Life Changing Summer 

Wow, what a summer it was! Where do I begin? This was one for the books.

Interning at NBC News in Washington, D.C.

I had a truly impactful second summer at NBC News in Washington, D.C. As you may know, I’m an Emma L. Bowen (EBF) fellow at the station.  This unique fellowship affords me the opportunity to return to the bureau during each summer of college. A little background: The EBF was created in 1989 to diversify the media industry. For over 25 years, it has provided internships to minority students at top corporate media sponsors. Graduates of the program have gone on to pursue successful careers as producers, journalists and more. Emma L. Bowen, a community activist, Rev. Dr. Everett Parker (national advocate) and Dan Burke (corporate champion & father of Steve Burke, president of NBC News) formed the foundation. Board members include industry giants such as, Dennis Swanson, the executive who launched Oprah Winfrey’s career.

The skills that I’ve  acquired as an EBF fellow are invaluable and the memories are everlasting. I’ve learned and grown so much from working in Human Resources last summer and working with the digital media team this year.

Logging candidates speeches
Logging candidates speeches

As a member of the ‘Decision 2016’ politics unit,  my duties consisted of logging, transcribing, verbating and writing notes to send to over 400 team members. These tasks allowed me to become more familiar with the political candidates talking points/stump speeches.  I also learned how to select important and compelling soundbites for various network shows.   This had to be done quickly, usually within minutes of their closing remarks.  I’m thankful that senior members of the team recognized my hard work.  One message that I received from a supervisor read, “The entire network depends on you. We are all proud, and grateful, for your incredible work.”  That note motivated me to work even harder.

I also had the opportunity to timecode 24+ hours of U.S. House and Senate floor sessions in various systems. While some may liken this to watching “paint dry,” I actually enjoyed it.  There’s something very interesting about listening to raw and unedited footage of the inner workings of our government. My involvement with this task ended when the recess began.

Going to New York

This summer, I also visited New York for the first time.  An annual trip to NYC after our first summer interning is a part of the EBF fellowship. This was an out-of-this-world experience. Preparing for the EBF conference consisted of copious amounts of research, networking and reading.  I vividly remember the entire experience from point A to B.

On the way to New York
Working on a story while on the way to New York

It was a sunny morning when I left from the nation’s capital for the conference. As my alarm clock blared at 4:00 a.m., my excitement for the upcoming journey intensified.  The Amtrak train departed at 6:30 a.m. I had the opportunity to travel in a (much anticipated!) window seat to NYC with Courtney, my fellow Emma Bowen scholar at NBC Washington. It was nice to have someone to share the 4+ hour trip with. Every moment was exhilarating, from seeing the beautiful Philadelphia skyline, to taking photos as we approached the Big Apple. As soon as I arrived in the “city that never sleeps,” I did a Facebook Live to update my friends and family. Next,  we had to try to get an Uber from Penn Station to the Grand Hyatt, which is where the conference was held. Lesson learned: Uber was much cheaper than Lyft– by about fifteen dollars!

With Gio Benitez, ABC News correspondent & EBF alum
With Gio Benitez, ABC News correspondent & EBF alum

As soon as we arrived at the Grand Hyatt, we had to prepare for the opening programming, which included an alumni panel and a welcome from Rahsaan Harris, the EBF president, and Sandra Rice, the SVP. One of my most cherished moments was meeting Gio Benitez, an ABC News correspondent, at the inaugural Hall of Fame breakfast, which included a performance by the Classical Theater of Harlem and talks from friends of Emma Bowen, Rev. Dr. Everett Parker and Dan Burke.  Gio is the first person who told me about the EBF.   It’s how he got his start in television.  It felt so good to be able to thank him in person.

Visiting 30 Rock was one of my favorite experiences. It was a dream come true and reminded me of the following words that NBC’s Hoda Kotb wrote to me in 2013 after introducing her at the National Press Club, “I’ll see you at 30 Rock!”

