Never Miss a Beat!

Thanks for coming over here to this blog and checking out the happenings. However, said happenings are now going on over at Never Miss a Beat!

I was inspired by the changes I’m experiencing in life to change up my online domain as well. Never Miss a Beat was inspired by a) a Tweet I wrote in regards to staying on my toes in terms of learning (especially now that school is over) and b) remembering my parents (both who died of heart attacks) and the lessons they’ve taught me. Live passionately and do it right.

I have a lot of blogs on here that is near to me so I’ll probably link back to it here and there. But I’m not letting this domain go. Hopefully no other Samantha Nephew’s out there mind! 😉

Anything I Want

I’ve sent in my final books to the printers and I feel this amazing sense of relief. A million pounds have been lifted off my shoulders.

I have two finals things to do before I can officially list “master” on all things me (resume, social media, etc) – and that’s hand in my books to our program director and attend graduation.

That’s it! My book received high marks in the original turnaround and my presentation went pretty well, followed by successfully defending some of my choices.

I’m {unofficially} a master!

I defended back on the 15th and here’s some thoughts on that whole thing:

1. Naturally, I wasn’t completely freaked out until the moment the floor was mine. Then the nerves built up out of no where. No matter how many times I reminded myself that “this is my baby that I’ve been working on for over a year, I got this,” I still felt uneasy.

2. Related – I’m not a very gifted public speaker and that’s been identified as something I want to work on in the future. I’m already tapped to talk to some Buffalo youth about my academic/professional journey thus far. I took a public speaking course at Buff State… looks like it’s time to brush up and just keep practicing.

3. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I can’t contain myself when I’m experiencing some extreme emotions. My panel went ahead and told me that I passed, explained the kind of revisions they want to see from my book, and complimented which aspects of marketing communication I’m particularly strong in. THEN BOOM. I got a wiff of my Dad’s cologne that I spritzed on for good luck (I did the same thing on my last official day of undergrad) and my face got hot and my eyes welled up. I tried so hard to hold it in but no such luck. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person whose ever cried because they were told that they passed. This degree, all the work, all of it was as much for Art and Zenna Nephew as it was for me. I just wish I could’ve waited until my drive home to realize this and just cry to Mark. C’est la vie.

This past weekend, I did some decompressing by cleaning a little bit and basically staring at the TV while marathoning through Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. My poor husband. He’s not a big fan of sitting around and watching TV and is probably starting to get a little sick of the hospital drama (while commenting the whole time about how bad these doctors are at their jobs – even knowing it’s not real life!). He’s being a trooper and he knows that this transition will be kind of difficult for a career student/busy body like me. For better or for worse!

And now, I get to enjoy the holidays, time with my husband (which will be interesting in itself because in our 4.5 years together – I have always had a million and one things to do. Now? Yeaaa…), and reacquainting myself with myself, basically. And read the books I want. And craft. And decorate.

And do anything else I want.

Whoa.

Finishing the Race

Pre-[event] jitters.

I didn’t experience this before the wedding. I didn’t ever feel jittery before the first day of school or a new program. Excited? Yes. Jittery with nerves and adrenaline?

Barring a few traumatic moments in my life, the last time I felt what I’m feeling now was in the pool.

Surprising to some, I was a competitive swimmer in high school. I was even the captain my senior year, which looking back is like “how?” My strongest stroke was the freestyle but I got lumped into doing the individual medley and 100M butterfly because I was the only girl on the team who knew (and cared to know) how to do it by regulation standards.

Hey, it was a Buffalo Public School. Practices lasted an hour after school and we weren’t expected to keep any kind of regiment on our own. I think I utilized the weight room for swimming purposes three times in my three years on swim team. At Lafayette, it was a resume builder and a great way to do something other than go home and do homework (which I ended up doing anyway when I got home even later — overachiever since way back when…)

But it was fun and when I did practice, I practiced hard. Did I think I’d ever be an Amanda Beard or even a D3 collegiate swimmer? No. I had fun and I filled my time.

But have I ever mentioned to you that I’m super competitive? I’ve eased up on it since I was 15-16-17 years old but I was SUPER competitive at things I knew I wasn’t even that good at.

