Stories have long been the way I process the world. When I first learned to write, I would staple together pieces of computer paper to form handwritten ‘novels.’ I later graduated to Microsoft Word, where my adolescent self would pen ill-conceived characters based on a suburban understanding of the world and whatever novel I had read most recently. When I made it to high school, I suppressed this love of storytelling, opting instead to participate in activities that, in my mind, would result in an acceptance letter from the country’s best colleges. Though I was constantly busy running from a club to work to school to volunteering, I didn’t like myself very much.
After a year at Syracuse, I reconnected with my childhood love for storytelling. This time, though, I realized that the world is already filled with stories. Every person I pass has a complex background worthy of being heard. So I started listening.
That started with a transfer into Newhouse, where I now study Newspaper and Online Journalism in addition to Policy Studies in Maxwell.
I started taking up projects I cared about. I worked with a band on campus, NONEWFRIENDS., who have since become some of my closest friends. I wrote stories for The Daily Orange about housing discrimination, labor policy, and systemic racism. I headed the Shaw Center’s public relations efforts, making videos and writing stories about their incredible work throughout the community. I produced a podcast about an activist in Syracuse, which is part of an award winning series.
And last fall, I got on a plane at Boston Logan to start my trip to Rabat, Morocco. There, I studied journalism under the country’s best. I heard my host-mother’s stories through our limited understanding of each other’s languages. I passed hot afternoons sipping mint tea with the most amazing people I have ever met, Morocco’s LGBTQ activists, who speak their truth in a country that has criminalized them for who they love or their gender identity. Together, we worked on a video to tell their story in a safe and respectful way. We are still friends.
It was through that experience, at 21 years old, that I finally got the courage to say something that I myself had long been pushing down: “I’m gay.”
When I arrived back in the states, I was geared up to start my next project, a deep dive into America’s juvenile justice system with dozens of student reporters from around the country with News21. The project, which investigated a wide range of issues with the system, took 8 months and will be published this week. It was all produced remotely.
These projects, which have brought me deep joy and catalyzed me to grow personally, are just the beginning of what’s possible in a world teeming with stories begging to be heard. And I am excited that Blackstone LaunchPad, the glass box on the first floor of Bird library, is my next outlet, starting this fall as a new Global Fellow and digital storyteller.
So, I’ll continue to tell stories and get better at it each step of the way. But, instead of the computer paper novels that started it all, it will be computer screens broadcasting my words to the world.
Story by Patrick Linehan ’21, LaunchPad Global Fellow
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications – Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Newspaper & Online Journalism and Policy Studies