Commentary: Thank you, Town of Southington

Jen Cardines

It seems like just yesterday I began my journey writing for The Observer, but in the blink of an eye one year has passed. Last Friday, Aug. 25, was my last day as a full-time staff writer for Southington’s hometown community paper, and to say it was a bittersweet goodbye is an understatement.

When people asked me what I planned to do with an English degree, they assumed journalism…and I laughed at them. “I could never be a journalist,” I said, but an opportunity presented itself that I just couldn’t pass up. The Southington Observer gave me experiences I would have never imagined.

Southington may not be my hometown, but it holds a special place in my heart. Thanks to the many friendly faces and helpful residents, I got to see every corner of this town and all it has to offer.

What doesn’t Southington have? There’s a soup kitchen that provides everything from meals and lunch programs to hair services and food delivery. There are two Alzheimer’s facilities, art centers, a very active American Legion and Veterans Committee, strongly supported small businesses – backed by the Chamber of Commerce—and don’t get me started on all of the wonderful opportunities Southington students are offered in school.

How about Connecticut’s largest free festival, which offers the best apple fritters and parade I’ve ever seen. This town also embraces its influential Italian roots every summer on Center Street. Between the festivals and major town events, this reporter was very well-fed.

This town even gave me my biggest hard news story when a chemical spill at Light Metals reached the Quinnipiac…during my second week on the job.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t highlight the elected officials and town staff that helped to keep our news coverage accurate and consistent. Thank you for always explaining policies, breaking news, personal interviews, and my first-ever budget cycle. My job would be impossible without your contributions to the variety of stories I wrote.

No classroom could ever teach me what I learned through this hands-on experience, and while I am off to pursue a career in education, 12 months of journalism was the best blessing in disguise. Through my editor John Goralski, the newsroom, and town members, I learned how to ask important questions, interpret law, investigate, and follow through with important information.

School officials invited me to be a guest reader at two elementary schools and a career day presenter at DePaolo. If that wasn’t enough, I taught SHS students how to submit pieces to a newspaper. All of those experiences will come with me as I teach in classrooms this fall.

Thank you endlessly, Southington. Thank you for welcoming me into the community and being a great kick-start to my career. You’re not done with me yet, though. I’ll pop my head in when I freelance for the Observer here and there. I won’t be able to stay away, especially during the election.

What a time to say goodbye.

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