My parents used to tell me that being competitive like that was a waste of energy because “there is always going to be someone who is better than you at what you’re doing.” Well that might be true but it’s not going to be true about the person who I’m swimming next to. So there. Sass.

In BPS, we had these All-High meets wherein all the schools got together at ECC City where we’d compete amongst every other school at the same time. And it was nerve-wracking because it was the capstone of the swim season and I would invite my mother who was there every year. Friends from other schools and at least a hundred of the other competitors parents and so were there.

And I remember seeing my name on the list for the 100M butterfly. And my heart sank. I’m basically a spaztastic impostor of a butterfly swimmer and they want me to go up in front of City Honors, DaVinci, and Hutch Tech as their butterfly swimmer?

via {Google Search}

via {Google Search}

Oy.

You’re probably wondering “And I’m telling you this story why?”

Last night, the last three presenters from my cohort presented their plans and defended their campaigns to the panel. The capstone of our graduate program. The last three presenters before it’s my turn, that is.

When I looked at my phone last night and it was 9:45, I knew that their defenses were done. And it was my turn. I’m on deck. And as unfortunate as it is, my mind automatically blanks and I’m suffering from impostor syndrome. They want me to defend what? How? Yeah I know the material… but do I know the material?

And as weird as it may sound… for a brief second I swore I smelled chlorine. And I started shaking my hands and bouncing side to side like I used to do at the starting mount. Time to psych myself out. I’m not an impostor. I’ve put in the work, I know what I know, and it’s time to own it.

Hopefully this works as well as it did then because all I remember from then is hearing the starting pistol, jumping in the pool, and I’d focus on my strokes. Going as fast as I can because I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

And at the end, I’d come out glaringly average. Not the best in the pool but not the worst.

But my parents always said that they were proud. And without fail, each time, said “at least you finished the race, Sam.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant then. In fact, it kind of made me feel a little mad when they said that. That’s it? But since its been almost 7 years since my last time in the pool (for competition) I think I know what they mean.

Tomorrow, when I go into my presentation, I have to believe in myself. I have to do what I’ve been working on for months. I know this.

And at the end, if I’m not the top student — at least I finished the race. I still have my master’s degree. And 7 years from now, it’s likely no one will care who the top student was (less our program stats/records and the person who was top).

It makes sense. I couldn’t tell you who won the butterfly race. Or who lost it the worst. Or even what place I came in. I finished my race.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my high school swim meet to my graduate degree here. And I am taking my program a bit more seriously than an hours practice per day. But it’s a lesson I’m carrying over in dealing with nerves. I’m 24. I’m being critiqued by a panel of seasoned experts in the field. And I’m trying to convince them of a plan that utilizes all the elements of marketing communication that they could pick apart in seconds if it’s wrong.

Time to psych out. Shake my hands and bounce side to side, if need be.

I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

Time to go practice a little more so I’m more prepared in that moment than I am now.

Time to finish my race.

 

60.

Warning: I’m feeling mighty nostalgic and a little weepy and it might reflect in this post. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Today is my dad’s 60th birthday.

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For a lot of people, it’s a milestone. For a lot of people, 60 is either welcomed with open arms or something to be feared.

For me? Knowing that my dad would be 60 today is so abstract and hard to fathom. He’s still 55 and some 10 weeks old to me. I knew he didn’t look so hot when he left the house that morning. But that was him, all 55 years of him.

Five years ago, we spent our last full birthday month with Dad. And it was the best one I could have asked for. I spent the whole summer working at Wilson Farms at the time. I had one expense, my phone bill, and saved a ton of money. I wanted to spend it the best way I knew how. Watching hockey with my Dad.

So I had my mother help me research flights, hotels, and the best tickets for sale to the Sabres vs. Blackhawks game in Chicago. And three days later, I got the tickets delivered to me. I made my mom drive me to get a little faux birthday cake (because I couldn’t wait for his birthday and we wound up gifting this a week and a half early) and we wrote “Surprise Birthday” on his cake. Naturally, he was confused when we got home and showed him.

And then I gave him an envelope and said I got him hockey tickets for his birthday. HE ALMOST PUT THEM ASIDE AND LEFT IT AT “Thanks.” I think he was a little startled when I said, “NO! You have to open them nooooww…”

I don’t think I ever seen him big-eyed and rereading something that wasn’t a bill.

