In eighth grade, my class made predictions about where we would be in 10 years. Most of our predictions were pretty out-there.
According to us, one girl was to be the next Oprah Winfrey, another a celebrated artist. I was to be a United States Supreme Court Justice.
Two years ago, as I began my internship at the River Falls Journal, I more reasonably predicted that after graduation, I would work for a newspaper or other media source in a small town. I figured I'd probably have to sharpen pencils for a few years before finally catching a big break in the form of a news story that would allow me to work my way up in the business.
What I didn't realize was that my big break had already come. It was while I was finishing up my junior year of college, when I took a chance and applied for an internship at the River Falls Journal.
I was ecstatic when I found out I'd gotten the internship. If I had known, at the time, the path that internship had started me down, I would have rejoiced all the more.
After I graduated, I applied for and later accepted a position as reporter for the New Richmond News, a sister-paper of the Journal.
My internship at the Journal gave me the experience and skills necessary to successfully do my job in New Richmond. Which, in turn, prepared me for a job at the River Falls Journal.
For those of you who are not related to me, or familiar with me yet, I grew up in River Falls. I attended St. Bridget's Parish School and graduated from River Falls High School in 2008.
I went on to graduate from Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) with a BA in print and electronic media in 2012. Following which, I spent my year at the New Richmond News.
Throughout my time at the News and my internship at the Journal, I have reported on everything from a River Falls Fire Department training burn to the St. Croix Central Elementary School Fire (Roberts); from parades, town festivals and concerts to construction, new government officials and robberies.
Now, a little more than a year after I started at the News, I find myself back where I started, feeling a bit like Dorothy in "Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz" when she returns from Oz and realizes everything she was searching for was right there in front of her the whole time.
Just like Dorothy, I followed my Yellow Brick Road, starting with my internship, gained many invaluable friendships and experiences along the way, and followed it full circle right back to where I started.
I am looking forward to sharing your news, River Falls. After all, there is no place like home.
Gretta Stark started as the Journal's new reporter Wednesday, July 24. She replaces Debbie Griffin, who left at the end of May after being the Journal's main reporter for almost eight years.