Editor’s Corner: Engage yourself outside classroom

I have spent the last 16 years of my life in a classroom. All I know are these beige walls, cold tile floors and desks that wobble when I press my pen to the paper. I have spent the past 16 years of my life in a classroom, and honestly, I’m afraid to leave.

This is a sad truth among many students who have spent nearly one-third of their lives in a school. We sat on story-time rugs in elementary school, decorated Earth Day bulletin boards in middle school and measured quadrilateral angles in high school.

Then came college.

As freshmen at Rider, we were introduced to representatives from the 150 organizations during our first few days on campus. Some of us even reached out to one about a club, team or Greek life affiliation we were interested in.

Almost three years ago to the day, I wrote my email address on a piece of paper and handed it to the then-opinion editor of The Rider News, Samantha Sawh. She invited me to a meeting that week and gave me a story to work on for the following issue. Having been assigned to write about the bee problem on campus, I trekked to Cranberry’s to get a closer look at the massive hives that hung around the building.

I, an introverted and naturally quiet person, approached other students swatting at the insects and asked to interview them. I was so uncomfortable, but I was doing what I had to do. With my nose out of a textbook and on the scene, I learned to talk to people and gather a story rather than memorize grammar rules and write an essay.

Three years later, I have taken the experience I gained in the classroom and as part of an on-campus organization and entered the real world. This past summer, I interned for Pinstripes Plus, an online subscription magazine that covers news within the Yankees’ farm system. Without the guidance of a teacher or comfort of a constantly updated grade sheet, I was forced to work hard in a new environment, devoting my time to a publication that resembled one I would like to work for after graduation.

Throughout this semester, I will be completing an independent study program at the New Jersey Statehouse where I will sit in on committee hearings, profile gubernatorial candidates and follow the state legislature. I’m not filling in a scantron or a study guide. I am going out and doing the work I love and will do for the rest of my life. I am learning in a personally unchartered — yet welcoming — environment as I prepare myself for all that comes after I walk away in May with my diploma.

Rider’s engaged learning policy requires students to partake in experiences focused on expanding knowledge beyond those beige walls, tile floors and wobbly desks of a classroom. We must all step past the limitations we thought we had to realize those borders never existed in the first place.

I have spent 16 years in school so far, and while I’m terrified to move on from what I’ve known and start a career, I know I’m ready. Rider has prepared me to face the rest of my life. Every class I’ve taken, every professor I’ve had, every internship I’ve completed, every leadership role I’ve fulfilled has given me the necessary tools to conquer the real world.

Conquer I shall.

­—Shanna O’Mara 

Managing Editor of The Rider News 

Printed in the 9/13/17 issue.

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