An Open Letter to WJMC Nominees

     Around this time a year ago, I’d just received a large envelope from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA regarding the Washington Journalism and Media Conference.  I was nominated to attend the conference during one of two sessions that were to be held the following July.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this conference would change my life. I’m so incredibly blessed that I had the opportunity to go, and that I made the decision to say yes.  Today’s post is an open letter to anyone and everyone who has been nominated for WJMC (or wants to go, you can nominate yourself here), because I wish I’d been able to find something like this when I received that big envelope!  This letter addresses all the thoughts I remember having upon receiving the nomination and will hopefully help you see the greatness that can come from attending the conference.  Enjoy!

Dear nominee,

     I’m sure when you opened the fancy gold-stamped letter you thought it must be some type of scam.  You’re doubting that you’re that good of a writer or public speaker that you should be nominated for an apparently prestigious journalism conference.  You wonder who on earth would have nominated you for this, or how the conference found you.  First, let me tell you it most certainly is not a scam, stalk the #wjmc2017 hashtag on Instagram if you don’t believe me (I know that’s what I did).

     “Okay, I guess this is cool, but I don’t really think I’m interested in journalism,” you’re probably thinking.  I most definitely didn’t know I wanted to pursue a career in journalism until I received the envelope.  A few weeks later the idea of fashion journalism struck me and I’m now more sure of my career path than I have ever been.  I knew then that I needed to apply.  I needed to know if journalism was a career I could see myself not only working in, but happily working in.  If a career in journalism takes up even the smallest thought in the back of your mind, talk to your parents about going to the conference, you won’t regret it.

     The idea of going to a new place knowing absolutely no one might seem scary.  You think everyone there will be a million times more delved into the field of journalism or politically active than you are and they will look down upon your uncertain-but-willing-to-learn mindset.  When you arrive you’ll see that the reality is that correspondents come for a plethora of reasons; some have been positive they wanted a job in broadcast journalism since the first time they watched the news, others were forced by their parents to attend after receiving the nomination because they thought it would look good on college applications, a few recently discovered a specific field of journalism they’re interested in (like music or fashion) and came in hopes of finding out more about it, and the list goes on.  Closer to the conference you’re likely to be thrown into a handful of group chats and when you actually get there it’ll strangely feel like seeing old friends again.  By the time you leave at the end of the week you’ll be weeping over these people you’ve only known for a week (hear me now, believe me later).  Trust me, the “I won’t have any friends there” thing is not a valid excuse to decide against going.

     Okay, but how on earth are you going to afford it?  I know it’s not cheap (although it’s definitely not overpriced for the experience and journalistic education you will attain there) and George Mason does too.  They encourage fundraising and their website is full of resources for ideas on how to fundraise (including letter templates to potential benefactors) and you might be surprised by how many people you know that would love to contribute to something that can have such a great impact on your future.

     You have no idea how lucky you are to have this opportunity.  You will never be in such a welcoming, loving environment filled with open-minded and determined people who share your interests as the one the Washington Journalism and Media Conference provides.  You will learn so much.  You will make friends that will last forever (I just sent one of my close WJMC friends that I text daily a birthday gift a few weeks ago).  You will be shy at first but by the end you’ll realize there’s no better place to be yourself than at the conference.  WJMC will change your life and I’m so jealous you get to go now, I’d give anything to spend another week at George Mason with my WJMC friends.

I hope you make the right choice and apply.  Thanks for reading!

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P.S. – If you’d like to hear more about my experience at WJMC, you can read my seven daily WJMC recaps from the conference here.

WJMC Day 6 Recap

     I don’t know just how much I believe the phrase “all good things come to an end,” but that’s how it felt on Friday as I had to leave the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) at George Mason University (GMU).  I’ve had the experience of a lifetime at WJMC.  I’m so glad I was able to blog about the whole thing so you could experience it with me (more or less) and so I will be able to look back on this precious week as time passes!  If you missed any of my last five posts recapping the conference, you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.  Without further adieu, here’s my recap of my last day at WJMC.

