Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New to the Crew

Having interned at The News Herald in 2006, I kind of had an idea of what to expect when joining the crew full-time in March. Yes, there were new faces mixed in with the old, but the steadfast warm, welcoming presence was here to greet me at the door.

However, what I didn’t expect was getting the chance to delve right into some pretty intriguing features and controversial stories right off the bat.

Something as simple sounding as a student dress code generated more comments online than I ever anticipated. In fact, two parents I spoke with who are not in favor of Painesville Schools’ academically dressed program were quite passionate about the matter.

“Personally, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea. I hear from other parents that they don’t mind it, but my daughter had just gotten all these jeans given to her and all these beautiful clothes that she couldn’t use anymore,” said Painesville resident Debbie Huffman, who has a 10-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son in the Painesville School District.

“I know my son is not thrilled,” she said. “On the good side, (the schools) don’t have to worry about anybody wearing anything improper. Now that I have the outfits for her, it’s not quite so bad. We got through it.”

However, mothers like Painesville resident Mary Brewer, who took her daughter out of the school system because of the dress code, fervently believe enforcing those kinds of dress codes in public schools in “un-American” and “fascist.”

Regardless of what side people took on the matter, I was just thrilled to see so many people interacting and having that kind of dialogue.

In my line of work, it still never ceases to amaze me when a seemingly straight forward piece causes unforeseen perspectives to practically crawl out of the woodwork.

Controversy aside, quite a few heart-warming features have landed in my lap as well.

Two weeks ago, I found myself propped on a couch at the Cleveland Institute of Music listening to a 14-year-old pianist from West Geauga do Mozart more justice than I’d ever imagined.

Having played piano myself since I was 4, I was already eager to hear her play, but did not anticipate breaking out in goose bumps or becoming so completely mesmerized, I pretty much forgot I was there to interview her and found myself scrambling for my notebook and pen when it was over.

I enjoy starting each day never quite knowing who I’m going to meet, what their story is or how they manage to leave a mark, no matter how small, in this vast world.

After all, there are stories all around us, often in front of our own eyes. For instance, last week at Petland in Mentor, I watched several shoppers realize their mundane trip to the store was now anything but.

Middlefield resident Samantha Schleger, 18, who has been battling cancer throughout her senior year of high school, received her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana chapter – an English bulldog.

That evening, people got to witness a girl who has been through so much in the last year, break out in ear to ear grins over a wrinkly faced pooch she named Angus Gunther. The benevolent power of four legged creatures ... but that’s a topic for another day.

Cassandra Shofar


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