Grad Issue Roundtable: Loving our life seniors

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Graduating Life seniors – Julia, Melissa, Daniel, Kim, Stephanie

Alex Houdeshell, ME

Every single one of our seniors has left a lasting impression on the Life section. Julia and Melissa have led with grace and passion, Daniel has brought a great sense of humor and Kim is always spot-on with her relevant and well-received content. But one of my favorite Life writers to read, and just downright one of my favorite people, is Stephanie Santillo. Her articles are always well-written with a fun and distinct voice. Her ideas are always interesting and sensible. Her series of club features is the kind of content the Life section should be doing more of. But besides that, she’s brought a wonderful, kind, calm, intelligent energy to the Life section, The Daily Campus and my life. Stephanie and I, or Santillo if we’re being professional, had a couple classes together but would have never gotten so close without The Daily Campus. Whether it was talking after Life meetings, making plans to meet up for dinner later in the week or attending events together so one of us could write a review, Stephanie has become an important part of my Daily Campus experience. Things won’t be the same once she, and the rest of the seniors, are gone. I’ll miss you lots, and just know I’ll still call you when I need to talk about a good book.

Hollianne Lao, LE

Even before I arrived at UConn, I knew I wanted to write for the Life section. I’m so grateful for how the Life seniors have enriched not only my experience at The Daily Campus, but also my time so far at UConn. I cannot imagine a Life meeting not led by Julia and Melissa, or Stephanie chiming in with another cool story or Dan offering to take another Benton event. 

I would like to thank Julia and Melissa for being my certified DC moms. They made Life such a welcoming place when I joined the section as a little freshman, and have given me so much support and love as mentors. Honestly, they are the reason behind any accomplishments I’ve had at The Daily Campus, because I always wanted to work hard to make them proud and they’ve helped me along the way. Their encouragement and excitement when I expressed interest in applying for social media and outreach coordinator and then as Life editor meant so much to me. They’re just really genuine, caring friends, and that’s how I know they’ll be amazing teachers. Julia and Melissa have made the section a place where all our members truly enjoy what they’re doing and grow, not only as writers, but as people. I’m definitely going to miss their fun Life Breakers, Thirsty Thursdays and Melissa’s Menu, but most importantly, I’ll miss their presence. They’ll always be the Life editors to me, but Becca and I will try to do them proud.

To Dan, your writing style is one of the most fun to read. Whether he’s reviewing an album or talking about groundhogs, I always know when I’m reading a Daniel Cohn exclusive. I admire how his enthusiasm always comes through in his writing, and I know he’ll carry that enthusiasm wherever he goes.

Stephanie is from the rival high school in my town, but I still love her. She always takes really important stories, from her student features to covering events on campus. Her quiet but reliable presence has been so grounding in the section, and she’s definitely a writer I’ve looked up to.

And even if Kim and I weren’t necessarily in Life meetings together, her constant presence in it will be truly missed. I’m so glad we became friends this past year. Her mentorship and support with my writing and my position as social media manager have bolstered my confidence and creativity. She is one of the most well-rounded and talented people I’ve met at UConn and I hope she gets to continue to create content she’s passionate about.

I know this isn’t the most ideal time to graduate, but if anyone is equipped to make the most of it, it’s our Life seniors. I’m going to miss them, but I know they’re going to go on to do some really awesome things that maybe we’ll cover in The Daily Campus someday. They’ve made Life good, and I hope their lives continue to be good.

Brandon Barzola, AME

Julia and Melissa have been the editors for the past two years I’ve been involved at The Daily Campus and it’s honestly a surreal feeling to see them graduate. They have both built such a welcoming and open section for me and others and I’ll never forget that. Julia and Melissa will always be my Life moms. They were there for me when I needed help with coming up with interview questions or giving me advice on my writing. They always pushed me to go above and beyond, and the section has been one of the biggest reasons why I’ve continued writing. 

I’ll always be thankful for all the times Julia was there for me when I needed her support. I’ve looked up to her as a mentor and I strive to be just as welcoming and caring to new members of The Daily Campus. Honestly, one of the reasons why I kept writing and doing my best was because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I know she’s going to change the lives of so many kids as a teacher, and I can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Kim. When I first came to UConn, I did a summer program before my freshman year. I stopped by AsACC and met a student worker there who talked to me about getting involved on campus. I was interested in joining the student newspaper and he told me he knew a friend who worked there. That friend was Kim, and I later friended her on Facebook to briefly talk about my interest in joining. I felt intimidated at first, talking to a college student when I was barely a freshman, but I later learned that Kim’s positivity is infectious. Over these past couple of years, I’ve appreciated Kim’s constant support in my photography and writing, and I’ll always appreciate having someone to talk to about my identity. Kim has an amazing energy, and I hope she and I can go on a photo adventure before she heads to California.

