by Sarah Bender
Four years ago, I walked into my first meeting as a member of WONC. I was 18 years old, anxious, and curious about what was in store for me. It was my first year at North Central, and the whole appeal to the school for me was hearing that the year before, FM89 had won the Intercollegiate Broadcast System (IBS) award for best college radio station in the nation. I started in September of 2016 and declared my major as broadcast communications.
My first term with WONC, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to get involved and take it all on. I took as many shifts as I could fit into my class and work schedule. Throughout the year, I discovered that overnight shifts were my favorite. I liked the freedom to pick the music and the friends I was making that would pop in and out of the station just to hang out at all hours of the night.
Perhaps one of the best things to happen during my first year as a member of WONC was meeting all the people I did. I made friends with a girl named Sam, our Music Director at the time, and immediately began helping her in that department as much as I could. Music is something I’ve always been passionate about, and working in the department was a whole new aspect of it I hadn’t seen before. Sam showed me the ropes of the music department and showed me how to do interviews. This led to me doing my first ever interview over the phone with my all-time favorite musician, Frank Iero. A pretty good start into interviewing if you ask me. I’m forever grateful to Sam for that.
After Sam graduated, I applied to fill her position as Music Director. I think in all my time at North Central, that was one of the best decisions I made. By this point, it was my sophomore year and I’d changed my major to studio art and my minor to broadcasting, but that didn’t change my drive to be involved at WONC. I got the position, and spent that whole year loving every second of it. Picking the music and making decisions on what got played on air turned out to be incredibly my thing. Later that year, I won the IBS award for best Music Director. I’d never won anything before, let alone a national award, so it was a big deal for me. As time went on, I was more and more appreciative of the creative outlet that FM89 provided to me. I think it’s something I’ll always be appreciative of.
Junior year was a little rougher for me. Due to some personal conflicts, I was unable to continue to be Music Director, but I didn’t let that stop me from having a voice at the station. I think the best thing to happen to the station that year, though, was that we were introduced to leadership of our General Manager, Zach DeWitz. Zach is someone I will always look up to. He’s not just there to help us become better broadcasters. Zach is one of those leaders that you feel comfortable going to for things unrelated to class and unrelated to the station. He’s willing to help out and provide guidance in life unrelated to radio. From the minute he stepped into the station as our GM, he’s been accommodating to all of us students. He’s been open to hearing everyone’s ideas. He’s created an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone there. It was exactly what I think the station needed at that time.
Now, at the end of my senior year, I reflect on my time at WONC, and all the ups and downs I had here, and all I feel is grateful. I’m forever going to be grateful for the learning experience WONC provided to me for broadcasting, and just for life in general. I’ve learned so much here about how it all works, but also about myself. I discovered my love for music photography and interviewing here. I’ve made friends that I’m confident will be in my life forever. I’ve experienced things I never thought I’d be able to experience before, and it’s all thanks to WONC. Leaving is so bittersweet to me. Bitter because I really don’t want to leave, but sweet because I know WONC has prepared me to move on to some big things in the future. I know that when I think back on my time at North Central, the majority of my good memories here happened because of my involvement at the station. It’s something that I know from this point forward I’m going to miss, but I also know that it’s a place that will always be there. I can’t wait to see how it evolves to be even better as future generations of students make their way into it.
I’m a little heartbroken that my final semester at WONC didn’t get to end with a proper final shift in the studio, but regardless, I’ll always think of WONC as a second home, and the people I met as a second family. WONC holds such a special place in my heart, and I’m so thankful to have been a part of it.