     I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to guarantee I had enough time to get ready for breakfast and finish packing toiletries and bedding that I wasn’t able to pack the night before.  I took out the trash, packed all of my provided linens into the pillow case the way we were instructed to the night before, shoved my fitted sheet and still damp towel into my suitcase, and threw on a tee shirt, Nike shorts, and Chacos before taking my suitcase downstairs and meeting my friend Abbey for our last breakfast.

     I had the timing wrong for my final color group meeting, so I had to eat breakfast in five minutes to be on time.  In this five minutes, I ate a bowl of Cocoa Puffs alongside Abbey and a few of her friends from her color group.  It’s so crazy how nice everyone at WJMC was and I wish I had enough time to build friendships with more people, including Abbey’s friends.

     At 7:45 a.m. I left breakfast and met up with my color group outside the dining hall one last time.  We walked to a lounge inside one of the dorm buildings for our final meeting.  Here we discussed travel plans, what we learned at WJMC (about journalism, ourselves, and new friends), and how much we’re all going to miss each other.  After coming close to tears, we were instructed to go back to the Johnson Center for the closing ceremony.

     Inside the Johnson Center, we went to Dewberry Hall.  Dewberry Hall is the large room in which we had our first meal together on Sunday evening and heard presentations from Kevin McCarthy, Sonya Gavankar, and more.  At this time, Sam Wolf, a former WJMC correspondent, WJMC Social Media Supervisor, and GMU student, took the stage and summed up all the bittersweet sadness we were feeling as our departure times crept closer.  He told us how to move forward from this week and let it change us for the better.  Next, Amy Takayama-Perez took the stage again for a congratulations and goodbye.  As Amy Takayama-Perez exited the stage, the slideshow began playing.  It brought so much joy and simultaneous sadness to us all to see the memories we’ve made over just five days.

     After the slide show, we came to the courtyard and began saying our goodbyes.  I had the first shuttle to the airport, so I had to leave all my friends at 10:30 a.m.  I’m not even going to lie, I cried.  A lot.  What started as my attempt to make a few friends that I could talk to in order to avoid being awkwardly alone became a handful of super close friendships with people from all around the country and I just wasn’t ready to let go.

     WJMC, thank you for what was truly one of the best weeks of my life.  Thank you for teaching me more about journalism than I could’ve ever possibly learned in high school. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to hear from and meet lots of amazing speakers.  Thank you for showing me that journalism is a field I want to be in.  Thank you for showing me that I’m more outgoing than I think I am.  Thank you for giving me the best friends, Faculty Advisor, and Junior Faculty Advisor I could’ve ever asked for.  Thank you for giving me something so hard to leave.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to WJMC, I wholeheartedly think that you should go.  It was without a doubt one of the best weeks of my life and I’ll never forget it.  Thank you for reading my posts this week!  Be sure that you’re following me on Instagram @apocketfuloffaith here so you never miss a detail of my upcoming travels.

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P.S. – Sorry there’s no pictures in this recap, but I was so busy preparing to leave and giving genuine goodbyes that I didn’t really think to ever pull out my camera.

WJMC Day 5 Recap

     Sadly, Thursday was my last full day at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) hosted at George Mason University (GMU).  I’ve had the most incredible experience thus far and I don’t want it to ever end!  Despite its bittersweetness, Thursday was full of fun activities.  As I have been since Monday, today I’m recapping yesterday (Thursday) for you!  If you haven’t read my last four daily WJMC recaps, you can find them here, here, here, and here!  Enjoy!

     I overslept a little again and woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for breakfast and the day ahead.  After putting on what was probably my favorite outfit from this week, I met a friend in the courtyard and we went to breakfast at 7:10 a.m.  I had Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal before we met our color group outside at 7:45 a.m. to load the bus and go to the National Mall.