Rebecca Maher, ALE

It’s hard to imagine the Life section without its seniors. Julia has been a Life editor since I started with the paper three years ago. I learned how to write articles from her corrections and guidance. I got her advice whenever I had trouble with any part of the writing process, and she was there for me when the comedians attacked. When Melissa stepped into the associate Life editor position two years ago, meetings suddenly got so much more fun and friendly. She and Julia are the absolute perfect team. I have no clue how Hollie and I are going to fill their shoes. The two of them have been a constant source of leadership and strength for our section throughout my college career. What are Life Breakers going to be like without them? It’s such a crazy concept.

And then there’s the people who have sat alongside me at meetings semester after semester. Who’s going to review all the wonky music that comes out next year if Daniel’s up and graduated? Better yet, who’s going to dress up as a “sexy newspaper” or an oxford comma for Halloween? How is production going to function without Stephanie supplying an endless supply of positivity? What will we do without our section’s absolute nicest human being? 

So as you can see, the Life section will be at an absolute loss next semester. And although I know we’ll figure out a way to keep the section going without our seniors, I know I’m going to end up missing them until I’m a graduating senior myself.

Courtney Gavitt, DE

Julia was one of the first people I ever talked to at The Daily Campus, and I owe so much of my journey here to her. She is caring, sweet and such a reliable constant at the DC that it’s no wonder everyone calls her Mom. She would hold me accountable when I was slacking and would always push me to be the best I could be. I’ll always be grateful for the amount of growth I’ve experienced because of her leadership. She makes everyone feel like their voice is heard and spreads positivity to everyone she meets, and for this reason and a million others, I know she’ll go on to be an amazing teacher. So best of luck, Ms. Mancini. 

Kim took me under her wing at the end of my freshmen year, and I’ve worked beside her for the past year. I don’t know where I would be without her, because if it wasn’t for her telling me I’d be a good fit for Digital editor, I never would have sought the position in the first place. I owe Kim so much, and The Daily Campus truly won’t be the same without hearing her say “Whaaaaaaaaaat” or “sick as” throughout the night. But if I know anything about Kim, it’s that if she wakes up and decides she wants to do something, she’s gonna do it, and she’s gonna do it well. She’s gonna kill it in California (and put some more Cali readership on our map).

Trying to visualize the Life section without Julia, Melissa, Kim, Daniel or Stephanie … it feels impossible. They’ve shaped my entire UConn career and have made up the Life section for as long as I’ve known it. I wish I had the words to express my thankfulness for them, but this is already too long. They are all going to great places, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish. To my Life seniors: I hope life is good.
Lucie Turkel, CC

I remember the first time I met Kim; it was at the beginning of this year when I joined the Digital team with her as Digital editor. Our first introduction was a bit delayed, however, with her being in Vietnam and missing the first few weeks of the semester. Everybody said she was a super cool, great girl and I would love her once I met her: They certainly weren’t wrong. Since the first day I started working with Kim, I’ve been so inspired by her motivation, intelligence and maturity. In addition to learning a whole new digital skill set from her, Kim taught me that little acts of kindness and conscientiousness — like the way she always had a positive attitude during production or how she sent me a handwritten card at the end of last semester wishing me luck on my upcoming journey abroad — can really have an impact. I am so glad I got to know Kim as both a colleague and a friend, and I can’t wait to see what her future holds.

Julia has always been a staple of the Life section for me, as she was the associate Life editor my freshman year and became the Life editor for the following two years. What I’ve always admired about Julia, and Melissa too, is the quiet confidence with which they both lead the section. Both Julia and Melissa have such fun, easygoing personalities, but it’s also evident they take pride and responsibility in their work. As I got more interested in music journalism and began pitching more interview and concert coverage ideas, Julia was always so supportive and interested in my work, which really meant a lot to me and validated my writing. The Life section will certainly feel different to me without having Julia and Melissa as the Life editors, but I’m excited for both of them to move on to new chapters in their lives.

Maybe I’m biased, but I always thought the Life section had some of the friendliest, most interesting and open-minded staff on the paper. Daniel always provided the coolest soundtrack to work production to, and I remember having the nicest conversation with Stephanie last semester while we were all waiting for production to finish so we could head to Vernon Diner. To all of the Life seniors, thank you for your positivity, effort and humor! I can’t wait to follow along and see what you all do in your futures.

Thumbnail photo by The Daily Campus/File Photo

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