Back when I was in second grade, I was given a journal assignment.
“My name is Mary Norkol and I have a lot to say,” the first line read.
Now, 14 years later, The Phoenix has given me a way to say it.
Thanks to four years, 135 bylines and hundreds of hours in the newsroom, my college newspaper has become one of the most cherished things in my life. Who knew?
I’ve officially passed The Phoenix torch to next year’s editor-in-chief Mary Chappell, a brilliant and bubbly person and a strong and passionate reporter. I know she’ll bring conviction, dedication and a whole lot of laughs to the job. And she’ll make next year’s staff as much of a family as ever.
As excited as I am to watch one of my closest friends take the reins, I can’t help but resist loosening my own grip. How could I pass it on so easily, after all this paper has given me?
Let me tell you, The Phoenix is responsible for far more than the 14 different folders of documents in my Google Drive.
Because of this paper — and more importantly, these people — I’ve become a stronger reporter. I’ve become a more diligent thinker. I’ve grown into a better friend and ally for those who rely on me.
I’ve been given the opportunity to tell stories that matter. Ask anyone, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
When I dust off my hands and leave this paper, I want those who follow to remember one thing: the stories we’ve told that would have otherwise been silenced. Together, we amplified the voices of students who were marginalized and vulnerable. And for that, I’m proud.
Of all the beautiful places on Loyola’s campus, I’ll remember one more fondly than the rest: School of Communication room 009, The Phoenix’s newsroom. I’ll remember walking through the doors for the first time as assistant news editor my sophomore year, a bit terrified and absolutely clueless. I had no idea what kind of storm was coming my way.
I’ll remember easing into my comfort zone enough to chime in on heated political debates that sprouted in the newsroom from time to time.
I’ll remember watching old Saturday Night Live bits on YouTube and looking up pictures of puppies. Like clockwork, every Tuesday around 11 p.m., just when the stress was pushing us toward our breaking point, we would take to the Internet to ease our minds.
I’ll remember every “Phoensgiving” potluck meal each November, every Secret Santa gift exchange and every round of Phoenix superlatives at the end of the year.
I’ll remember the feeling of pushing the “publish” button on an important story, whether it was a Loyola student telling reporters of his alleged sexual assault or a scathing criticism of Loyola’s administration and its media policy that would ignite support for The Phoenix across the nation.
I’ll remember the year with three election nights. And three rounds of election night pizza.
I’ll remember gaining my footing as editor-in-chief, tasked with overseeing massive investigations, fun profiles, analytical opinion pieces and the inner workings of Loyola athletics.
I’ll remember my weekly column serving as a form of emotional catharsis when I needed it most.
I’ll remember going toe-to-toe with Loyola administrators, holding them accountable to their students and supporting my staff.
I’ll remember the feeling of bursting with pride each time a reporter uncovered something important. Let’s face it, even though I wanted to pull my hair out sometimes, that pride revealed itself pretty much every week.
Coming into college, a naive 18-year-old ready to take on the world, I knew I wanted one thing: to squeeze as much out of my college years as I possibly could.
I learned how to live in Chicago. I formed lasting bonds with people who became a part of me. I spent a summer in France. I tackled personal and professional obstacles. I wrote and rewrote.
When I look back on all of these things, I’ll look back fondly. But all of my Loyola memories will take place against the backdrop of The Phoenix. And for that, I’m grateful.
I squeezed as much growth and as many lessons out of this school and this newspaper as I possibly could. And now it’s time to go.
Thank you, Loyola.