Last updated: July 12. 2014 11:25AM - 4764 Views
Steena Hymes Staff Columnist

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What started out as a temporary visit to LaGrange to stay with family turned into nearly a year of meeting some of my favorite people ever and learning more about being a journalist than I ever could in college.

I came down to LaGrange without a plan, without knowing the community and without a job.

As recent college graduate with hardly any real-world career experience, I turned my resume into the LaGrange Daily News as a fluke, not actually expecting to hear back.

Nearly two months later, Daily News Editor Tim Epperson called me and offered me an experience that I will always cherish and never forget.

I have now been offered the chance to experience a whole new community in Dalton, Georgia, where I will be a reporter for the Daily Citizen. But I couldn’t even dream of having this opportunity without the year I spent in LaGrange.

I would like to take this moment to thank and appreciate the people of LaGrange who shaped my time here and taught me what it means to truly belong to a community.

First and foremost I would like to thank Starla and Joe Canning, my sister and brother-in-law, who gave me a place to live and basically let me be a freeloader for 11 months without once complaining or expecting anything in return (except for the occasional babysitting duties).

I would like to thank First Baptist Church on the Square for being the first people to welcome with open arms and accepting me into their family.

I owe the beginning, and future, of my career as a journalist to Tim Epperson and the rest of the Daily News staff for giving me the chance to do what I love and having enough faith in me to throw challenging stories my way and letting me learn. I thank you all for allowing me to grow as a journalist with your unending patience and guidance.

After only two months working here, I was presented with the opportunity to cover the public safety beat. If I am being honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Within the first couple of weeks on the beat, there was a plane crash, a murder and a triple shooting. To say that I was initiated by fire would be an understatement. However, I have never enjoyed anything as much as I did covering public safety, especially with the LaGrange Police Department and the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.

For that, I have to thank LPD Chief Lou Dekmar and Sheriff James Woodruff for their consistent transparency and openness. Not once did either of them make me feel I wasn’t welcome. In fact both the LPD and TCSO staffs were nothing but helpful and kind when it came to working with me. Both departments exemplify what a positive working relationship looks like between the media and law enforcement agencies.

I wish I could take the time to appreciate each of the people who encouraged my growth during my time here, however, there are too many count. The single greatest part of being a journalist are the people you meet along the way. For each interview I walked into I wouldn’t know what to expect. I met strangers who poured their hearts out to me. I’ve met with people who had me in tears from laughing. I met people who I now consider close friends and I have met people who asked to pray for me before our meeting was over.

Ultimately, I would like to thank the city of LaGrange, and everyone in it, for being a place I called home and for giving me relationships and experiences I will not forget.

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