ROP Newsletters

NEWSLETTER SPECS
• 8-PAGES
• 8.5X11″ TRIM SIZE
• STAPLE BOUND
• FULL-COLOR
• FOUR FACILITIES EACH PRODUCED ONE NEWSLETTER PER QUARTER
• NEWSLETTER CONTENT FOCUSED ON HIGHLIGHTING THE PROGRAM’S EFFICACY AND THE INSPIRING STORIES OF ITS STUDENTS
• SOME FACILITIES PLACED HIGHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF PHOTOS OF STUDENTS (TO PROTECT IDENTITIES)

From 2008-2009, I was the staff writer for an organization who provided care for at-risk youth. The ambiguous job title of “staff writer” was a catch-all for anything that involved writing, such as our marketing materials, website content, and the series of workbooks we developed for our kids. Everyone joked, however, that I was the “newsletter” guy because they were one of our primary marketing tools, and the company CEO had a thing for them.

When I inherited the position of staff writer, the company had already been printing the newsletters for a number of years. So, they had a template from which I could work, but most of my predecessors weren’t editors or didn’t have much experience creating print-ready documents. There was a lot of fine-tuning I had to do to the existing template (to make them uniform and ready for print), but that was the easy part.

What I found to be most difficult was actually getting the content for each newsletter. At the time, we had four main academies that were each supposed to produce a quarterly, 8-page newsletter. One of those pages would be provided by the corporate office (me), and the back page was essentially the mailing information, so they had to provide six pages worth of content every three months. Unfortunately for me, the people who were assigned to develop the content were not literature majors back in college or professional photographers. They were people devoted to working with at-risk youth (administrative people included). That’s a great thing, but often I wound up receiving “finished” articles that were nothing more than rough first drafts, as well as accompanying photos that were low-resolution and probably taken with an old flip-phone. I would often receive all of the material at the eleventh hour and then I’d have to scramble to rewrite everything and/or massage the photos enough in Photoshop so that they could be printable. Sometimes a facility would start out strong only to falter in the end. They’d submit to me 85% of the work a few weeks into the new quarter, but then leave out an article or two until a week after we were supposed to send the document to the printer. The newsletters became my nemesis during my tenure as the staff writer. However, my frustrations with the process were probably the same as any editor in the history of publishing. In spite of the oftentimes stressful experience, I did learn a ton of lessons about writing, photography, editing, design, and collaboration.

“I took the job in the corporate office and put my communications degree to work.”

The Backstory Behind My Work at ROP

Working with at-risk youth had been a goal of mine for many years. After moving to Lake Tahoe in 2005, I discovered a couple of different options for doing so. Although I did not find my first job ideal and only stayed with the company for eight months, I was inspired to continue on in the field. So, I landed another job working as a coach counselor for a much larger organization. This other company was in a whole other league. That’s not to say that my time there was perfect either, but their program was top-notch and everyone from the top down was on the same page (thanks to the program).

Being direct care staff meant I was doing shift work. I lived at the group home for half of the week and had the other half off. There was a huge emphasis on evidence-based practices (with regard to behavioral modification) that included education, community service, counseling, and sports. Due to the program’s structure, I almost felt like I was back in the USMC. Some people don’t necessarily like that style of living, but for me it was normal and it appeared to be effective for the kids, as daily structure was something that was sorely missing from their upbringings.

I continued to work as direct care staff for the following year and a half and then was offered the opportunity to work in the corporate office as the staff writer. As rewarding as it was to be direct care staff, honestly, I was already burned out.

I took the job in the corporate office and put my communications degree to work. I remained the staff writer for another year and a half, but by December 2009 (with the great recession in full-swing) I realized that I was no longer a valuable asset to the company. Two weeks before the holiday season of 2009 I was laid off. But it was probably the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Leading up to that point I had become so frustrated because I couldn’t seem to complete anything. For every job I finished, another three popped up. And they were all high priority. Like the hydra — cut off one head and two rise in its place. On top of that, it seemed as if a couple of weeks following the completion of a job, that job would re-emerge on my desk because somebody wanted to make an additional change to it. It was like Lucas going back to re-edit Star Wars over and over. Just let it go and allow the past to stay in the past!

Anyway, being laid off spurred me into action. During the following year looking for non-existent jobs (nobody was hiring at that point) and collecting unemployment, I self-published my first graphic novel. Not a bad way to go out.

I'm standing on the left of the picture. This was taken on the border between Nevada and Utah. We had just spent the week providing support to bicycle riders (as well as many of us riding ourselves) of the 2007 OATBRAN. The OATBRAN is a bicycle tour that begins at Stateline (CA/NV border) and takes HWY 50 the 500 miles across the state of Nevada.

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