     Upon arrival around 9:15 a.m., all of the correspondents were arranged in front of the Capitol Building for a group picture.  Once the picture was taken, we were given the opportunity to have a headshot taken by the conference photographer.  The lines were super long, so I opted out on that one.









     I, along with a few of my friends in my color group, chose to go on a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building at 10:15 a.m.  The tour honestly wasn’t the most fun thing in the world, but I have to admit the building’s interior was absolutely gorgeous.  Tons of beautiful ceilings, marvelous paintings, and marble details could be found throughout the building.  At the end of the tour, I bought a tee shirt and a postcard.




     After we left the Capitol Building, my group was seriously starving, so we ate at Mitsitam Native Foods Café inside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  I had a way overpriced turkey burger and chips.  During lunch, I decided I wanted to go to the National Gallery of Art and found someone in my group to go with me (since we’re supposed to operate on a buddy system).  We left for the gallery immediately after lunch and were able to spend about forty-five minutes there admiring the art.  The art there was all so beautiful and artistically crafted, but I think my favorite pieces were Andy Warhol’s.  I’ve been learning about Warhol in art classes since the eighth grade and this was my first time seeing any of his work in person.  I loved it all just as much as my art teachers did.





     When we left the gallery it was time to meet up with the WJMC group in front of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and load the buses.  When we got back to GMU campus around 4:00 p.m., we had free time to get ready for the gala until meeting our color groups around 6:15 p.m. to load the buses.

     When we got to the Marriot where the gala was being held around 7:00 p.m., we took a few group pictures outside before going in.  Inside, we had a three course meal of salad, a delicious chicken dish, and the best chocolate cake ever.  Right before dessert was brought out, one of the WJMC staff members went up to the stage to thank everyone who makes WJMC possible each year and congratulate us on a fantastic week.  As soon as that little speech was over,  the lights dimmed, music started playing, and we all devoured our chocolate cake before making our way to the dance floor.  I thought dancing would be a little awkward and middle school-esque, but it was so much fun!  I loved dancing with the friends I’ve been getting to know all week and even new ones I met on the dance floor.  Around 11:00 p.m., the lights came back on and the gala ended.  It was such a fun night and I won’t ever forget it.







(The lights continued to dim lower after this picture in case you were wondering.)

     When we returned from the gala around 11:30 p.m., I took another quick shower to rinse all of the dancing sweat off before finishing up my packing and going to bed.

Thanks for reading!  Return tomorrow morning for a recap of my last day at WJMC/returning home and follow me on Instagram @apocketfuloffaith here so you can see pictures from my day in real time via posts and my story!

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WJMC Day 4 Recap

     Another day at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) here at George Mason University (GMU) means another day of fun, life lessons, and learning about the profession I’m hoping to pursue.  We stayed on campus all day Wednesday, but that sure didn’t take away from any of the fun or learning!  If you haven’t already read my recaps on days one, two, and three of the conference, you can read them here, here, and here!  Without further adieu, let’s get into my Wednesday at GMU for WJMC!

     I accidentally overslept and woke up at 7:20 a.m.  I wasn’t late, I just didn’t have as much time to get ready as I wanted to.  I got ready super quickly, rushed a breakfast of Cheerios in the dining hall, and met my color group at 8:15 a.m.  At this time our color groups had short meetings so we could each be assigned our news outlet for our simulation.  These outlets included the New York Times, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and CNN (which was mine).  After we were assigned our news outlet, everyone went to the room assigned to their outlet.

     Each outlet was made up of approximately twenty-five correspondents, a faculty advisor, and a junior faculty advisor.  We were taught about the formatting of the stories we would be reporting depending on the outlet we were assigned.  For example, I was part of CNN, so I learned how to format and perform a broadcasted report, while someone who was part of the New York Times learned how to write and format a newspaper cover page. We were given five pieces of fake news (as in it isn’t true, but we were supposed to treat it like it was) and were told to pick four to cover.  My partners in this simulation were a couple girls from my color group who I hadn’t really hung out with thus far, so this was an awesome way for me to get to know and connect with them.  This simulation was also a really neat chance to see what working in a news room might actually be like.


