People stand outside of the Barclays Center during the first practice day of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in Brooklyn, NY, on Thursday March 17, 2016. West Virginia University lost to Stephen F. Austin, 70-56, the next day in a first round game on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Today (May 19, 2016) marks my one year anniversary at the Charleston Gazette-Mail and just over a year as a resident of Charleston. What a year it has been. I cut out of my internship at the Flint Journal in Flint, Michigan, a couple months early to head to West Virginia for my first full-time staff job.
Barely two months into my position with the Charleston Gazette management announced that our small, two-newspaper city would quickly be turning into a one newspaper city, as we merged together with the Charleston Daily Mail. I had to reapply for my position. I added a new line to my resume, revamped my cover letter and hoped that they liked the work I had been producing so far. Thankfully, I continued on with a newly structured visuals staff: a visuals editor, a multimedia producer, and four other staff photographers. Ever since then we have been chugging along covering stories in Charleston and around the state of West Virginia. By now, I have traveled through every county in the state and am working to get to know as many hills and hollers as I can.
It’s been refreshing not having to worry about where I will be in a few months time, even if it used to give me the willies just thinking about being grounded in one place for a long time. It’s been great to dig my heels into a community and get to know people. It’s rare to walk into a bar, a restaurant or a shop in Charleston and not see a familiar face now.
Over the past few months:
I got to watch WVU choke during the first round of the March Madness tournament in Brooklyn, NYC. My heart broke when I realized I wouldn’t be able to photograph any more basketball until next season. I covered the state girls basketball tournament and a slew of daily assignments (as always). I took my first visit to Asheville, North Carolina (on a personal, need to get out of town trip). I drank a lot of tasty beer and then saw a show. On my way back I day-hiked a tiny section of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. At the beginning of April I traveled to Parris Island, the Eastern Marine Recruit Station in South Carolina, to cover an Educators Workshop and work on stories about Marine recruits. I saw five asian elephants with Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey circus walk through the streets of Charleston for the last time as they performed several of their last shows before retirement. I covered the presidential race and primary election season in WV for the first time. First came Bernie Sanders during a rally in Huntington and again over a week later in McDowell County in the southern part of the state. Then I encountered Hillary Clinton at the University of Charleston during a panel discussion about the drug epidemic. That day also happened to be my two-year anniversary of graduating from college. Alas, I don’t have an photos of Trump in the flesh because I was assigned to take video during his rally. Most recently I’ve traveled to Shepherdstown, Lewisburg and Morgantown to work on a project called Tastiest Town WV to showcase the various food cultures around the state for the Life&Style section of the newspaper.
The past few months have been a whirlwind. My suitcase seemed to have always stay packed (whether it be from travel or neglecting to do laundry when I got back home).
My camera and job with the newspaper has taken me all over the state of WV and beyond, this year. For that I am feeling extremely grateful. I’m excited to see where the next year takes me as I continue to explore more beautiful places and meet more lovely faces.
The WVU Mountaineers quietly sit in the locker room after a hard loss in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, on Friday March 18, 2016. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, a 14-seed, rolled over the WVU Mountaineers, a three-seed, 70-56.
Wyoming East’s Gabby Lupardus (32) and Kara Sandy (3) fall over Fairmont Senior’s Abigail Stoller (24) as they fight for possession of the ball during the WVSSAC Class AA finals match at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday, March 12, 2016. The Warriors barreled past the Polar Bears to win the Class A State Championship title, 54-26.
Athletes stretch and jog around the track to prepare for the Capital High School Invitational Relays as coaches and family members fill the stands at Laidley Field in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, March 24, 2016.
Sister Mary Pellicane, 94, stands outside of the West Virginia Institute of Spirituality in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Pellicane, a Cenacle nun, represents Our Lady of the Cenacle and has been living in Charleston for over 37 years.
James at Laurel Creek Falls along the Appalachian Trail in Hampton, TN, on Monday, March 7, 2016.
Chad Hill, Director of Operations at the Bombardier Aerospace facility in Bridgeport, W.Va., stands in a commercial aircraft that is going through a series of repairs on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Thousands of people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10.
Bernie Sanders addresses the large crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Over 6,000 people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10.
Bernie Sanders supporters of all ages listen to the democratic presidential candidate address the crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Thousands of people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, interacts with community members at a campaign event at Five Loaves & Two Fishes food pantry, in Kimball, West Virginia, on Thursday. Sanders became the first presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy to visit McDowell County.
Jason Blankenship and his son, Wyatt, 6, listen to Sanders and others speak at the start of the McDowell County Community Discussion about rural poverty on Thursday. Blankenship spoke to Sanders about Wyatt’s autism, prompting a discussion about special-education resources in rural areas.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (center) addresses the crowd during a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic that state is fighting at the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Chelsea Carter (sitting to the right of Clinton), a recovering drug addict, shared that she started using drugs at age 12 and began abusing Percocet (which contains oxycodone) and Lortab (which contains hydrocodone) at age 15. She switched to OxyContin (oxycodone) at 19, and began dating her drug dealer.
A person walks into the presidential campaign headquarters for Donald J. Trump during a grand opening event for the campaign held at 818 Virginia Street E., between Capitol and Dickinson Streets in downtown Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
The sun sets on Parris Island, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Parris Island has been used to train enlisted Marines since 1915. Female recruits from all over the United States and male recruits living east of the Mississippi River report to the island for their initial training.
Upon arrival to Parris Island, all new recruits are greeted by a drill instructor and ordered to get off the bus to line up on the legendary yellow footprints. Every new recruit will hear these words as they stand on the famous yellow footprints: "You are now aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and you have just taken the first step toward becoming a member of the world's finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps." Thousands of Marines have stood on those very same footprints before beginning their journey through training.
Justin Bockway, an 18-year-old Huntington High School graduate, is one of 211 West Virginia residents to join the marines since 2014. Bockway, who has a wife and young son, said having a family was the deciding factor in joining up. “He sees other married men or other people with families, and he knows that he wants his family to be protected so he also wants to protect everyone else’s family as well,” Bockway said, while speaking in third person.
New recruits sit quietly as they wait for further instructions in the intake process during receiving week, the first of the 13-week training regimen they will face, at Parris Island in South Carolina, on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.
Male marine recruits use pugil sticks, a padded pole used to simulate rifle combat, as they participate in the Crucible, a 54-hour exercise that tests the physical, mental and moral capabilities of the recruits at Parris Island in South Carolina, Thursday afternoon, April 7, 2016. The event includes food and sleep deprivation and over 45 miles of marching. Upon completing this challenge, the recruits are handed their Eagle, Globe and Anchors, symbolizing the completion of becoming a U.S. Marine.
Marines march along the parade deck during the graduation ceremony at Parris Island in South Carolina on Friday morning, April 8, 2016.
A new marine is embraced by loved ones after the graduation ceremony at Parris Island in South Carolina, Friday morning, April 8, 2016. With the exception of five Fridays, there is a graduation scheduled for new Marines every week throughout the calendar year.
Elephant handler Alex Petrov uses a firehose to bathe Asia, a 48-year-old asian elephant, as they prepare for the second Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show of the day at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, April 21, 2016. After the bath the five elephants were dried off and their handlers secured their headdresses before being escorted into the Civic Center.
A doe and her goat kid, named Sweet Caroline, stand on the hillside at Winters Hilltop Farm in Kenna, W.Va., on Friday, April 1, 2016. Sweet Caroline was born in mid-march and the only baby of three to survive.