Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Kaitlyn Brennan
With so many fellow classmates planning to become mechanics or hunters, Eric Vaughn has certainly been an outlier since day one.
When he was younger, he would “beg [his] mother to buy [him] notebooks that would soon be filled with the stories of a child’s imagination.” While schoolmates learned to shoot guns or fix cars, he wrote as many stories as he could fit into a notebook.
The stack of notebooks grew day by day as Vaughn continued to write more science fiction stories in his free time. This talent turned out to be a blessing and a curse for a young child in Robinson, Illinois. Vaughn’s passion for creative writing proved to open many doors in his future, but it also made him an outsider in his own community.
Vaughn’s hometown only has a 7,600 people where “you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know.” In this small, farm town of central Illinois, the people could best be described as “rednecks” according to Vaughn. In Robinson, Vaughn was considered different because of the career he chose to pursue. His father always dreamed that he would attend the farming school down the street, but for Vaughn, this was his worst nightmare.
Instead of spending his days harvesting corn, Vaughn spends his time dreaming of pursuing computer science and writing. He enrolled in Lincoln Trail College for this coming year to receive his associate’s degree in science and plans to pursue a career in computer science at Purdue University.
Where his dad always had hopes for him to be a farmer, Vaughn’s brother, Austin, has always known that Vaughn would follow a different path.
“From the time that [Vaughn] was little, he has always wanted to do something with technology or computers,” Austin said.
Vaughn has followed this exact path as he has transitioned from small town high school to Lincoln Trail.
Vaughn is using drumming in the form of a music scholarship to put himself through college. Though he knows that it will take a lot of work, Vaughn has committed to weekly piano and drum lessons in addition to playing in one of the college’s band in order to receive a scholarship.
Vaughn strongly believes that it will be worth his while as he loves his instrument and is extremely driven to defy the stereotypes that come with growing up in a small farm town.
“Life sucks sometimes, but it always gets better,” Vaughn said.