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Senior reflection: my time at The Olaf Messenger


In two weeks, I will be walking off the Hill a different person than when I walked onto it.


The class of 2024 stepped onto the campus in the midst of a pandemic — each student was allowed two helpers, one hour, and had to be masked in the mid-August heat. For the first few months of school, I feared a sudden announcement that would send us home, similar to the experiences of my high school friends.


Finding a community in the midst of a pandemic was, in many ways, difficult. Organizations and clubs often serve as a welcoming space for new students, but the pandemic halted in-person meetings and events. Even the Org Fair was hosted on Zoom.


I’m not exactly sure how I joined The Olaf Messenger, affectionately called “The Mess” — I have no recollection of going to the Org Fair. But somehow, I ended up in the pitch meeting Zoom call with other first-year students and Mess veterans.


My entire first year, the Mess pitch meetings were online. Yet, a place affected by negative circumstances quickly became a community. People like Claire Strother ’22, Jake Maranda ’22, Grace Peacore ’21, and Brennan Brink ’21 lit up the Zoom call, cracking jokes and overflowing with enthusiasm. I remember feeling so inspired by them, despite only seeing them through a computer screen.


Working for the paper hasn’t always been easy. In fact, I would say the majority of my time here has been quite difficult. As an executive editor for the past two years, I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns over not feeling good enough or appreciated enough.


But these feelings are all worth it when I receive emails from alumni and community members, watch the growth of contributing writers and staff members, and even simply see someone reading the paper.


I give St. Olaf’s liberal arts curriculum a lot of credit for my education, but it could not have replaced my experience at The Olaf Messenger. This newspaper has pushed me to write consistently, work in a professional setting, and mentor other students. The paper has provided me with opportunities to engage with the St. Olaf community in ways I would have never expected. I have met so many wonderful individuals on campus due to my involvement at the Mess.


I think about how Brennan, Claire, Grace, and Jake initially created this welcoming environment and the people after them who continued to inspire and encourage me. I only hope that I am viewed similarly by the younger students at The Mess, and I know that they will one day serve as role models to future Oles.


While my time at The Mess has come to an end, this publication will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll be forever grateful for this experience.

Ainsley Francis is from Charlotte, N.C.

Her major is English.