No job has ever been more fulfilling than covering youth and education issues for the Independent Record.

No group of staff has ever been more dedicated to their work, committed to the truth with a willingness to go above and beyond than my family of colleagues.

And, no endeavor has ever made me more proud than giving a voice to the young people of this community, the underprivileged and the misunderstood.

But as with everything in life there is a season.

So as the leaves in the Queen City welcome us to cooler temperatures in the dark mornings, my season at the paper is also coming to a close.

That’s not to say you won’t see me around. I intend to be very visible in my next professional chapter, advocating for cooperative credit with the Montana Credit Union Network. And with any luck you’ll see my name in magazines, among civic organizations and may even in this fine newspaper being quoted by my beloved co-workers.

The job of a reporter is demanding and sometimes can wear on your soul. But each morning with the newsprint in our hands, drinking our coffee, journalists are quickly rejuvenated and eager to jump in and do it all again.

I focused primarily on school issues in my tenure, but had the privilege of telling stories broad in subject matter.

I’ve been on the fire line. I’ve covered abused and neglected animals. And, I’ve stood within yards of a home where a shooting had just taken place as police charged in taking custody of the subject.

I’ve told stories about drug-attacks, abused children and homes torn apart by death.

Some of my toughest stories are those when young people are taken too young. In one year, I covered the death of three young high school girls tragically killed in car wrecks. The pain in their parents’ eyes is seared into my heart. The recent funeral of a young drowning victim and the sight of his small, white casket are images that will stay with me forever.

There have been so many high points in this job, and those fill my heart with joy.

To watch a group of young supernerds represent Montana at the World Robotics Competition not only was an honor but gave me incredible confidence in our future leaders. I’ve written about teachers who have not only inspired but likely saved the lives of their students. I’ve covered sensitive subjects in the school district like the controversial health care curriculum fairly and accurately. And, I’ve sat through hundreds of hours of school board meetings knowing those members are not often thanked, often criticized and are forced to make tough decisions. I’ve written late into the night about their efforts.

My job has provided many tears and much laughter and I’m so grateful to have been part of Helena history with my words in print.

But the season is changing and with that brings all things new, including the opportunity for growth and improvement. I know my new chapter will provide me the room to grow and challenge myself. And I know the pending changes at the paper will also provide the opportunity for growth and improvement.

The IR is the community paper and depends on your support to be the best it can be. I hope you will join me in offering that support and encouragement.

It’s hard to let go and say goodbye to this professional family I’ve known for eight years, but I promise to be a community member that helps this newspaper remain the peoples’ paper.

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