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The parade always marches on- Irene Rotondo bids farewell

Irene Rotondo

The parade always marches on.

Bright-eyed first-years become seasoned sophomores, and the juniors who thought their time would never come are now looking forward to enjoying all the perks of being the new top dogs on campus.

So, it’s only natural — it’s a cliche, even — that I’ve reached this point in my own life, that I’m sitting in our newspaper office right now and writing my own farewell column at the end of my senior year.

I remember the first time I walked into this office (with some kind hearted coercion from Marty Dobrow) for the first newspaper meeting of the year in the fall of 2018. I had no intentions of even pursuing journalism at that point; I had declared Communications/Sports Journalism as my major simply because I knew communications was a broad topic, and I didn’t want to be undeclared.

And still, even after that first meeting, even after I had written my first story about Bow-Tie Wednesday and had it on the front page, I was not completely sold. I didn’t want to come down to the office to spend that much time with people I didn’t know, or that didn’t live in my dorm. I didn’t know that I liked writing so much that I wanted a career out of it.

But I kept with it, much to Marty’s delight. I wrote for the paper almost every week as a staff writer, and after what was (almost) the most ideal freshman year any student could ask for, I moved into an assistant news editor position my sophomore year.

And in October 2019 came the week from hell. It was the week first-year student Connor Neshe unexpectedly died in his sleep. A Springfield civilian crashed their car through President Cooper’s front gates and was chased on foot by police through campus, and the ‘I Wonder Why…?’ community art project wall was set up in the Union, with students writing statements like ‘I wonder why racists are allowed on campus,’ and ‘I wonder why mental health isn’t taken seriously.’

In that week and in the weeks following, there were also strings of suicide attempts. And I recall, under the amazing leadership of Gabby Guerard and alongside Evan Wheaton, Danny Priest, Jack Margaros, and Joe Arruda, feeling a sense during it all of why it was important for me to pursue journalism.

The stories I tell aren’t always terrible or sad, but that week showed me the importance of giving people a place to turn to when they’re unsure and need facts, where they can feel comfortable sharing their truths. I watched as upperclassmen Gabby, Evan, Jack and Dan and my counterpart, Joe Arruda, fearlessly reported on all of those hard truths as accurately, quickly and empathetically as possible.

So when COVID came to extinguish the end of my sophomore year and loom over the entirety of my junior year, I didn’t feel overwhelmed in my new position as news editor — I had been emboldened by those around me to pursue journalism, and to use it as a tool to help those around me.

This year has been the best of my college career — academically, socially, and within my pursuit of journalism. As co-Editor-in-Chief alongside Joe, I have loved leading the paper with someone I also now call my best friend, and will cherish every minute of what it’s brought me: absolute respect for the truth, deepened empathy for every human life, and a sense of purpose in my own life.

I only have those around me who have supported me to thank. Gabby, Evan, Jack and Dan — we will forever be the San Fran Six. I am eternally grateful for the laughs we’ve shared and the knowledge you’ve imparted unto me, and seeing you all go so far after graduation gives me peace that I will do the same. Individually, you’re revolutionary and collectively, you’re unstoppable.

To Joe Arruda, the most unlikely best friend and co-leader, I thank you for never ceasing to pick me up when I need it the most. You understand me better than I understand myself at times, and your incredible journalistic skills coupled with that compassion is the true recipe for success in your career. I’m so excited you’ll be in Connecticut with me this summer, and I cannot wait to watch you excel with the Courant and beyond. Working and being by your side these past four years, whether it was in competition or in tandem, has been an extraordinary experience and I cannot thank you enough for it all.

To Marty, my mentor and advisor, but also my friend: I genuinely would not be in the position I am in now without you. I don’t know that I would have realized my potential without you seeing it first. I have a specific memory of sitting in your office my freshman year, listening to you praise me for 10 minutes straight on what was probably a not-so-good article I’d written for your Intro to Journalism class, and feeling for the first time that I might have a real talent at something. Thank you for giving me every opportunity to grow you could, and thank you for picking me out on day one. I am forever indebted to you for everything.

For Aimee Crawford, our new advisor for the paper this year, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you and work alongside you. You’ve been a voice of reason amidst all of the noise, and your determination for accuracy and truth has taught me so much in such a short time. I know the newspaper is safe in your incredibly capable hands, and I am thrilled to watch it evolve under your leadership.

To Cait, Chris, Carley, Garrett, Hayden, and Collin: seeing you all go from nervous freshmen to outstanding juniors and seniors has been the pleasure of a lifetime. You each are so special to me for very unique reasons, and the newspaper would never run without all of your guys’ personal strengths and skills. Thank you for believing in me as your leader and believing in the power of the paper. I sincerely believe that each of you will go so far, and I am so sad to leave you all.

Lastly, thank you to all of my friends, professors, and community members inside and outside of COSJ, and thank you to my mom, dad, and brother. You have all helped me every step of the way through college, big or small, and I’m so thankful to have such an amazing support system.

So, that’s it. There’s the cliche farewell everyone knew I’d write. I really just can’t say thank you enough, and I am so looking forward to watching everyone else’s parades march on too.


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