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Free Spirit ’15: Dreams Realized

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Free Spirit '15 Scholars at Newseum // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/Newseum

Free Spirit '15 Scholars at Newseum // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/Newseum

Free Spirit '15 Scholars at Newseum // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/Newseum

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Never did I think a computer keyboard could make such beautiful music. Although the clack of plastic keys against my fingertips was a jumble of a cacophonous chatter, the final click of the submit button produced a tone far sweeter than its simple origins would have suggested.

This January I applied to the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, and after receiving an acceptance letter in April, I became the fifth straight ‘Iolani student to represent the state of Hawai‘i.

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Free Spirit ’15 Scholars pose after an engaging discussion with PBS NewsHour’s hosts Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/Newseum

For five days in June, fifty-one students, collectively representing all fifty states and D.C., donned heavy business blazers and gathered in our country’s capital to learn more about the inner-workings journalism. We attended daily discussions featuring speakers such as Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill of PBS NewsHour,Free Spirit ’15 Scholars pose after an engaging discussion with PBS NewsHour’s hosts Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/NewseumRon Nessen, former white house press secretary, Doug Mills, a The New York Times photographer, Mary Pilon, former reporter for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and author of The Monopolists, and Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, at locations such as the Newseum, USA Today headquarters, the U.S. Court House, and the U.S. Capitol.

During conference downtime, delegates bonded through the storytelling of late-nights-past, debates over U.S. spending habits, and chatter about breaking news. Sara Ganim, the reporter who famously broke the Penn-State child sex abuse scandal, was unable to speak to us because she was chasing the Clinton Correctional Facility escape story some 260 miles away. We watched as, during a live taping of Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd received fire over Twitter for airing a video clip that featured only male prisoners of color voicing regrets about their crimes in the wake of the racially fueled Charleston shooting.

A medley of fifty-one students united in the nation’s capital, and although we’ve since returned to our respective states, we still sing and live the program’s slogan: “Dream, Dare, Do.”

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Free Spirit ’15 Scholars pose with Mary Pilon, Free Spirit alumnus and author of The Monopolists // Photo Courtesy Maria Bryk/Newseum

The deadline for Free Spirit ’16 is February 22, 2016. Apply at freespirit.org. For more information see this application guide.

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Free Spirit ’15: Dreams Realized