2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Nostalgia on my way to work

Published: June 23, 2014, 12:24 pm, by interns

By Rick Cookson

Every day when I’m on my morning drive to the Gazette, I pass by my old high school on N. Nevada Ave. and am immediately hit with a wave of nostalgia. The four years that I spent at William J. Palmer High School were some of the best, weirdest and life-changing years of my life. One moment from those four years that I’m reminded of every time I pass by is the moment when I realized that I wanted to be a journalist.

I was 15 years old and my life was headed in no other direction than straight down. I was a naive little skate-rat who smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds a day and skipped more classes than I went to. I didn’t really care about school and when I think back, I didn’t really care much about anything besides skateboarding. At the end of my freshman year, I was already planning to drop-out and work down the street at Louie’s Pizza. What a dream, right?

In August of 2009, I had been dating a girl who wrote for Palmer’s student newspaper, the Lever. Several times she told me that I was a good storyteller and that I had a knack for bringing the events of the past to the present light (those were basically her exact words). She told me that I should try taking the journalism class that was offered at Palmer and that I’d probably like it.

Now, I was still very dedicated to my rebellious skateboarding lifestyle and thus was incredibly skeptical of this whole journalism and writing thing. I mean, I barely went to class in the first place and to start learning something entirely new that I probably wouldn’t care very much about just seemed stupid. But I did it anyways.

I started the class that first semester of my sophomore year and couldn’t stand it for the first two weeks. I was the oldest student in the class and the instructor seemed a little too uptight for me. But once I started writing articles for the class, I realized that it wasn’t too bad. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all and I was getting pretty into it. And much to my surprise I wasn’t that bad at it either.

At the end of that first semester, the teacher emailed me and asked me and four other students from the class to join the Lever’s staff instead of taking the second semester of the course. I took this as a sign that I may be doing something right. After I wrote my first article for the Lever, I knew that this was my calling. Although I was still in love with skateboarding, I was having an affair with reporting and it felt really good!

Eventually, I stopped skateboarding as much and stopped hanging out with the crew of skaters that I felt were dragging me down. I wanted to commit to journalism and I wanted to aim my life in a direction that would be much more prosperous. And I did.

Although my grades from freshman year held me down a considerable amount, nothing held back the advancement of my journalistic skills. I wrote for the Lever for the rest of my time at Palmer and made a lot of improvements both in my writing and in my lifestyle.

I was accepted to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. in March of my senior year and couldn’t have been any happier. Three years earlier, I wasn’t even thinking about going to college and would have never expected to be in the position I was in.

This May I finished up my second year at CSU and have accomplished more than I ever imagined possible. I’m double-majoring in Journalism and English with a minor in religious studies; I recently accepted the photo editor position at CSU’s student newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian; I’ve reported for the Newspaper Association of America; and now, I’m the features intern at my hometown newspaper, The Gazette. All of these things are accomplishments that would have never been possible without my experience at Palmer High School.

Anyways, I consider it a blessing to be here at The Gazette and driving past Palmer every morning reminds me of that. I started my journalism career only three blocks away and every time I drive past that old brick building I can’t help but smile. For me, being an intern at The Gazette is the biggest accomplishment of my career so far and I couldn’t be happier.

In only five years I went from having no drive to having more determination than I had ever thought I could possess. I’m excited to see what I can accomplish here and what this experience will lead me to next.