When I applied for NPR’s Next Generation Radio, I thought it was a longshot. I’ve done some audio work before, but I’ve lived mostly in the print world. When I received my acceptance email, there was a wave of emotions: excitement, ambition and energy, certainly. But also, nerves.

What if I don’t know how to do anything? What if I mess up? What if I don’t make a good impression? And most importantly, what if I don’t do my story justice?

From Day 1, the whole Next Gen team ensured I had the tools I needed to succeed. From the sound engineers to the digital editors, from the managing editor to the photographer, each person had so much expertise to impart. Team members were not only incredible professionals in their respective fields, but also exceptional, encouraging and patient educators. The training I received this week will be in my back pocket for the rest of my career.

First and foremost, my mentor Nina has been amazing. She invested countless hours to make sure I succeeded. Not only has her help been remarkably instrumental, but I also feel like I’ve made a friend. If I’m ever in Salt Lake City, we’re definitely grabbing dinner.

Selena, the sound engineer, dropped nuggets of wisdom all week about audio editing, workflow and prioritizing mental health. Working with audio can be intimidating, but her approach resonated with me so much. Getting to socialize with her and the other team members at our mixer was one of the highlights of the week. This team is full of inspiring people.

I met the photographer, Sam, at my source’s business early in the morning of Day 2. She painstakingly took me through each shot. She showed me what worked and what didn’t, how to adjust my camera to get high-quality pictures and to put myself physically in the best position to get that million-dollar photo. She made me comfortable working with a medium I’d rarely used before, and I’m confident I have a solid foundation of skills to build on.

One moment of the week especially stood out to me. I used to be a teacher, and on Day 4, I received a message that one of my former students died in a car accident that morning. We were in the middle of final edits at the time, but I needed some time to grieve. Nina was so accommodating, patient and supportive. She was the reason diving back into the work didn’t overwhelm me, but instead became an outlet to focus my energy.

Not only have I learned the ropes of radio this week, but through these mentors and experts, I’ve also learned to know my worth, take care of myself and push through my self doubts. At the beginning of the week, I was a little skeptical when the Next Gen leaders said we were now a family. But now, I’m a believer.

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