I’m the student who sits in the front of the class but never says a word.

It’s like an invisible hand wraps around my throat to stop the words from coming out. My arms feel like lead so I can’t raise my hand. Even thinking about speaking up makes my chest grow tight.

So, I sit there in quiet silence, taking everything in and confining my knowledge to the page.

But journalism is different. Journalism is freeing.

I remember my first Aquinian story meeting like it was yesterday. I walked into the windowless room full of upper-year students, shaking in my boots as I took a seat in the back.

I knew I was a good writer, but good enough to be published in a paper? Hell no.

For the first month, I attended the weekly story meetings and didn’t say a word. Despite the friendly smiles from the editors, I was terrified of messing the paper up with a crappy story. But eventually, they asked me to write.

What was my first story?

A Come from Away piece about the Las Vegas shooting.

Talk about throwing me into the deep end.

But the piece wasn’t an absolute dumpster fire like I feared it was. The interview went well and for the first time in a long time, I was proud of my work. I’m still proud of the article.

The more articles I wrote, the more confident I became and the more I fell in love with journalism.

I learned from my mistakes to become a better writer. I began pitching stories at meetings and took on weekly articles. I improved my interviewing tactics and became more confident when I spoke to others.

Story meetings became a place of escape. I knew when I walked into the room, I’d walk out with a smile on my face.

Now, three years later, I’m the features editor of The Aquinian.

I love what I do, even though the job is stressful as hell.

I love bringing a little light to the paper with fun commentaries or feel-good stories. I love spending time with the other editors on Sunday. I love being a part of a paper that I can be proud of.

Thank you to this year’s editor-in-chief, Caitlin Dutt, and managing editor, Jerry-Faye Flatt, for all their hard work. For all the sleepless nights, tight deadlines and quick turnarounds. Thank you for always supporting your team through the highs and lows. I love you guys and will miss seeing your smiling faces bright and early Sunday morning.

Thank you to the rest of this year’s Aquinian staff who made me feel like I was part of a second family. You are all fantastic journalists and I look forward to working with some of you again next year. It’s going to be great.

Thank you to the incoming editors. Be prepared for a lot of stress and anxiety, but know that you always have a shoulder to lean on if you need it. When things get rough, remember you were chosen because Diana and I believe in you and we know you can get through this.

Thank you to the writers who are the lifeblood of our paper. Without you, we’d have nothing. You are all fantastic and I look forward to working with you again next year.

But most of all, thank you to incoming Editor-in-Chief Diana Chávez. It’s been a long year but we’ve gotten through it, together. I know I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next year. We’ve got this!

I’ve come a long way since the scared kid I was back in first-year. I still might not be the loudest student, but my confidence is no longer at rock-bottom.

I love The Aquinian. It made me the journalist I am today and I’ll always be thankful for that. As the incoming managing editor, I can’t wait to let the love and passion shine through.

See you all next year.