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Student eyes career as photojournalist

Student Wagner

Jacquelyn Wagner is pursuing a career in photojournalism at Lansing Community College. Photo by Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Associate Editor

Just like doctors are focused and lawyers are argumentative, journalists are spirited.

LCC student Jacquelyn Wagner has always been a journalist at heart, but chose LCC to officially start her career in photojournalism. She is determined to show the world exactly what she sees, as she sees it.

She is currently taking Composition II, Biology, Photography and Cultural Anthropology for a total of 12 credits. She is also working with a smile at Grand Traverse Pie Company part-time until she can spend all her time focusing a lens and capturing the moment.

“I started taking pictures on a trip to Guatemala at 14,” Wagner said. “I got my first camera specifically for that trip and realized how cool it was to take pictures. Then I went to Costa Rica and I started taking more wildlife pictures and it just became my thing.”

Though she got some great shots, her trip to Guatemala City was more than just a sight-seeing mission. Wagner was adopted at 9 months old and went back to meet her birth mother for the first time, with a slew of her siblings in tow.

“She was super nice, super short,” Wagner said of her birth mother. “I am actually the tallest in my family, so I really felt like a giant because they are all 4-foot-10, 4-foot-11. The tallest is like 5-foot-3, but I am 5-foot-5.”

To some, height might not be the first thing they would notice. But when one meets blood relatives for the first time in their entire life with adult eyes, it is difficult to not get lost comparing the little things.

“It was overwhelming; there was a lot of family. We couldn’t really communicate with them very well because we only had three translators between all of us … (My mother) basically said they had to do it. She asked me to forgive her and she said she was sorry. I told her I was fine, that it was okay.”

Wagner means it when she says she is just fine, mostly thanks to her adoptive parents, who couldn’t be more grateful to have her in their lives.

She said they always celebrate the part of her that was born in Guatemala, but cherish every moment she spends as their daughter.

“They call me God’s gift,” Wagner said with a giggle. “Every year on the anniversary of when they got me, they bring me a cake.

“They make a little cheesecake and tell the story over and over again ... I don’t call them my adoptive parents. They are just my parents. They raised me; I never knew anything else.”

Wagner suspects she is Mayan like her siblings but isn’t sure. She said that she felt an inherent connection to Guatemala, but it was mixed with a great deal of culture shock.

“I just couldn’t stop thinking how cool it was, just to be able to experience a culture that you aren’t really familiar with, but is technically your own,” she said, “It’s an experience, you fit in but you don’t. If you were raised there, it would have been yours, but you weren’t so there’s a lot of things you don’t know.”

Wagner plans on graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and then continuing on to see the world.

“I just want to travel … anywhere,” she said. “I don’t really have a place a mind, just somewhere tropical with lots of wildlife.”

She said her favorite animal is the shark, but she loves all animals. She owns two dogs and three cats. If she was searched, amongst her belongings would be a small sketchbook filled with sketches of different aquatic life, smushed flowers behind tape, and stippling that rival perfection.

In her spare time, Wagner thrift shops to add to her glassware collection, hunts for a new camera, or exercises like a mad woman.

“I try to work out six days a week,” Wagner said. “I like yoga but I usually like lifting more or running. I have been sprinting lately, so that’s been fun.”

Her favorite artist at the moment is “Hozier.” She said she couldn’t pick a favorite song, because there simply too many to choose from. But she was able to readily identify her favorite TV shows as “Family Guy” and “Rick and Morty.”

Her boyfriend, Whittaker Gonzalez, sees Wagner as Wagner sees the world … picture perfect.

“I love how energetic she is and how she has passion for everything,” Whittaker said, “She has a different way of doing, quite literally, everything.

“For example, every night she throws all her pillows on the floor and uses her stuffed animals instead. Just the way she takes on every problem sets her apart. I couldn’t live without her.”

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