Seated at my grandma’s wooden kitchen table at 7 years old, my young and creative brain worked hard to create my own storybook: I was a princess being saved by my brother, who was a dragon.
“You’re going to be my author one day,” my grandma said, beaming at me.
“And your illustrator,” I added, earning a laugh from her and my dad.
Her words became a core childhood memory, knowing how much she believed in me inspired how I would lead the rest of my life. I knew I’d pursue a career path that fulfilled what my grandma told me I could achieve.
My grandma is my biggest inspiration because she gave so much of herself to help others. She was a vessel of kindness, love and wisdom.
She and my grandpa were directors of a Christian drug addiction treatment program called New Life For Girls, and at church services, women gave testimonies explaining how my grandparents saved their lives. Even as a child, I was moved by their willingness to help others.
My world came crashing down on March 12, 2009, when my mom came into my room early in the morning before school, her eyes welled up with tears.
I was only 8 years old when my grandma passed away at age 57 from stage four pancreatic cancer. I’m still struggling to grasp how life would continue when my hero was taken away from me so early.
More than 200 people came to my grandma’s funeral service. Friends, family and loved ones poured out the funeral home door to celebrate the legacy of a life she lived. I wanted to make a difference in the world as she had, but in a way that was inspired by her vision for my future.
When I was a junior at Temple, I still had no idea how I was going to make my dream happen. In October 2021, The Temple News was looking to hire a print design editor, so I decided to apply.
I didn’t get the position that year, but the Editor-in-Chief Lawrence Ukenye told me to re-apply for the 2022-23 school year, and I was hired.
I had previous experience with design in high school as the editor-in-chief of Central York High School’s magazine On the Prowl, but I was extremely nervous about how I’d perform at The Temple News after not working in a newsroom for four years. However, after several print editions, I adapted to The Temple News’ style with consistent practice while expanding my digital illustrating abilities.
Being able to showcase my artistic ability for the Temple community to see helped me gain the footing I needed to push my career goals toward pursuing my creative side.
I gain immense inspiration from the talented staff I get to work with at the paper. The ability to discuss color palettes, fonts, designs and logo ideas makes me feel whole knowing that I’ve found a group in which I finally feel like I belong after feeling alone during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I feel like a young child again designing the stories on each page. I was able to combine my love for writing and illustrating to work toward a potential career in content creation and design. It was not until getting this opportunity that I felt I gained the confidence to continue with my design journey.
Working for The Temple News has reignited my confidence in the path I chose to take. My new-found courage helps me cope with knowing that even if my grandma isn’t here, I get to carry her wisdom with me everywhere I go.
In February, I won an Honorable Mention 2023 Student Keystone Media Award for the layout and design of the 2022 Basketball Preview within our sixth issue. This extremely validating moment made me feel like I’m on the right path to making my grandma proud.
She gave me the confidence to pursue the artistic abilities I’ve had since I was young. Now at 22 years old, I think about how my grandma would love to see how my hobby of creating became my career path, just as she predicted.
When I walk across the graduation stage on May 11, I know my grandma will be cheering me on with the same pride and encouragement she had for me when I was a child.