Staff Goodbyes | How lucky am I

Two-time editor-in-chief reflects on time with The Rocket

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My journey to SRU began with a letter I received my freshman year of high school. Yes, really.

My English teacher handed me a letter from Mr. Fitzpatrick (known by many as Fitz) encouraging me to join the Print Media Workshop class. I spent three years with PMW and ultimately served as assistant news editor, news editor and editor-in-chief, but I knew my work was far from over.

Then, I decided to come to SRU. I joined The Rocket as soon as I could and made it onto staff my sophomore year. Little did I know how much would happen within these past four years.

I met friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and I even got lucky enough to find my partner for life (hello, Aaron!) in this small town. I found my lifelong passions through my work with The Rocket, WSRU-TV and the Transition Achievement Program. Even during the pandemic, I have been so grateful to find my own place in this crazy world through these organizations.

Now, in a week’s time, I will be graduating from Slippery Rock University, joining my sister, Rebekah, in one of few people in our family to graduate with “Shumsky” written on their diploma.

My time as editor-in-chief has been, well, chaotic. I was elected to this position during a time of grief, and I will be leaving as editor-in-chief as this university strives for a more “normal” fall semester. Seriously, if someone told me every single crisis that would happen during my time as EIC, I wouldn’t have believed them.

The Rocket has shaped me into a more confident, determined young woman who is willing to work to support her staff and get us to where we want to be. I was not supposed to be editor-in-chief as early as I was elected. However, I think we did a dang great job at what we did under these circumstances.

Seriously, within just one year, I had to adjust to a global pandemic, complete my senior year of classes and navigate a dream student teaching experience in the Pittsburgh area—all while I came back to SRU and worked on lesson plans and Rocket design and stories in the evenings. Plus I had to deal with the (literal) highs and lows of managing blood sugar as a type 1 diabetic, and as most other T1Ds will tell you, it’s not an easy task, especially during stressful times.

Not only this, but we still won awards—including 1st Place in the ACP Best of Show for the first time in The Rocket’s history AND 1st Place Newspaper Overall Excellence from SCJ. We earned over 30 awards this year, and I am beyond proud of the growth of this staff despite all of the forces working against us to slow this incredibly important work. I also had the honor of being named the 2020 Student Leader of the Year, an award I am so gracious to have received during the height of the initial COVID-19 lockdown last spring.

My time at The Rocket was largely formed by the people I met and worked with along the way. While our usual in-person activities and print nights had to be modified for the Zoom era, I’m beyond thankful for every single game night and print week that made us a closer team.

I truly am thankful for every person I had the opportunity to work with while at The Rocket, but I have some specific people I want to thank.

First, I need to thank the past EICs who have helped me immensely in this role. Eric, Cody and Ryan, thank you for your assistant and advice for the past two years. This was not an easy transition for me, but your support was so worthwhile.

I also want to thank the past and current women of The Rocket (including those who contributed to our opinion section) for your support and mentorship, as it surely did not go unnoticed. It was constant support like this that helped keep me motivated to continue the great work, even when the odds were against us. Victoria and Maggie, I’m especially thankful for you both.

For every staff member who has been around since I joined staff in August 2018, thank you for your friendship and mentorship. I’m lucky enough to keep in contact with most of you, but it’s been amazing to see what you all have accomplished after graduating from SRU.

Lesa, it has been such a blast to work with you not only at The Rocket, but at Sigma Tau Delta. You’re going to do wonders while at graduate school, and I’m so excited to see you accomplish the next steps of your journey. May AP Style rue the day.

Ryanne and Sarah, as two of the youngest staff members, I’m so incredibly proud of you both for accomplishing so much during your first semester on staff. You two are going to be wonderful leaders next year and beyond, and I’m so excited to see you two continue to grow.

Hope and Karl, you two have helped me immensely during these past three years. You both are so talented, and I couldn’t have wished for better friends during my time on staff. I miss you both already, but I look forward to joining you on the alumni side of The Rocket.

Hannah Slope, you are by far one of the most talented, dedicated team members I have had the chance to work with. Thank you for all you have done for us the past two years, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish over your next reign as photo editor. You’ve been a terrific team player, and I sincerely thank you for all of the times you helped me whenever I was in a graphics panic.

Brendan and Tyler, as two people who have been part of my Rocket experience since the beginning, I wish you two truly the best. I appreciate all of the work and positive energy you put into this staff and your work, and I look forward to seeing how Tyler and Maddie lead this section in the near future.

Elisabeth and Rayni, while I will sadly not have the chance to work with you in person, you are both beyond talented in your work. I’m excited to continue to support you as an alumnus, and thank you again for all you have done for us.

Brooke and Morgan, what an honor it has been to work with you two and be able to see you grow while on staff. While I wish I got to have a more traditional Rocket experience with you all, I’m glad you have the chance to shine for one more semester on staff.

Joe, I’m so glad I was able to be a part of a news team with you and Nina. While my time in the news world is coming to an end, I look forward to seeing how you continue to cover the hidden stories of The Rock. We need more journalists like you.

Nina, I was so excited to see you for the first time as a freshman ready to join our staff when we needed someone like you most. You are the perfect pick for the next editor-in-chief, and I am beyond excited to see where you take this organization. You have a great challenge ahead, but I cannot think of anyone better to lead the staff during a post-COVID renaissance of student life.

