He reassured me that I would be fine in this career, but then strongly encouraged me to get writing to get my name out there. Now, I actually have an answer to how I feel when I see my name in a byline. It is fabulous. Just seeing my hard work being out there for everyone to see is a fantastic feeling.
You must be wondering what brought on this wonderful feeling; it is a story I worked on with Melanie Lawder for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. We were assigned to choose a nominee for the Northern Trust Navigator Award, part of the Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDI.) Lawder and I were both drawn to the 53rd Street Community Garden.
We got to work right away emailing Arts@Large, the 53rd Street School, and Yeshiva Elementary School. Arts@Large responded first with an eagerness to tell the story of this garden. They put us in contact with the environmental specialist, Sean Kiebzak, a young graduate student with a passion for the environment.
Lawder and I hopped on a bus to go to the Arts@Large office. Our rookie status came out as we were 45 minutes early. We had overestimated how long the bus was going to take and how long it was going to take to find the office. The founders of Arts@Large (Kimberly Abler and Teri Sullivan) were at the gallery finishing up for the day. They allowed us to take pictures of the gallery/office and started talking with us about the 'Growing Great Gardens' program that enabled the 53rd Street Community Garden to happen.
When Kiebzak arrived, Lawder and I were ready to get the interview rolling. It was about a half an hour interview filled with great stories providing great clips. Lawder and I learned a lot more than our research gave us, and were excited to write this story.
As we were waiting for replies from the schools, we cut down Kiebzak's audio and edited the photos taken at the gallery. We also wrote the first draft of this story. Cutting out great quotes from the audio felt like I was saying goodbye to a close friend. I was surprised at how attached I became to the piece.
Once we got in contact with the 53rd Street School, Lawder and I started another bus journey to get to the school. About 15 minutes in, we realized we had gotten on the wrong bus and was going completely the opposite direction. We finally got ourselves turned around and arrived at the school just in time to catch the chaos of the end of the day.
We started by taking pictures of the garden and the artwork we had heard so much about. It was the feeling similar to reading a book and then seeing the movie. I had certain images in my head of what the garden would look like, but being able to see it blew those pitiful expectations out the window. The garden was beautiful, and filled with colorful artwork, all done by the students.
We then sat down with the principal, Bridgette Hood, and a teacher, Alaura Cook, in the principal's office. It was fun listening to their reactions to the garden. During our interview, there was some kind of inspection happening that people kept coming into the office. Lawder and I kept looking at each other with little smiles because we couldn't believe at how difficult this was becoming.
Another teacher, Erick McGinely, came in to talk to us and also brought in one of his students. Lawder and I were so excited to have a student's opinion in our piece until we were told we could not use any of this student's audio because of the lack of a media consent form. That was alright because we had a few golden quotes we could not wait to get in the story.
Seeing how proud the school was of this garden was rewarding. It made me feel proud to write this story about them. Mr. McGinely actually brought us to his classroom to introduce us. Seeing the kids put faces to the art projects.
After cutting the audio and editing the photos, we put them in Final Cut Pro X. It was an intense process getting everything down to two minutes because it was hard for us to part with some of the sound bites.
Lawder and I got in contact with Melissa Tashjian, another coordinator that helped make the 53rd Street Community Garden possible. We went to a community meeting at the school where they were discussing the plans of the garden in the upcoming season. Of course our bus ride there was another adventure. We got on the correct bus, but got off the wrong stop so after walking 10 blocks, we arrived at the school.
At the meeting we talked with Wendy Washington, who we learned was a Sherman Park community member her entire life, and was also on the committee to build the garden. She described to us about the project and how her family is involved. Sitting next to Washington was Sandy Short and Sarah Korb, who were planning out their lots for the next season.Lawder and I learned that Korb and Short became quick friends after being brought together by the gardens. It was a heartwarming moment seeing how they had become so close that otherwise would not have met without the garden.
We added in the extra audio from the community and added the photos and had a finished product for the video. We then each wrote a part of the story and edited it. It was one of the best group projects that I have ever worked on. I am used to taking over the whole project because my group members just slack away, but working with Lawder was a breath of fresh air. We both were involved in every aspect of the story and both got emotionally attached to the 53rd Street Community Garden.
When we found out that the garden did not win the award, we were pretty bummed. We thought for sure this garden would win, and wished we could convince the judges otherwise. The community members were still grateful to just be nominated. We never got a response from Yeshiva Elementary, but still feel the essence of the project was captured from everyone else.
As much stress as this story was, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The people I met, the stories I heard, and the way we were able to convey the project was a blast. I learned interviewing techniques, I learned how to use Final Cut Pro X, I learned a lot about my partner, Lawder, and I learned how to just roll with situations that might occur while reporting.
I feel honored to be published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, and hope this story is the first of many to be published for the world to read.
Read the story here: 53rd Street Community Garden 'bridges the gap'
See it on the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: 53rd Street Community Garden 'bridges the gap'