So when I heard about the FlipSide program, I was eager for the opportunity to try my hand at journalistic writing. I submitted my application with no real expectations of being accepted, so when I found out my work was to be printed in a Saturday issue of the Charleston Gazette, I was a little shocked.
The smile on my face after seeing my name in print for the first time was huge -- bigger than any smile I'd had volunteering at the hospital (or working any other job, for that matter.) That's when I knew I was bitten by the journalism bug, and there was no shaking my desire to pursue a career as a writer.
The first time I walked into the Gazette office for a meeting with FlipSide editor Amy Robinson, I had to concentrate hard not to let my jaw drop to the floor. Being inside a real-life newsroom was such a thrill; I know I openly gawked at a few of the writers, who thankfully hid any annoyance they had at the time.
Since then, I've been in a few more newsrooms. I worked as an intern at the Charleston Daily Mail one summer and wrote for the West Virginia University school newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, for two years. I tried my hand at television journalism while working for WSAZ News Channel 3 and magazine journalism at West Virginia Living.
I even took my journalistic pursuits as far as London, England, where I wrote for a travel company called BritBound. This summer, I'll pack up my newly acquired Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and move to Washington, D.C., taking up space in the Huffington Post's newsroom as a multimedia and editorial intern.
The great thing is that I'm still at the start of my career. I was able to get the writing gigs I've already had because of the confidence I gained while working at FlipSide. That program introduced me to what I hope will become my life's work, and I'll be forever grateful for it.
I was two years old when FlipSide began and 16 when it inspired me to choose journalism. I hope it sticks around for another 20 years -- I'm sure there are some Charleston toddlers crawling around right now who would love to see their name in print a few years down the road!
Paige Lavender graduated from Riverside High School in 2007. She is soon to be an intern for the Huffington Post.