And as it turned out, I put him in an awkward position at work, but he managed to get that weekend in January off for the game. And he saved money. Our first father/daughter hockey trip!

And it never happened.

The gifting part was all I got out of it.

And after my mom told me he was gone, the first real full sentence I could muster was “He was so excited for Chicago.”

Five years later, the thought of this still stings. Five years later, I’m reflecting on all of the things that I’ve managed to do since. Wondering if he’d be proud of what I’ve accomplished or worried about the things I do wrong. Would he have liked Mark? Would he be disappointed that I got married so young? What would his face look like right now if we talked about me getting my master’s degree, the thing he desperately wanted at the end?

Ha, how would he feel about the Sabres’ abysmal performance the last year or so?

When things get rough and I begin to feel overwhelmed, I try to remember that day. New Years Eve 2008. And 1/22/10 as well.

Because nothing compares to the overwhelming feeling I got those two days. Nothing.

Problems aren’t that bad. Solutions can be found.

I’ve been through worse. I survived.

Happy 60th birthday to the best father I could have ever asked for. I haven’t seen him in almost five years but I never would have been able to do these last five years without him. ❤

A Sunday Morning Musing: Almost a Master

Hey guys!

I’m super M.I.A and it’s all for good reason. I’m less than a month from defending my IMC campaign and shortly after that, becoming a master! I’m already shopping around for a custom degree frame and I’ve designated a spot for it at home… right next to my Dad’s bachelor’s degree.

I look forward to becoming a human being and joining the world in pursuing my interests and having time for hobbies. I’ll also get my flare back for writing and I plan to rebrand my entire digital self, including this blog. So wait for it… my blog look will change yet again! I’ve also been following an incredible blogger who I love and has given me so many ideas for daily writing… I. cannot. wait.

I also plan to put myself out there for some freelance work. So I’m here! Social media, content curation, public relations, and I’ve written for a myriad of industries. I’ve written about LEED technology, International Ice Hockey competitions, public relations, speeches, et cetera. I love writing. Can’t you tell?

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So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been gradschooling (new word), wondering what I look like made up, dreaming of a day off, and remembering that in a few short weeks, it’ll all have been worth it. And if I so choose, my academic life is done. But learning isn’t, don’t get it twisted. My bookshelves are bursting at the seams with books I’ve put on my “to-read” list. It’s hard to be sure what’s first but I did recently receive my copy of The New Jim Crow in the mail and I’ve been dying to get at it.

But first, budgeting and ROI.

There’s more I could write about. Like about how times are tough around here. I don’t know when in our relationship when our financial situation has been comfortable. But I’m glad I’ve married someone who is willing to work with me on fixing that and with little argument. I’ve been working with Mark to get him some photography gigs but we’re still having trouble getting him a job in education. Not even just schools but something that mirrors his experience at Buffalo Youth Media Institute over the summer.

Which by the way, his students wanted to take more documentary classes with him and the West Side Stories films by his students were considered some of the best in Squeaky Wheel history. I was thrilled to hear how much his students loved LEARNING from him. This man is an amazing teacher… but it’s hard to find people who see the value in an arts education.

But we’re real partners in this. We’re working together to figure things out. And it’s not like we haven’t seen hard times/been smacked by reality in the past. I love being married to him 🙂

And on our one month wedding anniversary, we met with the wonderful Rich and Alyssa of Nickel City Studios for some portraits. When we were planning that October 2014 wedding, we had already signed them up. When we decided that was nuts, they offered to refund us most of our deposit and just have a portrait session. They’re hands down my favorite Buffalo photographers and are all around great people. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Here’s some of the shots 🙂

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I doubt I’ll get to write again until after my defense is done. Hopefully I can greet you next as a master of Integrated Marketing Communication!

See you on the other side!

A month in and so far so good…

As of today, we’ve been married a month. Here are some of the things that this 23-year old newlywed has learned about life as a married person.

