My experience with Next Generation Radio this week has taught me more than I could have anticipated.

Of course, I learned plenty of technical skills, like making fine edits while working with audio, writing tight, and organizing ideas. The skills and tools we’ve used have already started to help me in my workflow as a journalist, and I’ve seen improvements in my effectiveness. I’ve still got plenty of learning to do, but I’m optimistic and excited to continue my learning journey.

It’s been an honor to tell a local story, and to be trusted with Raul’s words and experiences. The media has consistently failed in representing communities like his and who they are as a people. I can only hope I’ve done West Dallas some justice and, at the very least, done no harm. I’m grateful to have that connection now.

This week, I’ve learned to trust my editorial instincts and take ownership of my work. I can’t say I can do so unapologetically quite yet, but I’ve learned to be assertive and apologize less. I’ve been reminded numerous times this week “this is your story,” and I’m starting to internalize that sentiment. As an early-career journalist, I tend to think everyone else knows better than me. Imposter syndrome runs deep within my soul, but I’m convinced it has no place there. We’re all learning and working to improve. I’m grateful to have participated in this program and to have learned that I can contribute just as effectively as my mentors and peers, and that oftentimes those contributions are also just as appreciated. I’ve learned to ask for what I need, like space, time or clarification. Without a doubt, within the span of a whirlwind of a week, I’ve already noticed my confidence as a producer, editor, writer, mentee, and collaborator increase, and I will do my best to maintain that reassurance in my abilities. I realize being upfront, honest, and vulnerable makes for better work, because the team is better able to communicate.

The part of this week that has had the greatest impact on me has been the amazing collaboration. I’ve been flabbergasted by the genuine support of my editorial team, and the entire Next Gen/Texas Newsroom team during the week. Communication has been immaculate. Organization: pristine. Our team always passed the vibe check. It’s been an honor to be encouraged to open up, grow, and to be surrounded by folks with matched ambition who want what’s best for the good of the whole. I’m especially grateful for my mentor Stella Chavez who has fielded numerous questions, given thorough explanations, and encouraged me when I was frazzled. I hope to one day give my time and consejos as freely as she has. Next Gen is truly unique, and even 21 years in, still sorely needed and appreciated.