Sandra Sadek smiles for a photo in The Newseum, July 2019, in Washington, D.C. Sandra, a former Star reporter and news editor, graduates from Texas State and leaves The Star as one of the most determined, fearless and resilient journalists in our history.

Editor’s Note: “-30-” has traditionally been used throughout journalism to indicate the end of a story. The Star calls upon its graduating seniors to write a Senior 30—a farewell piece to our readers—indicating the conclusion of a journalist’s time as an active member of our organization/publication.

Three years ago, I stepped foot on the Texas State University campus as a first-generation student. My parents have never attended a four-year college and my mom, who did community college for two years in Europe, could not compare her secondary education experience to mine.

Here I was, completely moving to a new city by myself, away from the only four people who have been by my side for the last 18 years. As an immigrant, having constantly moved from country to country—having grown up away from family back home—leaving the only constant in my life was something I had never imagined would happen so early in my life. This was new territory for me.

I still remember sitting in my high school counselor’s office as a junior and being asked what my college plans were. I looked at her as if she spoke a foreign language. College, what’s that? Do I have to plan for it? How do I do that? How do I fund this expensive next chapter of my life? I had no idea how to go about this next crucial step in my education, much less knowing what I wanted to do.

With no college savings and no one to rely on for experience navigating the college application process, I tried my best to sell myself and my achievements to universities, hoping to find a new place to call home for the next few years at an affordable cost. I ended up in San Marcos.

Since day one, I knew I had to set myself apart and work hard every day to achieve something tangible for the future. Less than a week after moving into my dorm (Tower Hall SJMC LLC, where you at?), I applied to be a news reporter at The University Star. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I remember telling myself this is only the first step in my journey toward becoming a journalist. Everything I accomplish from here on out will set me up for success. I showed up to my interview in business professional clothes, determined to get accepted. Looking back, I was probably overdressed, but on Sept. 6, 2017, I officially joined the team.

Flash forward three years later and my time at this amazing publication is coming to an end. And what a crazy three years it’s been! Within a few months of being on staff, the paper got death threats about a published column, and we were threatened to be defunded.

The following semester, I covered two protests, a student body impeachment and a deadly fire that killed five students. The following year, I became News Editor.

This position challenged me in ways I cannot describe in the length of this article. There were many victories and many falls, many powerful stories of accountability, and many late nights with little sleep. There were also tears of frustration.

Being a student journalist is no easy task; it takes a certain type of strength to dedicate yourself to a community while trying to balance academic demands and the joys of youth. Your age does not excuse you from mistakes, but despite the errors, we continue to learn and grow. Now, I depart the staff as a news reporter, coming back full circle.

I have grown a lot in those three years. I have learned to grow a thick skin against my fiercest critiques, myself being one of them. I have learned to raise my voice even louder for those who cannot shout and not be afraid.

The mentorship and friendships I have built over those years, both in the journalism program and outside, have made me a better person. I am more aware of my purpose and responsibility as a journalist. I hope to pass along those teachings in the future.

Thank you to all the professors, both SJMC and outside, who never stopped having faith in my abilities and have inspired me: Kym Fox, Gilbert Martinez, Terry Bertling, Holly Wise, Laura Krantz, Elizabeth Bishop, Hassan Tajalli, Ron Haas and so many others.

I am saddened that I cannot walk across the stage with my fellow Bobcats. As a first-generation student and an immigrant, this was a moment I could finally celebrate in-person with my family back home. Despite this, I am proud of everyone’s achievements, regardless of how big or impactful they are. Do not let the obstacles life throws at you define your character.

After all, a definition excludes the possibility of change. But we are constantly changing, and college has offered us the tools to continuously work on a better version of ourselves. There’s this great statement I once read that says, “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world’ in you, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” I think that statement is true – we have all potential to do great things, even if it is for ourselves.

To the reporters continuing The University Star’s mission, I am so proud of you all and of everything you have accomplished so far and will accomplish in the future. Stay strong and keep your head high – you may be students, but YOU ARE JOURNALISTS!

Eat ‘em Up Bobcats!

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