  1. I am no longer allowed to mention not feeling well or mention snacking. Already we’ve been accused of being pregnant. No – not asked if we are, accused that we are. Good grief, saying “I will” at a ceremony doesn’t make us anymore susceptible to conceiving than before we said those words. And I still have grad school. And I’ll say it over and over, I really want to know what life is like when you’re not working three jobs or are in school full-time.
  2. No, I don’t feel any different. I do feel a bit more lost when it comes to the crazy depths of health insurance, combining car insurance, and now I have to think about my beneficiary list at work. I haven’t thought about mortality all like that in quite some time. But other than that, nope – no difference.
  3. It still feels weird to say, “I have to do something for/help my husband…” or some variation of that. I feel like I’m playing make-believe or “house” with my best friend of four years.
  4. In this honeymoon stage, compromise is where to order dinner from and which movie to watch at night. I suspect the whole compromise thing gets harder as time passes… but I’m enjoying what I’ve got for now. Thankfully, I defend my grad thesis in approximately 6-7 weeks, so he can pretty much choose to watch whatever he wants for this period of time.
  5. I still don’t really know much about marriage. We’ve had nothing but good times so far. We bicker like we’ve been married 50 years but we’re still pretty new at this. I won’t claim to know everything about marriage since we’ve only been at it a month, but I have picked a pretty good partner to learn all about it with.

I’m not really a month-by-month anniversary celebrator but I do find this one pretty relevant. And six months. And a year. And then after that, annual things are good for me.

Really, I can’t wait to see how this list changes (or how much I snicker at this one) 10, 15, 20 years down the line.

Cheers!

A Young PR Pros’ Truths About PR

I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Public Communication where I was introduced to the wild world of public relations. I held 10 internships where I learned about public relations, media relations, and media in varying industries.

I’m also now in the Integrated Marketing Communication program where my understanding of public relations has been strengthened. And one of my hats at work is public relations.

I may be just a new young professional (I’ve only been employed in the industry for 13 months), but here is a list of truths as I know it now. Of course, with age and experience, these are all rightly subject to change.

1. Social media is NOT the end all. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine to see people rely on social media as a bottom line public relations strategy. Social media is for cultivating relationships and establishing your brand as a personable, knowledgeable, and visible. There’s a strategic message that is relayed via social media, but it’s not baseline PR plan. Remember, there are other ways to be in the minds of your customers/audiences. Be there, too.

2. “No Comment” is a bad comment. Some argue with this idea, but in my opinion, “no comment” is basically shooting yourself in the foot. Amid a crisis, ensure that the designated spokesperson knows how to handle a sticky situation with a well-crafted, but genuine, statement that recognizes the issue at hand and that there are steps being taken to handle said situation. As for other members of your organization who could be grilled for details, make sure they’re coached on how to elegantly let people know that they’re unable to answer any questions per organizational policy. “No comment” is untrustworthy (& from my perspective, kind of lazy). 

3. It’s about who you know. Being proactive is one of the best ways to become a successful PR pro. Get to know other people in the media and other people in the public relations field because those are the people you will rely on for extra coverage down the line. Networking events are in abundance – go to them!

4. Public Relations isn’t about spinning the story. Your job is to highlight what’s new and what’s big. It’s not to create something out of nothing. Be noteworthy and be relevant. According to Seth and Fitzpatrick, the ethical loyalties of a public relations professionals are the duties you have to your self, client, employer, profession, media, and society. Act accordingly.

5. Be prepared to change with the times. Public relations professionals from 1989 (the year I was born) lived in a much different world than I do now as a 23 year old. But it doesn’t really require a lifetimes worth of years to accept change. Even from when I graduated in 2011, things have changed rapidly that PR pros need to be cognizant of. Mobile marketing, the power of social media from a PR and customer service aspect, and digital content are all necessary things to keep in mind. And even then, as I’m honing my content marketing skills and my social media wiles, I know to keep an eye on what’s next. Don’t get left behind. The internet, it turns out, isn’t just a fad.

Of course, I know quite a bit of other things about public relations. I’m constantly keeping up to date (har – #5) on issues and trends in the industry at-large. But these are things I’d stand behind and evangelize to current students of PR and communications.

What about you? What would you tell students or people interested in PR the top things they should know? Do you disagree with what I consider truths? Leave me a comment and discuss!

