Guest Blogger: Kristin Anderson
It started as a typical Sunday on a bitter cold January morning in 2007. My photographer and I approached the news desk, dreading an assignment outside in the blinding snow. Our editor handed us a police press release detailing the events of a drug deal gone bad. We looked at each other, knowing full well that we would not be welcomed guests in the most dangerous housing project in Cleveland.
We drove up to the scene, now empty of the police presence that had filled the area during the shootout. After many years as a television news reporter I had covered this story too often. This time it was a 14-year-old boy who, ironically, lost his life while selling drugs to survive. He never had a father. His mother left him. His grandmother kicked him out and the Cleveland School district gave up on him when he dropped out at the age of 12. He did not even have someone to give him a proper burial. Everyone in his life failed him, no one told him that he mattered. I was haunted by this teen's death. I could not stop asking myself, "What can I do to make a difference?" I tried to write a heart-touching story that would penetrate the television screen and reach the hearts of viewers. It somehow inspired the community to pull together and bury the teenager, but it wasn't enough for me. A year later, I made a life-changing decision to leave television and start teaching upcoming news professionals about the changing world of news and deliver a message that THEY MATTER!
In the past two years in the classroom, from West Chester University to Lincoln, I have found that students know how to dream. They know what they would like out of a career, but they don't fully realize how important they are and how much they have to contribute. As a result, they don't know how to make their dreams turn into reality. When I ask them what they want "to be" after graduation, they often respond with "music producer, news anchor, radio announcer," and that's just from one student. That's impossible! It's great to shoot for the stars but where is the reality? What I am trying to do this semester is get students to focus on their dream and come with a realistic plan to make it happen. I can teach them how to write in broadcast style, how to use the ENG cameras to record professional video, and how to edit using the highest quality equipment in the industry, but it all falls to the wayside without a focused plan.
I'm going to experiment with one class and have them narrow down their career path to just one position. From there I'm going to have them pick a role model in their chosen industry and research how that person reached the top of his/her field. Finally, students will have to come up with a plan of their own to find internships, meet mentors, create resumes and job search. I wish I could blog that I have attempted this approach in the past, at numerous universities, and 100% of the students are successful in their chosen careers; however, the truth is that I don’t know. I am relatively new to this, but I know that something needs to be done to motivate students to reach their potential, to rise up and not be average.
I can't go back in time and save the life of the 14-year-old boy in Cleveland, but I can try to get students to realize that THEY MATTER, and that the world needs what they have to offer!!!