It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Cigar.

It sounds trite, like the usual moral spouted off at the end of an 80’s movie. It’s true, though. I was told from the start that the only first-hand experience I would get in journalism would be at the Cigar. It has turned out to be the best decision I’ve made at the University of Rhode Island.

I was able to grow in a number of ways here, and not just as a writer. When I turned in my first story to then-Sports Editor Mike Abelson, it was about the cross country team, barely reached 400 words and it did not feature any quotes. It was, in short, a total disaster.

I told Mike I was willing to work to get better, and I did. I wrote sometimes up to five stories a week my freshman year, striving to improve with each one. My reward at the end of the year was running uncontested for Mike’s position. I had several ideas on how to revamp the section, and I like to think I did. However, the experience I gained here is second to the friends I have made.

People wouldn’t call me the easiest person to like. I am opinionated, loud, sometimes vexing and willing to argue about just about anything. My freshman year was just about spent entirely in the Cigar office, with the only people who really understood me and were willing to talk with me until the lights went out in the Memorial Union.

I took the Student Senate beat because it meant more time to chat with then-Editor-in-Chief Hensley Carrasco, Managing Editor Shawn Saiya, News Editor Nancy Lavin and the other writers and editors who were on staff at the time. They were all seniors, but they gave their time to a freshman trying to get better. I still do my best to keep in touch with all of them to this day because they helped give me my start.

Since then, almost all of my new friendships have been a result of the Cigar. I have grown to be close friends with my fellow News Editor Brandon Maxwell, with whom I attended high school, over the years. We never spoke much during our secondary days, but the Cigar was where we became friends.

Former Editor-in-Chief Alli Farrelly beat me in the election for the top spot at the Cigar, and the board made the right choice. She was the top reason this paper turned around last year, as she drove all of us to be better. She even helped recruit two of our most important editors from last year, Ryan Wichelns and Carla Aveledo.

Colin Howarth, the other senior departing from the Class of 2016, is one of the most dynamic reporters I have met. He started as a sports reporter, then moved up to sports editor; took on writing news and most recently did a series on religion. I feel those three deserved to be called out individually for being with me for all four years of this ride, and I’ve enjoyed every moment with them.

Perhaps, though, the most satisfying part of leaving the Cigar is that I know it is in good hands. Despite the fact we never get the respect we deserve from certain organizations, the groups of reporters and editors rising in the ranks will make this publication even better.

Our Editor-in-Chief Casey Kelly would hop on a grenade for the Cigar, and that same mentality extends down the chain of command. Managing Editor Olivia Perreault, Web Editor Emma Gauthier, Entertainment Editor Miranda Fraraccio and Sports Editor Alex House have all restored my faith in the future of the Cigar after my class graduates. Each of those editors possesses a unique skill set, and their dedication shows in their work.

The experience I gained at the Cigar was vitally important, but I remember the long Wednesday night productions more than I do the lacrosse article I wrote my freshman year. I remember every meeting and its nuances more than some basketball story. The Cigar has given me more than I could ever give back to it, and for that I am eternally grateful.