For most of the country, the beginning of July signifies scorching heat, hotdogs and fireworks. For me, the first week in July means that my summer internship at the Herald-Free Press is halfway through.

The week of July 4 is my second favorite time of year, closely following Christmas. Both holidays bring happiness and excitement in my life. After all, when it’s the Fourth of July, you’re only six months from Christmas. And when it’s Christmas, you’re only six months from the Fourth of July again. 

As the Fourth rolls around, I begin to complete some of my yearly traditions, like buying fireworks and baking a cake that looks like an American flag, with strawberries and blueberries being the stars and stripes. Some of my friends at Mizzou would often describe me as “fiercely patriotic,” so it’s no wonder this week is one of my favorites.

The Fourth has always been a special time in my life, but this year it is even more significant. This is the first summer that I’ve had a full-time job, and the first summer I am doing something everyday with a purpose.  

In summers past, I spent most of my days watching TV or hanging out with my friends around the pool. This summer, though, has been spent mostly in front of a computer screen or out talking to people as I write stories, read press releases and sort through photos, looking for the best shot.

Even though I am significantly less tan this summer than usual, I would consider it my best summer so far. 

I’ve covered a variety of things during my first month, from the Polk County Youth Fair to the happenings at the local Tracker plant. I got to attend a barbecue in the library parking lot and got to learn about vaping at a recent town hall.  

When I was still in high school, I never realized all of the things that go on in our little town. I would skim the paper but never read it in depth. Things like wastewater treatment and school budgets never interested me then. And if I’m honest, they still don’t pique my interest like other things do.

But now I realize the value in stories like those. Stories that might not be fun or exciting, but contain information that is essential to the public. And without a news outlet to cover topics such as those, ignorance and darkness would abound.

As I think about this special time of year, I try to take time to recognize all of the privileges that we have here in the United States. We as Americans are lucky to live in a place with so many freedoms that allow us to pursue happiness. 

The freedom of the press is one of those privileges, and it allows me to have this internship that I’m enjoying so much. Without that amendment, who knows where I’d be? 

As this holiday rolls around, like it does each year, I encourage all of us to appreciate the freedoms that we are allowed and celebrate our great nation that we get to call home. 

But maybe that’s just the “fiercely patriotic” side of me.

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