     After our time to put together our reports ended at 10:40 a.m., we returned to our color group meeting rooms to present these reports to our entire color group.  I hate presenting, no matter where I am, so I was really nervous about this, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be!  I was really proud of myself and my color group for how we formulated such professional sounding reports as amateurs with a time constraint.  Once all of the outlet groups within our color group finished presenting, we walked to lunch in the GMU dining hall.

     I sat at lunch with a couple friends and ate cheese pizza, quesadillas, and homemade chips (super healthy, well balanced meal, right?).  Once we finished eating, we refilled our water bottles and shared a few laughs before meeting with our color group outside of the dining hall.  From there we walked to the Cinema to hear from our faculty advisor panel and Nicole Livas.  The faculty advisor panel was made up of our color group leaders, who mostly work in journalism education in high school.  The faculty advisors gave us a lot of awesome answers to our questions, especially on how to fight back against unjust censorship of high school publications.  Nicole Livas’ speech was really good, I could feel her passion for journalism.  Nicole Livas anchored four weekday evening newscasts on the WAVY and Fox 43 TV in Norfolk.  She emphasized that real drive and love for journalism will lead you to success, you shouldn’t count on making a living in one field, and the importance of networking in the field.  After Nicole Livas’ presentation we returned to our assigned groups for a color group meeting.


     In our color group meeting, we discussed our experiences during the simulation along with our thoughts and questions on the panel and Nicole Livas’ presentation.  After the color group meeting we walked to the dining hall for dinner at 5:00 p.m.

     For dinner, I had some pizza and chips along with a homemade Twix bar.  After dinner we had about half an hour of free time, so I returned to my room and rested for a little.  We met up as a color group outside the dining hall at 6:05 p.m. to walk together to the Johnson Center where we would hear from our next speakers, Amy Takayama-Perez a breakout speaker of choice, and Meghan ATB Reese.

     Amy Takayama-Perez is the Dean of Admissions here at George Mason University.  In her speech, she highlighted things that you should look at when applying for college and what colleges will really look at when considering you.  Amy Takayama-Perez also told us that if we apply to George Mason University as WJMC alumni, the $70 application fee will be waived and we will be eligible to apply for a scholarship that’s only offered to students who have attended summer conferences here at GMU.

     After Amy Takayama-Perez’s presentation, we went to the rooms assigned to the breakout speaker we chose.  I chose to see Jennifer Keohane.  Dr. Jennifer Keohane is the Assistant Professor of the Department of Communication at George Mason University and previously served on the Board of Directors for the Rhetoric Society of America.  In her presentation, she explained the extensions of our freedom of press rights as journalists according to many famous Supreme Court cases.  Jennifer Keohane is so sweet and fun to hear from, I loved her presentation!

     Finally, we got to hear from Meghan ATB Reese.  Meghan ATB Reese serves as the conference photographer for WJMC, but she does lots of work in the photography, film, and journalism fields including producing and writing for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, History Channel, Smithsonian Channel, A&E, Animal Planet, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, Discovery Family, PBS, Sony/IMAX’s 3Net 3D films, Capital TV Pakistan, the White House, and the Department of State.  Meghan ATB Reese’s presentation was without a doubt one of my favorites thus far.  She explained that she knew from the time she was in elementary school that she wanted to be a journalist, so she majored in journalism, had a long list of internships for well known news outlets, and landed her dream job.  It was then that she realized she was unhappy as a journalist, and ended up taking some jobs in the photography and filmography businesses.   This ultimately led her to becoming the freelance photographer/videographer that she is today.  This showed me that it’s okay to follow your own path and change your mind, which is so reassuring for a rising junior like myself.

