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“We live in unprecedented times.” It’s a phrase we’ve all come to know too well. In a changing world with uncertainty constantly looming above us it’s time to turn our attention to the things in our lives that matter. For me, that means this site: The Bolt. Originally, our site had gone by Nor’Easter News, as per our under-construction URL. In the past, it stood its ground as an ordinary college newspaper.
But times change, the world changes, people change. I want The Bolt to be something more than just a college newspaper; it’s a place, I envision, that brings people together through sharing of information, ideas, and impactful content. An online magazine, a news site– call it what you will. Confining our work to a title isn’t what matters; rather, it’s what we do, what we use it for.
So today, just for me, I’m going to tell you all the story of The Bolt from my perspective; because it’s times like these that I need to remind myself what I have going for me and siphon my energy out of anxiety and into meaningful experiences.
And this is how it goes:
When I was a freshman, I joined Nor’Easter News under the leadership of Marissa Laramie, Loren Beale, and advisor Jesse Miller. The club was small, and I would write a story or two per month, trying to build up my extracurricular experience. It was an outlet for me to share some ideas with the world, even if only a few friends and family would read what I posted. That’s all I needed, someone other than myself caring about and listening to my ideas. That made me really care about the club. In the back of my mind, I always knew there was potential for more.
Throughout my time in Nor’Easter News, I learned a lot about journalism, improved my writing and communication skills, and found fulfilling friendships. Club funding allowed me and a handful of other members to attend the Associated Collegiate Press’s College Journalism Convention. Here I was exposed to new ideas and had the opportunity to learn from professionals in the journalism field. The experience and insight I gained were priceless.
At the end of my sophomore year, I was still the only new person to have joined and the rest of the team was graduating, leaving the future of Nor’Easter News resting on my shoulders. I wanted to continue its legacy but I was also daunted by the challenge of building it from the ground up. It’s incredibly overwhelming to try to pull people into a “club” when that “club” is a single person with no actual leadership experience for running said “club.”
Come the fall of 2019, my junior year, I had met with Jesse Miller a couple of times to attempt to formulate some semblance of a game plan. Mostly we were looking to lay a foundation. Even with this kindling of a game plan, the real task at hand was finding people to get the ball rolling. I found myself out at the club fair, using our outdated sign taped to the front of a folding table, alone. At the end of those two hours in the sun, I had attracted the interest of 13 people, and I was ecstatic. Visions of a room full of eager writers filled my head.
And then, only one person came to the first meeting, fifteen minutes late. That person was Matt Demers, a quiet freshman. I don’t think I’ll ever feel as embarrassed as I did then, trying to explain to him that I was the sole person trying to restart an old club in a vacant room. He would admit to me a few months later that he thought the whole situation was “definitely weird”, that first meeting. Nonetheless, I carried on and explained to him what Nor’Easter News had been and what I saw it becoming. Maybe I talked a good talk, or maybe Matt just enjoyed a little weird, but somehow he came back the next week.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I had a few more people trickle in, but it would never amass to more than three others, save for our loyal pioneer Matt. Most of which decided it wasn’t for them; understandable. Until one day a few weeks into the semester, freshmen Beanie Lowery and Kane Emerson walked in. The foundation was set. For the remainder of the semester, the club functioned buoyantly, as it had in years past; just a small group of people posting a few stories here and there. It was good, I was content. My enthusiasm for the club had at least amounted to something.
What happened in our last meeting of the semester must’ve been a stroke of pure fate. Sophomore Kaelin Cegelski happened to be late-night editing in the same room at the same time as that last meeting. She just so happened to take her headphones out at the right moment, catching the last segment of our meeting. In the spur of the moment, she asked to join. Immediately after returning to school from winter break, Jesse and I brought her up to speed on the core aspects of the club and where we wanted to go during the spring semester.
We quickly found out Kaelin was an idea powerhouse and just one week in, the idea for The Bolt was born. We soon gained freshman Abigail Halterman and out of nowhere, we had six people, the biggest I had ever seen the club. From there I set up roles, and worked closely with Kaelin developing goals, ideas, and delegated responsibilities to her. She had become our Assistant Editor-In-Chief in no time.
From that first moment when it became just me in an empty room, I held onto the mantra “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Now with seven team members including myself, it felt like we had ourselves a small village. We finally had more than a foundation, we had structure. Then, we really started gaining momentum: soon joined by two other communications majors, juniors Kole Lentini and Nick Scarfo, followed by sophomores Taylor Arnold and Harry Wardwell just a few weeks later. At that next meeting, after the last two had joined us, it was right then on that day, with ten people in the room all staring up at me when I felt that vision of a room full of eager people finally come true. Building a club that wanted to make an impact was my goal, but it’s the people who came together that made my goal a reality.
With a completely new group of people, rebranding felt like the right move to make. Throughout this timeline, we’d been discussing our ideas and objectives for The Bolt. After a few weeks of brainstorming and working through all the nuts and bolts, we finally took the leap: re-branded, changed the website and started fresh. It felt like for the first time in, well, ever we were on a roll and posting more than I imagined we ever could. We even had to create an additional bi-weekly meeting just to work through our ever-growing list of ideas and goals. All the new content we produced secured us hundreds of views on our website. Our headway was small, but it was ours. Even just that small difference gave us a sense of accomplishment.
When midterms came around we were slammed with an extra workload, forcing us to shift into a lower gear as we drained our batteries on academics and prepared for spring break. We had begun planning the finale of our semester, rolling out some more ideas such as podcasts, weekly, and monthly columns. These plans were the deck of cards we had waiting for us post-spring break.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It shut down our campus, our towns, our states, the country, and the world. Not only did it bring The Bolt to a grinding halt, it shuttered us as individuals.
The Bolt team members have all returned to their homes now, as has everyone in the world it seems. But fret-not loyal readers, The Bolt remains.
I can’t promise anything incredible, because we live in a time where the state of the world changes every single day. But The Bolt will still be here, posting meaningful content for anyone who still cares to view; because, speaking for myself here, I still care. And we all deserve to focus our energy on the things we care about.
Take care, stay safe, and until next time,