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Friday, June 21, 2024

If you’ve ever discussed my job with me, I’ve probably told you if I didn’t have to be a student to work at The Alligator, I would have dropped out of UF.

I don’t like sitting through lectures, I think textbooks are a scam and homework that doesn’t clearly relate to turning me into a reporter frustrates me. But I loved working at The Alligator, and if it took earning a degree in the background to be here, that’s what I was gonna do. 

It’s sorta funny, maybe a little ungrateful for the opportunities I’ve had, but hey, college isn’t for everyone and I wouldn’t even be here without Bright Futures funds and yearly loans. It’s been like pulling teeth, but thanks to this little student newspaper, I will be the first person in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree. 

I’m the eldest daughter of an Army veteran-turned-firefighter and a foster kid who had to be her own good example when no one else in her life would step up to the plate. They were my age when they had me, and worked so hard to make sure my three siblings and I were better off than they were when they emerged into the world. I’ve lived in seven states, about 20 houses, and Little Caesars $5 pizzas and Hamburger Helper dominated Cassidy family dinners for a little more than the first decade of my life. 

As I write this, I’m also a student at the top university in Florida and the editor-in-chief of one of the largest independent student newsrooms in the country. 

It means a lot to be the first, and when I walk across that stage it’ll be because I got to be a part of this paper. 

I do, of course, have other people to thank. To my family, my best friends, Lisa Turk and Ashley Hicks, and frankly anyone I’ve talked to in the last two years or so, thank you for listening to all my rants about print nights and the state of journalism today. To Julia Coin, Steven Walker and Thomas Weber, I don’t know how I got so lucky with you guys on my team. You’ve been the best editors and friends, and I’ve loved doing the news (when it’s new) with you. Karina Elwood and Payton Titus, few people have instilled so much confidence in me. You become a good journalist when you think you’re a good journalist, and you two made me believe it. Thank you to everyone who has ever passed through this newsroom for building me, and to every person who has told me their story — I’ll never forget them. 

Special thanks to Coffee Culture as well for fueling many print nights and frenzied editing sessions. Best coffee in Gainesville.

From writing my first story for The Alligator with shaky hands to writing my last one in between editing the stories in this paper with tears in my eyes, if I’ve learned two very important things — first, you only need the word “that” about a quarter of the time you think you do, and second, everything in the whole world is interesting and boring all at once.

Look around you, take a different walk home, sit in a coffee shop and people watch for a few hours. It’s all so typical yet so beautifully unique and worth your time. Be fascinated by the mundane. 

Kaelyn Cassidy is a UF journalism senior. She was the Summer 2021 editor-in-chief.

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