I fell in love with journalism and chose to pursue it as a career.
But none of this would have been possible without my parents, their unwavering support and countless sacrifices they made for me. I never could have afforded to continue working at The Battalion if my dad hadn’t moved up in his job and if my mom hadn’t switched from a position she loved to one she could barely stand to help me pay for my tuition. I never could have made some crucial life decisions without my mom’s willingness to help me talk through things as I cried over the challenges I faced. I never would have had the confidence I have in my writing if it weren’t for my dad — who I am convinced is The Battalion’s most loyal reader — texting me every day about the stories he liked best.
It’s their encouragement, high expectations and loyalty that prepared me for everything I faced during my time at A&M and have put me in an excellent position for a future career. Thank you, mom and dad. I love you both so much and I never could have made it here if it weren’t for you.
My brother, Michael, knows first-hand how our parents’ love can encourage someone. I was so happy when Michael followed in my footsteps and came to A&M. He collected nearly every paper I worked on over the past two years, even hanging some in his dorm. It’s this type of support that I’m unbelievably grateful to have.
They’re not my only relatives whose encouragement contributed to me getting my diploma. When I walk the stage on Thursday, I will remember my family members who helped me move in and out of my dorm over the years, everyone who changed plans for major holidays so I could celebrate with them while I was in town and relatives who encouraged me to come to A&M in the first place. Without the endless love my family has shown, I know being a successful student would have been impossible. Coming from a large family, it’s impossible to name everyone individually, but thank you all for investing in me since before I was at A&M and now as I walk across the stage.
And when I was away from this network of support I’d been born into, I made new friends who got me through each day in College Station. Hannah Winkle knocked on my dorm room door on move in day and soon became my best friend. She’s the first person I text when I need encouragement or just want to vent — the friend who is always ready to drop what she’s doing to go grab food. Hannah, we’ve seen each other through the first day of college and the last. I can’t wait to see where our friendship goes next.
And of course there have been countless friends in The Battalion newsroom who have probably spent more time with me than anyone else, since we practically live in this little office in the MSC basement: The ones who have seen me at my worst, on nights when breaking news coverage has us scrambling to meet deadline; the ones who I know I could trust with anything because they’re the most hardworking and talented people I’ve ever met; the ones who make me laugh when the week has been awful and we still have so much more work to do.
Our adviser, Douglas Pils, has been with us through it all, encouraging us to keep going and editing every edition we produce. He’s the first person I met at The Battalion. He handed me my application. He encouraged me to apply for editor-in-chief. He helped me get scholarships and internships. I never would have made the decision to pursue journalism if it weren’t for him, all the incredible professors and all the other editors who taught me what I know.
But of course the friendship I’ve found in Managing Editor Luke Henkhaus has stood out among the rest. He was the first person I hired when I became a desk editor and I knew in that first semester he would be editor-in-chief one day. Between the first story assignment I gave him and now as I prepare to hand over my position to him, Luke has been the kindest and funniest person I have ever known. He’s one of the few people I can talk to for hours and never be bored. If it weren’t for him, I never could have made it this far at The Battalion.
But when the relentlessly fast-paced newsroom was too much, there was always my church group ready to support me. I can’t count how many times they’ve prayed for me or guided me in my decisions with sound advice. Their encouragement to rely on God was ever present and much appreciated.
It’s all of these people and incredible experiences that made my time in Aggieland so unforgettable, and make saying goodbye so challenging. But there’s really only one way to do it — in true Aggie fashion.
Thanks and gig ‘em.
Megan Rodriguez is a communication senior and editor-in-chief for The Battalion.