Warwhoop! a Sonnet and Dedication to the Teacher Who Made It Happen
Onward, we pushed through a star-studded night,
manipulating words ideal for print.
We cut and paste, fitting those words just right.
Well before that last hour came and went.
For a time, that paper was our life -
lost some sleep and some patience to bear.
We worked together, put aside our strife,
and put the pieces together with great care.
Together we made that paper come alive.
We gave it a heart and a fickle soul.
To make this baby of ours survive,
And go forth to tell the news as a whole.
In that time, we lived for the printed news.
The paper gave us (the staff) our dues.
- (dedicated to the staff of El Camino’s Warwhoop, 1990-91)
A Dedication to JC
This sonnet is dedicated to a few groups of individuals that did something they loved. They meticulously worked through the night to put together a college newspaper. Editors and staff writers for El Camino College’s Warwhoop were never asked to stay until two or three o’ clock night to put the final touches on a weekly. But, they did anyway.
They stayed because they felt it was important to the community it served, as well as for them. Also, many stayed because writing and editing an edition of the newspaper was like being an artist trying to perfect a masterpiece.
This passion has an inspiration: Jolene Combs, the long-time newspaper adviser and journalism instructor at the community college. Her passion for the business was infectious. And anyone who ever worked on her newspaper or sat in her classroom knew this. Not only that, they shared her love and became extremely devoted to it.
Jolene (or JC as we called her) was responsible for turning the WarWhoop (which is now known as The Union) into a national presence. At one point, would-be journalism majors shunned the four-year university in order to be part of this community college newspaper. As a result, the paper won several top college awards, including the Columbia University Pacemaker Award (in which it competed with public, private and elite universities throughout the country).
She was also a woman who'd stay until the wee hours with the staff to ensure the paper made its deadline delivery the next morning
I don’ believe in magic, but if I did, I’d assume JC was a wizard. She’s one of the few people who could be pleasantly sarcastic to her students. She could call their work “crappy” and “horrible” with a smile; yet the student would laugh and say “I know. I’ll do better.” Very few teachers or instructors could pull that off.
Unfortunately, that number got a little smaller. Several years ago, JC suddenly passed away. Her memorial was attended by friends, family and nearly every student she ever had over her 30+ years of teaching. When one of the speakers asked for her former students to stand, nearly everyone in the church did (and this was a huge church).
This sonnet is not only dedicated to the WarWhoop staff I worked with more than 20 years ago. It’s also to honor the work and contribution of a woman with a witty and sharp tongue who happened to get people to go beyond what they thought they were capable of doing.
She was also a woman who'd stay until the wee hours with the staff to ensure the paper made its deadline delivery the next morning. She only went home when the job was done.
You can go home, now, JC.
© 2014 Dean Traylor