     After Meghan ATB Reese’s presentation ended around 10:00 p.m., we returned to our suites.  I then showered, worked on my blog post, and went to bed.

Thanks for reading!  Come back tomorrow morning for my WJMC day five recap and follow me on Instagram @apocketfuloffaith here so you can see pictures from my day in real time via posts and my story!

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WJMC Day 3 Recap

     Tuesday marked my third day in Washington D.C. for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) held at George Mason University (GMU).  I’m having a great time touring Washington D.C. and learning about journalism from the experienced speakers at the conference.  Today I’m sharing everything we did on Tuesday.  If you haven’t read my posts on the rest of the conference thus far, be sure to check them out here and here.  Enjoy!

     I woke up at 6:20 a.m. and got ready for another long day.  At 7:00 a.m. I met up with a couple friends from my color group in the courtyard and we went to breakfast together.  Just like Monday, the food didn’t look too great so I just had a bowl of cereal.  Our color group finished up breakfast and met up in front of the buses at 7:45 a.m. to go to FHI 360.

     At FHI 360 we heard presentations from sisters Michelle and Rene Marsh around 9:45 a.m. and David Culver around 11:00 a.m.  Rene Marsh is CNN’s aviation and government regulation correspondent and Michelle Marsh anchors the 4:00 p.m. newscast for WJLA/ABC 7 and the Late Night Report at 10:00PM for NewsChannel 8.  From their speech, I took away that showing enthusiasm and passion in your internships can pave the way for your career in journalism.  David Culver works as a reporter with News 4’s Northern Virginia Bureau.  A few of the biggest points from David Culver’s speech included the fact that you should be present in the moment and that there’s room for everyone to succeed in the field, so there’s no reason not to help others.

     After Culver’s presentation, we walked to Buca Di Beppo for an Italian lunch.  During lunch, my table shared a ton of laughs and we all got to know each other better while waiting for our food.  After we finished lunch, we got back in the buses and rode to the National Press Club.

     It was so cool having the opportunity to be in the actual National Press Club!  In the National Press Club, we sat through presentations from Brian Lamb and April Ryan.  Brian Lamb is the CEO of C-SPAN Networks.  Lamb’s speech was different from any of the others we’ve heard so far.  He asked us what our families’ stories were and for about an hour he listened to our responses and questioned us about them.  It was absolutely crazy to hear all of the notable history among the correspondents’ ancestors.  One of my new friends had a grandparent who worked on the flagpole that now holds the U.S.A. flag on the moon.  Another girl’s uncle was in one of the planes that crashed on 9/11.  How neat are those stories?  It was also cool to see the way Brian Lamb reacted to each story, he’s such a great interviewer.  April Ryan has been the White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) since January of 1997.  You might recognize her as the reporter that was told by Sean Spicer to stop shaking her head or as the writer of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Four Presidents and Race in America (shop the book here).  From April Ryan’s speech, I learned that as a journalist you have to treat whoever you’re interviewing with respect ( despite your own beliefs), that you aren’t who they say you are, but what you answer to, and that you have to ask simple questions to get around limits on questioning.  After Ryan’s presentation, she signed some of the correspondents’ books, including my own!  Shortly after the end of her speech we got back on the bus and rode back to GMU.








     As soon as we got back on campus we went to the dining hall for dinner.  I personally liked dinner in the dining hall a lot better than breakfast there.  I had a grilled cheese, a lot of pineapple, Alfredo macaroni, kettle cooked chips, and a cup of chocolate ice cream.

     After dinner, we walked to the with our color groups to Dewberry Hall for Kevin McCarthy’s presentation.  Kevin McCarthy is a renowned film critic and Fox 5 entertainment reporter.  As you already know, I’m very interested in fashion journalism, and even though fashion and movies aren’t really the same thing, this speech resonated with me a lot more than any of the political speeches beforehand.  In his presentation, the points McCarthy made the most loud and clear were “do what you love, money will follow,” and that your audience will become interested when you genuinely are too.