And I certainly cannot forget to mention Aaron Marrie, who you may know as WSRU-TV’s president and The Rocket’s multimedia editor. However, he has such a special place in my life as my true partner in life. Aaron has been my number one at SRU, and I never thought that I would meet my true person at college. However, he has been there to support me throughout these past few years, and I absolutely plan on cheering him on at his first sports broadcasting gig. Talk about a real student media dream team. 🙂

Aaron, thank you for being there for me through everything, and I am so beyond lucky that I met you through WSRU-TV over two years ago now (I’m sorry that I was distracting you and almost made you get in the frame of a live shot, though). I love you so much, and I am so excited to see where our journey goes next after graduation. I absolutely know for certain that your passion and your work at WSRU-TV and WFMJ prepared you for what’s to come.

To every single Rocket staff member: keep on being you. The world needs more people like us to continue the good work in the midst of turmoil. There were plenty of times I and other staff members were left disappointed and frustrated during our work, but we prevailed and succeeded anyway. Structures like us aren’t meant to belong here, but we work as hard as we do in order to continue this fight for fair and accurate reporting not only at the university, but in the community and even the state.

Dr. Fleming, thank you for being the support and role model I needed during these past three years. I genuinely don’t think I could have done any of this without you, and I really am honored to call you a mentor and friend. The Rocket and all of SRU are lucky to have you. I’m beyond grateful that having you as an adviser is a lifelong guarantee, as I surely know I’ll need a mentor like you for the rest of my life.

There have been plenty of professors, departments and offices on campus that made my experience beyond what I could have ever imagined. So, thank you to the professors of the communication, English and secondary education departments; Sigma Tau Delta; the Office for Disability Services; Jillian Stringfellow and the Adapted Physical Activity Program; Cindy LaCom and the gender studies program; Jason Hilton and the Honors College; the Office of Academic Affairs and Integrated Learning; and the Office for Student Engagement and Leadership for all of your support from these past four years. While this is a long list, every single one of you made a significant impact on my time at SRU, and I will carry memories from these experiences for the rest of my life. Truly, I couldn’t have accomplished as much as I did within these four years without every single one of you.

I also owe a special thank you to my closest SRU friends who supported me during a wild college experience. Thank you especially to Jordan, Grace, Laura, Jacqueline, Megan, Peter, Brandon, Courtney, Jeremy and the many others in my college experience who encouraged me to keep going. I wish you all as many perfect d20 rolls as humanly possible.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the people who got me into this crazy ride in the first place. To Fitz, Kayla, Carly, Hannah Walden and the rest of my FHS Press friends, thank you for your encouragement as I took on a new challenge. I would never be here in this spot without you all.

I cannot possibly write this column and not acknowledge one of the newest mentors in my life, Savina, who took me on as a student teacher in the middle of a pandemic. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow so much from you, and I really owe it to you and your students for your trust and faith in me this semester. I will miss you all dearly, and I hope our paths cross again one day.

I also want to take a moment to remember my friend Adam Zook, who I will forever miss and wish I had more time with to spend finding the hidden stories of The Rock. While we all truly wish you were still here, I truly hope we all made you proud these last two years. We all miss you, and I know The Rocket will continue your legacy of telling all stories of SRU, making this community a more knowledgeable and welcoming place.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to my family for supporting me through a tumultuous time in college. My time at college and The Rocket took a lot of time away from time I could have spent with you, and I appreciate your support in me pursuing my other endeavors. I love you, Mom, Dad and Rebekah.

This final goodbye to The Rocket is slightly more bittersweet, as this officially marks the end of my career in journalism. I joined The Rocket knowing that I wanted to become a journalism/communication educator one day, making a difference in the lives of middle and high school students by showing them the power and ownership behind journalism. However, as my time as a student journalist ends, I’m ready for the restart needed before becoming an educator and putting everything I learned into action.

That being said, if by any chance any school districts are reading this piece and are thinking, “You know, she sounds like she would be a good fit for us,” please let me know. I’ll be dual certified in 7-12 English and 7-12 Communication after graduating, and I have a whole lot of ideas and experiences to bring to my first classroom. 🙂

But even after these insane four years at The Rocket, I can confidently say that joining this staff was the best decision in my college career. It may have been one of the best decisions of my life so far. But now, my time at Slippery Rock University is coming to a close as I and the rest of my fellow 2021 graduates have greater purposes to fulfill.

After all, how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Hannah is a senior secondary English education major and communication minor entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as editor-in-chief. Previously, she served as assistant news editor and covered Student Government Association affairs. After graduation, she hopes to teach English, communications and journalism to high school students. Hannah has won numerous awards for her writing and design work with The Rocket and was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year in 2020. Outside of The Rocket, Hannah is also part of WSRU-TV, Sigma Tau Delta and the Honors College.

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Hannah Shumsky
Hannah is a senior secondary English education major and communication minor entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as editor-in-chief. Previously, she served as assistant news editor and covered Student Government Association affairs. After graduation, she hopes to teach English, communications and journalism to high school students. Hannah has won numerous awards for her writing and design work with The Rocket and was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year in 2020. Outside of The Rocket, Hannah is also part of WSRU-TV, Sigma Tau Delta and the Honors College.

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