 

A New Shade of Miss America

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Last night, the Miss America Organization named Nina Davuluri Miss America 2014. She’s what you’d expect out of a Miss America, she’s fit, has that mega-watt smile, and is well-cultured and incredibly intelligent.

She’s also the daughter of an Indian immigrant.

And this incensed people that despite the fact that she is what one would expect out of a beauty queen… she was also of Indian descent (even though she’s a full-blown American).

I’m not really about beauty pageants, but this issue clearly caught my eye. The Miss America Organization caught some real backlash on Twitter after crowning Ms. Davuluri. People were outraged that a “Muslim terrorist” could win Miss America (what?!), some said “I swear I’m not racist, but this is America,” eluding that an Indian-American is not an American. Numerous people said that Theresa Vail (or Miss Kansas, and people’s choice winner) was what a real American looks like (blonde hair, fair skin).

As I said, I’m not really about pageantry, but I tip my hat to the Miss America Organization. Davuluri is not only a great candidate and now major role model for people who, ahem… look more like her, but she brought something new to the talent portion of the pageant. Her fusion Bollywood dance was definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen on these kinds of stages. And I think that kind of diversity is something that should be featured in the national spotlight.

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It even made me think that “Hey, maybe someday there will be a Native American winner who can highlight some traditional dance someday?” The level of proud to see a Native woman smoke dance on that kind of stage would be through the roof. And there are definitely Native women who are beautiful enough to be on that kind of stage. If you don’t know who she is, go Google Ashley Callingbull. (Granted, Callingbull is Canadian, but still…)

My sincerest congratulations goes out to Nina. I commend the work she’ll be doing in the future as Miss America 2014. I just wish that I didn’t have to read about people who considered this as a sham…

 

Controversial or Offensive PR Stunts – Is it ever a good strategy?

Credit: Huffington Post

Credit: Huffington Post

A Texas sign company, hoping to get some extra attention for its business, has created a truck decal featuring a woman bound and tied. – Amanda Turkel, Huffington Post

This marketing stunt out of a Texas decal company made for some shock and awe, and some extra business. The owner of Hornet Signs, Brad Kobl, told local news stations “I was expecting the reactions that we got, nor was it really anything we certainly condone or anything else. But it was just something…we had to put out there to see who notices it.”

This particular PR stunt is a classic shock stunt. It’s made to gain attention no matter what. It sort of employs the idea of “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission.” A PR stunt like this takes me back to the question poised of me two posts ago, “Is all publicity good publicity?”

This takes me back to a sort of mentor of mine and former intern supervisor at Eric Mower and Associates, Steve Bell. He recently wrote on his blog about the psychology of attention, as it relates to publicity. Here’s a quote from that post:

So is any publicity good publicity?

Well, not quite. We’ve all heard that there is no such thing as bad press. But that’s not exactly right. My colleagues and I also looked at how New York Times book reviews affected book sales and found a more nuanced relationship.

Sure enough, positive reviews increased sales. But the effect of negative reviews was more complex. For well-known authors (e.g., Stephen King or John Grisham), negative reviews decreased sales, but for unknown authors, or people releasing their first book, negative reviews actually increased sales. By a whopping 45%.

Our research found that whether negative publicity (or word of mouth) helps or hurts sales is driven by the psychology of attention. Purchase depends not only on whether people like something, but also whether they are triggered to think about it. Consider the last time you picked a restaurant or chose a movie to watch on Saturday night. If something doesn’t come to mind, there’s no way you’re going to pick it.

So it makes sense from this that this decal companies sales would go up after this stunt.

And here is the question poised of me this week: Is there a time/situation when being controversial or even offensive to some is a good PR strategy in your mind? Explain your answer and give a specific example of an organization or brand to support your point.

I think it’s okay to be controversial (when done correctly), I don’t think it’s okay to be offensive. Sadly, I don’t think this is ever 100% feasible.

What do I mean?

Take Starbucks for example. The CEO of the company has done two things in recent memory that has actually made me okay with stepping foot in a Starbucks every now and then (I tend to support local establishments first). Obamacare is incredibly controversial at the moment. However, unlike most big corporations, Starbucks has said that they aren’t cutting jobs and they aren’t cutting hours to make up for the money they’ll put out for insurance. To a lot of people opposed to Obamacare, this seems like an obedience to the government that isn’t warranted.

