“Welcome to the best summer of your life.” When I spotted this message chalked on the sidewalk leading to the dorm, East Fairchild, I knew I was in the right place.
Dragging my 50-pound suitcase behind me on the first day of cherubs and sweating from the 90-degree heat, I thought it was a bold promise. I wasn’t sure that five weeks of intensive writing, reporting and learning about digital media could top all 15 pre-2018 summers.
The initial days of cherubs did nothing but confirm my suspicions, as we wrote our first story only hours after arriving on campus and engaged in the awkward conversations that naturally happen before friendships start to settle. But as the hectic first week transitioned into the second, I could see that the expression might be accurate after all.
My doubts faded when I learned that each instructor group participated in a summer-long competition against each other, consisting of events from Cheraoke to news quizzes (more fun than it sounds). As I cheered with my group, sporting matching red T-shirts and bandanas for the Junior Junior Olympics, I realized that the promise of a “best summer” wouldn’t come from learning how to craft the perfect lede or nut graph. It would happen through the sense of community that filled each activity, lecture and late-night conversation.
When the instructors introduced us to journalistic style (firefighters, not firemen), we competed to be the “last cherub standing” in the annual AP Style Smackdown, as they tossed candy at us when we correctly answered questions.
Co-head instructor Joe Grimm dressed as a construction worker during rotating rewrites because our ledes were a “work in progress.” After I completed a draft of my trend story, I exchanged papers with my friends as we edited each other’s work. We gathered for Mandatory Fun in the dorm’s common room to sing to fellow cherubs on their birthdays. Sometimes, we even found ourselves in a sing-along after a long day of lectures and reporting.
The friendliness and humor that characterized each moment at cherubs gave me a summer that went beyond my expectations, leaving me a member of what the program’s Twitter accurately calls a “big journalism family.”
And, as I recall my instructor group’s tug-of-war success and the 26,000 steps I walked while reporting on the Fourth of July parade, I can proudly say that cherubs is more than a journalism camp. While I learned how to handle quotations and write an editorial, the community I found here, more than anything else, gave me the best summer of my life.