At the beginning of my junior year, the MacJournalism Instagram account got a DM asking if we could post information about a benefit lunch being held by the family of former McCallum custodian Yolanda Zertuche, who had recently passed away. Due to a mistake in paperwork, the family was being held responsible for the looming hospital bills not covered by insurance. We agreed to post information about the event, but I also reached back out asking for permission to write a story about Yolanda, who had been such a beloved member of the McCallum community. I attended the benefit lunch and spoke to Yolanda’s sister, her sons, her in-laws, who all shared their stories with me. I stayed at the event for almost four hours, taking pictures and just talking with the family. I left with hours of interviews to transcribe and no idea how to tackle what now felt like an immense story. But I knew one thing: I had to do this story justice. Yolanda’s family had been so vulnerable with me, and I could not let them down. This story reminded me of the fact that I am not just a journalist, but a human, too. And it was the personal human connections I had made during the reporting process that made this story better.

Recognitions: Best of the Best, First runner-up – objective writing, TAJE (2023)

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