A childhood dream lived

Wandera addressing an audience at the Commonwealth of Kentucky

MBY DENNIS WANDERA

My journalism passion stems from childhood.

If you remember kids in your high school who used to read “news” at the school assembly and publish manila weekly “newspapers,” that was me. More than anything, it was my boyhood career calling.

This eventually earned me the information prefect post for three years in a row in high school, and student editor of the school magazine.

My journalism dream got a boost when my older sister Constance, who was then a student at UCU would bring me copies of The Standard newspaper during the holidays.

Fast forward, to 2008. I picked applications forms to join UCU. My family and mentors preferred that I apply for law but I resisted, to their chagrin. I reasoned that I would simply be studying what they desired for me but not necessarily what my life was created for. I opted for Mass Communication instead.

After two weeks as a freshman, I walked into The Standard newsroom and expressed my desire of being a student campus reporter. The cohort that manned the publication of the paper comprised John Semakula, Brian Semujju, Frank Obonyo and Prever Mukasa. They were very helpful in mentoring me to improve my stories and photographs.

Later, Arthur Oyako, Julius Aboko and Enoch Kasenyi equally spent time critiquing my stories. All these were a huge resource in stirring my passion. I am forever indebted to them!

They noticed the commitment and yearning I had to learn and by the end of my first freshman semester, I was carrying two to three bylines in every publication. The guild elections were held during that time and, because I had extensively covered the polls with fairness and objectivity, the new student president in 2009 appointed me into his cabinet, as head of the information and public relations docket.

By the end of 2010, the then outgoing guild government carried out an independent survey dubbed Steven Noll Annual Award (SNAP) in appreciation of the legacy of UCU’s founding VC to award students and staff who had gone an extra mile to excel in their different

spheres of influence, in the UCU community. I bagged the SNAP prize for top student’s columnist.

Timothy Murungi and I tied in first position. He would later take on the sports desk as I took charge of news. Brenda Asimwe and Sandra Natukunda, also among our group, came in as lifestyle and campus life writers, respectively.

I loved what I was doing and I was passionate about it. Because UCU had not only offered me an academic degree but also a rewarding university lifestyle, that helped me to make wise and Godly decisions that continue to shape my life until now. The job opportunity was a unique way for me to give back to my alma mater

Six months later after graduation in October 2011, together with five former classmates, I was shortlisted to grab three positions for the incoming batch of staff writers at The Standard.

by serving its community through the newspaper. The most profound thing about working at The Standard was creating relationships to a family that transcended the newsroom desk. I can proudly return to UCU and be sure to meet a ‘family member’ I left behind.

And at The Standard you get to pass on the training you get. I am pleased to know that some of the dedicated former students who came to me for guidance like Johnson Mayamba, Doreen Kajeru, Arthur Matsiko and Agatha Muhaise have since bounced back as staff.

I am sure they, too, can equip other journalism students in this respect to create a ripple effect. Remember, our only legacy comprises the people we lift up on this journey of life. Because of the hands- on training the newspaper offers, one leaves ready to excel even in bigger newsrooms.

At the end of my tenure, I had two offers, one from Daily Monitor and the other from Fountain Publishers Ltd. I opted for the latter although it was not too long before I quit for another career in corporate communications with humanitarian and non-profit bodies.

My work of communication advocacy for refugees in Uganda under UNHCR-supported programmes was entirely appraised due to the foundation I got at The Standard. I have continued to raise the banner higher through my communication and advocacy here in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois states, USA, where I am based now.

To the current journalism students, I advise that you take the newspaper with the seriousness it deserves. Do not let the old adage “we never know the worth of water until the well is dry” to catch up with you later after you have graduated. Follow your passion and never forget that God has held you in his hands all the way. I have no doubt that The Standard is a noble elevation for you and of unequalled influence upon the minds and morals of the UCU community.

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