On May 11, my oldest daughter graduated from college. On that day, during the commencement acts, I was not only watching her becoming an adult, but I was also listening to one of the most motivational speeches I have heard in my life.
You see, the guest speaker was a prior student who, after graduating, went ahead and created her own community magazine. She had no idea what she was doing. All she knew was that she wanted to run her own magazine and that nothing was going to stop her... not even her inexperience.
Fast forward two months (this was back in July 2019), there I was, running my own community newspaper. A dream that started many years ago when I got my first rejection letter for an opinion article that I had written for the Orlando Sentinel. That rejection letter did a number on me and made me stop writing for a while... until one day, I tried again and, this time, the piece was published by them and, with that, came my new desire to become a journalist and to finally, create my online newspaper.
My dream of starting the newspaper came with a lot of challenges, and one of them was being stationed overseas for three years due to my husband's active-duty military status. At that time, we were sent to Zimbabwe, Africa and my dreams of starting my beloved newspaper were put, once again, on the back burner.
In May 2016, we came back to the United States after my husband retired from the military and, after dealing with many health issues, I finally decided that it was time for me to make my dream of becoming a freelance writer for major publications come true... that was until one day, I received another rejection letter... this time from The New York Times. On that day, I again stopped writing and became involved in a program called Vet Voices to try to fill the void I had in my life. Believe me when I say that Vet Voices was a gift sent from heaven. They not only gave my life a different meaning but also made me realize that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
During my daughter's commencement ceremony, I had another gift sent from heaven... and this time it came in the form of a fellow journalist who, like me, had a dream. But, the difference between her and I was that she made hers become a reality, even when she had all the odds against her, and I was still wondering how to make mine come true. But, her speech made me realize that it was time to do it... that it was time for me to stop procrastinating... that it was time for me to stop allowing my fears to control my dreams.
On that day, I snapped out of my self-pity and decided that it was time... that the time for making my dream come true had arrived and that I needed to put my big girl's pants on and do it. And I did. Oh boy, I did. The next day after that commencement ceremony, I took the first step and created the first page of my newspaper, which I tentatively called The Haines City Herald, but later on that night, I changed it to The Northeast Polk Gazette after my husband asked me to think bigger, which I did.
Now, here I am, writing this piece to present to you my biggest dream, my new baby, and the result of my hard work.
With this nonprofit community newspaper, I not only want to bring news that matters, but I also want to use it as a way to bring awareness to the work that other nonprofit organizations do in our community.
The truth is that this newspaper is not a typical newspaper... this is a project full of love, not only from my part but from the many Veterans that will contribute to it from time to time.
I hope you guys give this newspaper a chance.. give me a chance to show you what hard work and dedication looks like. I promise you, I will not disappoint you. Thank you in advance for your support.
Marielys Camacho Reyes (M.C. Reyes)
Founder / Editor-in-Chief