The CEO of Starbucks was also very vocal about being in favor of legalizing gay marriage. This is controversial for obvious reasons, and to some could be considered incredibly offensive (depending on their stance – hence why you can’t always disassociate controversial and offensive).

Call me liberal (italicized for those who consider this a dirty word), if you will. But if that means I think everyone deserves health coverage, living wages, and the right to marry whomever they want… so be it. And it reflects in my ethical foresight in PR strategy.

Offensive publicity on the other hand has no right being part of a PR strategy. Shock tactics are most certainly looked at with disdain by this PR professional.

What do I define as offensive?

  • Aggressively or passive aggressively attacking an opposing or competing view.
  • Lessening or demeaning an opposing or competing view.

In other words, I think you should market your company as positive to your audience. Not by attacking or lessening those who don’t fit your audience’s script. For example, ChristianMingle.com doesn’t offend me. They market their website and services according to those who would use it. Now if they went out of their way to call non-Christians “heathens” or what have you, then yes, they’ve crossed the line to offensive publicity.

In the case of the decal pictured above? It is highly offensive.

It is a depiction of an aggressive affront to a woman. Manhandling another human being is highly offensive.

The psychology of attention may be a thing but I consider myself a more creative PR professional and I would have crafted a more creative campaign to garner attention. The Texas decal company’s shock tactic was unethical and just plain lazy.

A call for change: the communication field’s need for diversity

As communications professionals, we are charged with getting the views and objectives of our organizations/campaigns to the public sphere. Smart and ethical PR practitioners do this in a balanced, unbiased manner.

But the ethnic landscape of America requires more than just one point of view. It requires looking into more than the white, suburban, middle class family. Because marketing and public relations have become so complex due to being able to target specific markets down to a tee, a campaign designed from this one point of view is old hat.

Even if your target market happens to be “white, middle class” there’s power in understanding the differences that arise here. For instance, some in the white, middle class may very well be part of the LGBT community. Now imagine trying to create a campaign that reaches this specific demographic but making it so heteronormative that the people from the LGBT community are now alienated and removed from the message. Ethically speaking, this is wrong. And business-wise, this is still wrong.

Imagine you’re say… a fashion company who wants to hold an annual party and they think “Hey, let’s throw an Indian-themed party! Woo.” Wow, well if you’ve been following my blog, you know about Paul Frank’s Dream Catchin’ Pow Wow party. Do you think this would have been so easily constructed if say they had an actual Native person on their marketing team?

Do you think if KTVU had an Asian Executive on staff that the producers (or if there were an Asian producer at this station) would dared to name Asiana pilots “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” or “Ho Lee Fuk?

The answer is most likely no.

The communications field at-large needs a stronger representation of all minority groups. Journalism, marketing, public relations, media production, etc., all need to have that different perspective that creates a more all-encompassing message.

And no, this is not a “I hate white people” post. I do not want to remove white people from the industry all together. That’s ridiculous (but I have been accused of such things, hence needing to clarify).

This past week, I was encouraged to write a post about this from my current professor at Bonaventure, Shelley Jack. She’s noticed that I’m quite passionate about this based on my presence on Twitter. And she’s not wrong.

We talked briefly about the idea of shared experience and how this matters when it comes to diversity. We talked about how no matter how much research she does, as a white woman, she couldn’t really relate pertinent information to minority groups. There is an inherent difference is reading/learning about a different culture and being part of a different culture. When messages come from the outside, it sounds like you’re being talked to rather than talked with.

The Human landscape is filled with different art, languages, cuisines, experience, and histories. To market something as a small  homogenized group to a broader audience is, in my opinion, haphazard and shortsighted.

I call for a broader representation of people in the communication field because I think it’s incredibly valuable to recognize the many different perspectives that inhabit our country everyday.

I’ve taken a small first step this last summer as I paid for one half of a tuition for a student from the inner city of Buffalo (the only one) to take a journalism workshop. In the thank you letter I received, the student said he now has a much higher appreciation for the kind of impact words can have.”

It may have been a small step but reading that made me incredibly happy to have helped even just this little bit.

What do you think? What are some ways to make this happen? Does it need to happen at all? I’m open to your thoughts on this post!