"See you at 30 [Rock]" from NBC's Hoda Kotb
“See you at 30 [Rock]” from NBC’s Hoda Kotb
Comcast/NBCUniversal EBF Corporate Networking Event with fellows, Aimee & Courtney
Comcast/NBCUniversal EBF Corporate Networking Event with fellows, Aimee & Courtney

I’ve watched the TODAY show for many years, so it was nice to actually see Rockefeller Plaza in person.   While there, I attended the Comcast/NBC Universal Emma Bowen Corporate Networking Reception with pages, talent acquisition managers, and other fellows.  I’m so grateful to NBCUniversal for the generous investment they’ve made in me, and I’m determined to pay-it-forward.

The rest of the conference consisted mostly of professional development sessions, networking, alumni panels, luncheons, and entertainment.  We had discussions about topics including production, editorial judgement, sales, succession planning and building a positive reputation. A standout session was the one with Rick Jefferson, the director of production at CBS News. He spoke about showing viewers an exclusive look at One World Trade Center.   Other speakers also talked about how to add value in the workplace and beyond. The venue was wonderful and the attendees and staff were equally memorable.

I met so many inspiring people in NYC. Seeing Time Square at night was another highlight. I truly believe that we meet everyone for a reason and I’m grateful that I was able to make new business contacts.

$4 Donut
$4 Donut

I can now say that I’ve tried to hail a taxi, I’ve seen $4 donuts, I’ve almost gotten knocked down by a lady with a baby stroller, and I’ve gotten lost in one of the busiest cities in the world. Going on the NYC subway was a new and, I’ll just say, interesting experience.  Fortunately, the EBF purchased unlimited passes for us so that we could explore the city as much as time permitted.

 

New York, it's been real!
New York, it’s been real!

New York ✓ – Back to D.C. 

Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention

Imagine this scene. One word comes to mind: intense. It was around 9:50 pm. during the Republican National Convention.  A speaker just finished talking.  A producer called and said that she needed the most compelling bites by 10:00 p.m. for one of the shows.  My heart began to beat quickly as adrenaline filled my body. I was checking for accuracy while also trying to make sure that full quotes/transcriptions were delivered on time.  I was able to finish that assignment on time. That was one of the most rewarding tasks I’ve ever completed.

During most nights of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, I left the station at midnight or later.  By this time, the Metro was no longer running, so I had to get an Uber each night. While 12 a.m. may sound late, the work that I was doing was so exhilarating that I could have stayed much longer.  It was such a unique experience to watch history being made.  I’d do it all over again.

While at the station, I also had the opportunity to participate in morning production meetings. During these, I was able to see how stories are pitched, while also gaining more insight into network operations.

Giving back is something that’s very important to me. I had a great time helping with the NBC Washington Clear the Shelters event.   As part of the annual national drive, local pet shelters offered waived or reduced adoption fees.  The head of the NBC4’s social media team asked me to manage social media for the event.  I love social media, so it was excitement that I accepted the assignment.  While doing this, I had the opportunity to post to Facebook (450,000+ followers), Instagram (28,000+ followers), Twitter (190,000+ followers), and Snapchat.  My Facebook Live video was watched by over 4,000 viewers.

Another memorable event at the station was  the Black Employees Network (BEN) Insight networking program in preparation for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention. During this event, Jackie Bradford, the station’s general manager, asked me to come in front of the entire audience to practice an elevator pitch.  This reminded of me when we were in Boston, M.A.  That was where I first met Bradford after doing my elevator pitch.

I have so much respect for the unquestionable work ethic of all of the producers, writers, editors, correspondents, and anchors at the network. On the last day of my second summer, my team surprised me with cupcakes as a thank you.

Another highlight: summer ice-cream days!  Ken Strickland, the Washington Bureau Chief, and Jackie Bradford, hosted ice cream days for all staff as a thank you.

Visiting the U.S. State Department 

At the U.S. State Department
At the U.S. State Department

I really enjoyed my visit to the U.S. Department of State. I had the opportunity to spend a whole day there learning about press coverage of foreign relations and policy.  Attending a press briefing with John Kirby, press secretary for the State Department, was especially enlightening. Here is a photo of me standing in the place where Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent, likes to file live shots.

