Senior Send-off 2023: Kassandra Darnell

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The beginning of my time on The Reflector was not what I expected, to say the least. I joined this staff as a freshman in the Fall of 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming into college while the whole world was shut down resulted in a lot of boredom and feeling lost in a new place with no real way to make friends. And after four years on the student newspaper in high school, joining The Reflector was familiar territory. I joined the class and was quickly able to crank out stories while learning more about the campus community. 

Photo contributed by: Kassandra Darnell DARNELL

After one semester on staff, I became an Editorial Assistant for Reflector alumna Kiara Conley, who was the News Editor at the time. Working with Kiara, I became more familiar with the editing process and more versed in news writing, in particular. Additionally, joining the editorial staff helped me make more friends, despite only communicating virtually. College still was not as fun as I hoped, but it was getting better. At the end of Spring 2021, I applied to be the News Editor for the next year and solidified myself amongst The Reflector editorial staff. And with in-person classes resuming the following semester, things were looking up.

Actually going into the newsroom and interacting with other members of The Reflector editorial staff was my first opportunity to make friends outside of my freshman dorm. I was quickly met with a tight-knit community that deeply cared for one another. Whenever I doubted myself as a writer or editor, there was always someone there to help and motivate me. This group of fellow journalists became my biggest support, and I always tried to be the same for them. And outside of the newsroom, I formed long-lasting friendships with like-minded people. I soon learned the true meaning of camaraderie as I spent late nights in the newsroom, talked for hours in campus parking lots and went to (cheap) steak dinners on a whim. 

My time on The Reflector has also shown me what it means to be a leader and a mentor. I am grateful to have been a part of a staff that supports me every step of the way, even after they have graduated and I am still making my way as a student journalist. My fellow staff members acted as examples of great leaders, which was something I internalized as the News Editor and when I became the Editor-in-Chief. While many of my friends are alumni now, they continue to be some of my biggest cheerleaders and have helped me become a great mentor for all of the new people on staff this past year. 

However, I think the most formative time for me on staff has been this past academic year. Taking on a leadership role has helped me become a better journalist because I frequently have to help my staff with tough decisions or teach them the different aspects of being editors. I have learned the importance of harmony between leaders while working alongside Managing Editor Olivia Cameron, whom I would not have been able to do this job without. I am grateful for her and all of her amazing qualities every single day. On top of that, I have become extremely close with some of my fellow editors, like Mia Lehmkuhl and Hannah Hadley, who inspire me to work hard for the sake of others, but also consistently show me that hard work pays off. 

Ultimately, my college experience would have been vastly different without The Reflector. I have made some of the best friends I have ever had while a part of this staff, and each person I have befriended along the way has my undying gratitude and appreciation. Each of these friends have helped me to become a better journalist, leader, companion and person. I can easily say that I would not be who I am today without their constant love, support and acceptance. While I am excited to move on to the next chapter of my life, a piece of my heart will always be with this staff, and I wish them all the best. I know they will be great.

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