     After taking pictures with Kevin McCarthy, we split into color groups again and had another group meeting.  In this meeting, we talked about what we had learned that day, especially regarding bias.  We debated a bit until we were each assigned a short article to read and find bias in and classify as left, center, or right.  When the meeting ended at 10:30 p.m., I returned to my suite, showered, and got ready for bed.

Thanks for reading!  Come back tomorrow morning for my WJMC day four recap and follow me on Instagram @apocketfuloffaith here so you can see pictures from my day in real time via posts and my story!

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WJMC Day 2 Recap

     I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about making friends in the weeks leading up to the Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University.  In just two days, I’ve already learned that making friends was nothing to be afraid of.  I loved every second of Monday, our first complete day at WJMC, and today I’m recapping it for you all!  If you didn’t read my recap of WJMC day one, be sure to check it out here!  Enjoy!

     I woke up around 6:00 a.m. to get ready for the day ahead before meeting my color group in the courtyard and walking to breakfast at 7:15 a.m.  Breakfast didn’t look all too appetizing, so I just stuck with the cereal offerings (you can’t go wrong with Fruit Loops!).  After breakfast, we got onto the bus and rode into Washington D.C. to visit the Newseum.

     In all honesty, I wasn’t sure about just how much I’d love the Newseum (find their website here).  As interested as I am in journalism, I don’t adore the political side, which I thought would be plastered all around the museum.  In the Newseum, we had the opportunity to see dozens of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs and read about them (definitely my favorite part), read old news stories about a few terrorists and major criminals, learn more about the coverage of 9/11, read about the connections between music, politics, and journalism, see a piece of the Berlin Wall, and take pictures from the balcony with the beautiful capitol building sitting in the background.  We also ate lunch at the Newseum using $15 vouchers.  While we were at the Newseum, I think we sort of unofficially established our own little friend groups within our color group.  My new close friends, Sara, Kate, and Taylor, are shown in a picture below (the guy in red is our Junior Faculty Advisor, Hunter).  We left the Newseum around 3:00 p.m. to head to GMU’s Arlington campus for Ron Meyer’s presentation.












     Ron Meyer is the editor of Red Alert Politics (R.A.P.), an online political news business that focuses on younger and millennial readers and has a very large viewing, appears on Fox News, Fox Business, and radio shows nationwide, and is on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (he’s Northern Virginia’s youngest elected official).  Meyer gave us tips and pointers about how genuineness makes us credible to our readers and more appealing to those above us in the journalism world whom we might be seeking help or mentoring from.  Meyer was really cool for us to hear from because he’s had a lot of success at a fairly young age, which is pretty rare in the journalism world.

     After Meyer’s speech, we got back on the buses and headed to dinner at Gordon Biersch.  I sat with a fun group of people in my color group and when our food finally arrived it was pretty good, so the long wait for the food didn’t seem that bad.  When we finished dinner around 7:00 p.m., we went straight to the White House to take a few pictures before leaving for the National Mall.



     When we got to the National Mall, we started with the World War II Memorial.  The last time I saw this memorial it was super dark out, so seeing it again in the light was a completely different experience.  Everything, the memorial itself, the fountains, the sky, and the other monuments, looked gorgeous as the sun was beginning to set.  After spending half an hour or so at the World War II Memorial, we went to the Lincoln Memorial.  Around 10:00 p.m., we left the National Mall and returned to GMU.










     Upon arrival at GMU around 10:30 p.m., my suite mates and I quickly took turns showering then went to bed to rest up for another exciting day ahead.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to come back tomorrow morning for my WJMC day three recap and follow me on Instagram @apocketfuloffaith here so you can see pictures from my day as it unfolds via posts and my story!

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