 

Full Circle Moment 

Another memorable experience was speaking at the Asian American Journalists Association’s JCamp.  I attended the AAJA JCamp in 2014 in Boston.  The program is held in a different city each year.  As an “esteemed alumnus,” I was invited to speak to the 2016 class at George Washington University. The program directors asked me to help kickoff the program and share tips with the new students about how they can make the most of their week in D.C.  I really enjoyed meeting everyone and it felt surreal because just a few years ago, I was in their shoes.

Talking with AAJA JCamp
Talking with AAJA JCamp students

The National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists Joint Convention 

At NABJ Convention Another memorable experience from this summer was attending the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Joint Convention. This was the first time that the two largest minority journalism associations convened. The NABJ/NAHJ convention was filled with insightful programming, leadership training, career fairs, professional networking and development, and informative sessions ranging from social media to diversity in news. My favorite sessions were the ones related to social media (for which I have copious notes!). I also attended NABJ events such as the Hall of Fame luncheon, hosted by Bill Whittaker, CBS News. Speakers such as U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch shared thought provoking messages about race in America.

Reporting on Hillary Clinton’s historic address to the convention 
While there, I had the opportunity to report on Hillary Clinton’s historic address to the convention.  Getting into the event wasn’t particularly easy.  I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. in order to be admitted to the program, which started at 12 p.m. I was told by one of the administrators that persistence was what got me in, as many were not allowed into the room due to space.

 

VIP Tour of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture 

VIP Tour of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture
VIP Tour of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture

One of my favorite parts of the conference was being invited for a a VIP tour of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. A select group of individuals had the opportunity to receive unprecedented access to the museum before it opens for public viewing. The tour began with a gracious welcome from museum staff in the Oprah Winfrey Theater.  Greetings were later extended from various individuals, including the curator and sponsors.  Following this, delicious Caribbean inspired food was served.

Next, we had the opportunity to tour one of the floors of the museum. I was most moved by the display of Paul Robeson’s vest that he wore in Othello.  I found it so interesting that an object evoked such strong feelings.  I also enjoyed looking at the Black Press and newspaper exhibits.  We only saw a small portion of what will be a huge collection.  I believe that the museum will have 37,000+ items.  It will open in September and is truly a must see.

Oprah Winfrey Theater at Smithsonian
Oprah Winfrey Theater at Smithsonian

Exclusive Movie Screening: ‘Queen of Katwe’ starring Lupita Nyong’o 

Attending a private advanced screening of Queen of Katwe starring Lupita Nyong’o was so much fun.   After the film, Nyong’o shared her emotional journey with the movie.

Salute to Excellence Gala and meeting Gayle King!

While attending NABJ, I also had the opportunity to attend the Salute to Excellence Gala, which was hosted by Gayle King, anchor of CBS This Morning.  Before King spoke, I spoke with her. This was definitely a highlight. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

With Gayle King, anchor of CBS This Morning
With Gayle King, anchor of CBS This Morning

It was so inspiring to see so many of my role models receive recognition at the Gala, such as Lester Holt, anchor of NBC Nightly News. I also had the opportunity to meet many other executives and personalities. It was thrilling to meet Jarrett Hill, the journalist who discovered Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech.

On multiple nights, I hosted Facebook Live discussions to share information about the NABJ/NAHJ convention.

The convention ended on August 7th. On August 8th, I headed back home to North Carolina.  My second year at UNC-Chapel Hill began on August 23rd.  I’m looking forward to more exciting opportunities and experiences.   My goal is to continue to put myself in as many situations as possible that will allow me to make a positive difference in the world.  My gratitude remains immeasurable for everything that God has done. He has truly shown me that all dreams are possible with faith and hard work.  My belief that all dreams are possible  was certainly reinforced this summer. We can do all that we desire. Thank you for reading and may you be blessed always.

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Week One is Down! – June 4th, 2016

Wow, this week at NBC Washington has been incredible. I’m so very grateful to be an Emma L. Bowen Foundation Scholar at the station. Many people know what the EBF stands for and represents. There’s something very special about working in an environment where your presence and diversity is valued, respected, and embraced. Everyone at the bureau is so talented and skilled at what they do. I also love that each person is so thrilled, humbled, and thankful to be working for such an incredible company.  The pioneering energy around the building is contagious.

