Learning lessons of love

An open letter to the high school representatives of the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Conference in hopes of teaching of love.


Isabelle Robles, Digital Editor-in-Chief

This past Thursday afternoon I got home from spending five days at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. Free Spirit is a yearly conference that has been held since 2000 to honor one student from each state and the District of Columbia by providing an all expenses paid trip to D.C. spent predominately at the Al Nueharth-founded Newseum. The days are filled with amazing speakers, tours of D.C. and most importantly to me, wonderful memories with the 50 other rising seniors. This is a letter to them, open to you in hopes of teaching appreciation for those around you.

Dear class of 2016,

Now, first and foremost let’s establish something: I’ve never really considered myself a cryer. I don’t tear up at the closing scenes of Forrest Gump or at many books. Of course there are times where, being in high school, I am overwhelmed to no end and need to just let it all out, but I think of myself as a person that can keep my composure in times where emotions are running high. But, boy did the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference catch up with me on that proclamation. Here’s why.

I’ve been very blessed to have gotten many opportunities to attend journalism conferences and camps in the past. I learned many things at all of them, like the right way to cover controversy or the appropriate way to cover elections. I’ve met some very incredible people and had some great moments with them, but I’ve never been so moved that I teared up looking out the airplane window on the way home (thank goodness my 4:30 a.m. wake up call meant no makeup and therefore no mascara runs).

Sometimes you need a cliche to try and make sense of feeling an abundance of extreme emotions.”

— Isabelle Robles, Digital Editor in Chief

I was moved because all 50 of you guys are incredibly kind, funny, smart and, above all, passionate individuals. Our love for each other was driven by our love for journalism— and I felt that in each and every one of you I talked to. There was always something to talk about, whether it be current events, cool stories in our communities or the latest cameras. We learned together, laughed together, played Mafia together… It was the absolute best week of my life. And yes, I get that it is incredibly cliche to say that, but sometimes you need to use a cliche to try and make sense of feeling an abundance of extreme emotions. Emotions of happiness, nostalgia, sadness, excitement and fear for the future, but most of all gratefulness for having the opportunity to feel all of those things at once with an incredible group of people. And there was one thing from my week with y’all I will cherish for the rest of time here on this planet:

Give all of yourself to what you care about. Whether it be family (which it should), friends (which it also should) or your profession (which, ideally it should be—Ever heard the saying “When you love what you do you never work a day in your life?”). Like the man Bob Dylan said, whatever you are, be a good one. Good friends and lots of love will follow if you spend your time on what you care about. Thanks to the 50 representatives I am more excited than ever for my future and who I will spend it with. Are you?

Much love,

Isabelle Robles

Free Spirit Class of 2016 Representative

P.S. You should be.

Cover photo by Maria Byrk.