Speaking of that, I think that I’ve caught the political news bug. My day at the station begins at around 10 a.m., and I become more fascinated with politics each hour. I believe that Washington, D.C. is the best place to be during “Decision 2016.” Each day, I gain new insights and perspectives on the race for the White House through my tasks. My job this past week consisted mostly of logging and transcribing candidate’s speeches. This has afforded me a unique opportunity to become more familiar with their talking points, while also helping producers find useful sound. It’s extremely gratifying to know that my work was distributed for use by staff throughout the entire bureau.

My day at the station usually concludes at around 6:00 p.m., although if I could, I’d work all night. That’s how much I love being at NBC Washington.  I’m looking forward to another rewarding, exciting, and productive experience next week. My gratitude remains immeasurable.

I love my desk at NBC Washington! It was an exciting week working at the network level.
I love my desk at NBC Washington! It was an exciting week working at the network level.

 

Preparing to return to NBC Washington – May 29th, 2016

As I think about returning to NBC Washington on Tuesday, May 31st, I’m so grateful.  So much has happened since the last time I was at the station. I’m so thankful to be an Emma L. Bowen Foundation Scholar, which affords me the opportunity to intern at NBC during each summer of college. My time to return has now arrived and I couldn’t be more excited to see everyone.  I feel that each day is a dream come true.

This summer, I will be working at the network level. I’m so thrilled about my assignment.  It should be a fantastic summer filled with a myriad of opportunities to contribute, grow and learn.  Again, thank you so much to the Emma L. Bowen Foundation and to NBC Washington for an amazing experience. It’s time to keep my nose to the grindstone!

Things I learned in my 1st year of college

I should preface this by saying that I graduated from early college high school with an associate degree. Scotland Early College (SEarCH) allowed me to begin my first college class in 9th grade.  Early college was extremely helpful in my journey towards attending UNC-Chapel Hill.  The rigor, focus and determination that I built at SEarCH continue to serve me well.

Here’s a couple of lessons that I learned:

  1. Not everyone who says that they’re your friend really is. Surround yourself with genuine people.
  2. Value the art of preparing your own meals.  Not only can you save money, but you’ll also [most likely!] be pleased with what you make.
  3. Be sure to fully cherish the people that support you at home.  Their unwavering love, support and encouragement will help you to stay the course during difficult times.
  4. Give thanks for all that you have.
  5. Stay focused no matter what anyone says. A laser sharp focus will always make you a winner.

 

Today’s thoughts – May 16th, 2016

Wow, I am so excited today as I think about my upcoming trips to Washington, D.C. and New York.  All of the late nights and forfeited TV marathons have been worth it. In about two weeks, I’ll be headed to the nation’s capital for my second summer with NBC News in Washington, D.C. There’s something truly magical about the District of Columbia. I love every moment that I’m there.

As an Emma L. Bowen Foundation (EBF) Scholar, I have the opportunity to intern in various departments throughout each summer in college. NBCUniversal is my corporate sponsor. Everyone at the station is so very friendly, helpful and welcoming.  I remember one of the reporters treating me to lunch during my first summer there.  That is an example of how kind everyone at NBC4 is.  I’m elated, grateful and humbled to be a part of the station.  My gratitude is resounding for the efforts that the Emma Bowen staff have invested into making this dream a reality for me.

New York… Wow! Just the sound of those two words gives me chills. Not because I’m nervous, no, but because it feels surreal.  I’m a young guy from the south.  Albeit most of my family members are from the North, I was born and raised in a little town called Laurinburg, which is in southeastern North Carolina. It’s the kind of town that has one Walmart. One where everyone knows each other.  I’m thankful for my small town upbringing because it inspired me to have big ideas and dreams for the future.

I have dreamed, prayed and worked hard for the opportunities that are coming.  As I prepare to attend the EBF Conference, I’m speechless.  Things have just worked well for me.  I say thank you to everyone who has encouraged and stood in the gap for me.  My gratitude is beyond expression in words.  Thank you. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated.