The Knudson Churchill Scholarship Trust
Applicants for the Knudson Churchill Scholarship are required to submit an essay that outlines their career aspirations in automotive technology or print journalism; how this scholarship would help them achieve their career goals; their specific plans for their educational program; and why they would be an ideal candidate as a Knudson-Churchill Scholar.
The winning essays are printed in the October issue of The Sacred Octagon and will be posted here at that time.Read the winning essays below. Click on the tab to change essays.
My Aspirations and Career Goals in Journalism
By Amanda D. Morris
When I walked into my first ever journalism class during my sophomore year of high school, I had no idea how completely it would change my life. My dream of becoming a Pulitzer-prize winning humanitarian journalist has shaped every aspect of my life and has shaped who I am today. Explaining my enthusiasm for journalism to others is difficult because often there are no words to describe the overwhelming love that I have for reporting. The only way to understand is to start at the beginning.
I have always been a writer. Even in elementary school, when taking standardized state tests, I always had to ask for pages upon pages of extra writing paper in order to write my timed essays, because I always felt that I had a lot to say. I kept a daily diary until high school, and still write in my diary about once a week now. Throughout my life I have switched between different writing projects, whether it be a new poem, a short story, or a school paper. I knew in high school that I wanted to be a writer, however, I didn’t know what kind of writing I wanted to do until I took journalism.
My very first story was about a local bridge in my town called the “Big Bird Bridge” and I investigated the reason behind why it was named as such. This investigation led me to interview numerous elderly town residents and pour through various town documents. At the end of it all, I was so proud to have discovered something about the world, and to share that knowledge with others. I realized how much I enjoyed learning new things and talking to people, and I very quickly became zealous to write as many stories as possible.
Over time, I slowly realized the impact that my work could have on my community. Journalism gave me a way to connect with the people around me and with the world around me. By interviewing people, I learn their stories, and then I can share them with the world. Striving to raise awareness, I wrote stories about disabled students and about students at my school who had been sexually abused. After these stories were published, I received a lot of feedback from students, many of them who thanked me for writing about topics that have traditionally been excluded from my high school newspaper. I credit these experiences for making me want to do something more with journalism.
Another reason I became passionate about covering stories such as this one is because one of my biggest values has always been fairness and equality. Growing up with a hearing loss and with two Deaf parents, I have often witnessed scenes of discrimination or unfairness. My earliest memory of unfairness was before the first grade. I had been trekking over to a girl’s house in my neighborhood to play with her. She was in the same grade as me in school and we had taken to playing together. However, when I rang her door bell, her mother answered the door. I remember asking if I could play with Emily. Her mother looked down at me, a knock-kneed six year old with hot pink hearing aids and a messy ponytail, and told me ten words that I will never forget. “My daughter is not allowed to play with you anymore,” she said.
This incident is part of who I am. My father told me after that day that I could do anything, and that discrimination was just a result of ignorance. That experience is what made me want to reduce the amount of ignorance present in the world, and journalism gave me the avenue to do exactly that. It hasn’t always been easy though.
One of the hardest stories I ever covered was on the day of December 16th, 2012. It was two days after the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, and President Obama was expected to visit the vigil to pay his respects. I felt a sense of responsibility to cover the story, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, or if I even knew what I was doing. I showed up on my own with nothing but a handheld home camcorder, notepad, and some pens.
When I arrived in Newtown, I was shocked. I was shocked by how similar Newtown was to my own town of Farmington. Only when I saw the vigil candles burning did the full impact and sadness of the event sink in. Suddenly, the event became more real, more personal, and I felt that it was that much more important to pay attention, pay respects and learn from it.
The hardest part was talking to people. I wanted to be respectful and sensitive to people’s pain. More than a journalist, I was a human being. As I sat inside the high school amongst hundreds of other people that night listening to Obama’s speech, I realized that one of the most moving aspects of the day was how many people came to show their respects and offer support. I wanted to share my footage with my classmates so that they too could understand and hopefully
recognize the need to reach out to the community of Newtown in its time of need.
Though it was difficult to write about, that experience only made me more determined and resolute in my dream of becoming a journalist. For the first time, my goals in journalism crystallized. I wanted to be a humanitarian reporter, and I wanted to make people care about the world. I want to expose global and national issues and accomplish some good by doing so. I know it won’t always be easy. There may be times where I’ll have to make sacrifices for a story, or write about a tough subject, but it will be worth it if I can make a difference.
These desires, and my passion for journalism, have acted as a compass in my life ever since. In high school I spent many long nights working at the newspaper as the Copy-Editor-in- Chief and eventually as the Editor-in-Chief. I pushed my staff writers to write meaningful stories and we continually produced a great paper that won Silver Crown awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. During my senior year I signed up to do a capstone project and decided to make my project the creation of an online website for the school newspaper. I knew little about programming and web design, but nonetheless, I sought help from tech-savvy
people and was able to complete my goal.
When it came time to decide where I wanted to attend college, I applied exclusively to schools with a strong journalism program, because I knew that that’s where I would be the happiest. Getting into New York University was one of the first big steps that I took towards my goal of becoming a compassionate global reporter. Since arriving at the school, I have been dual majoring in Journalism and Media, Culture & Communications, and I have continued taking steps towards my goal. I wrote for my college newspaper, Washington Square News, for a year before branching out and publishing a few stories in the Villager. I covered topics such as the police brutality protests, a graduate student strike, the minimum wage fight for fifteen, and unfair labor practices in the UAE.
During my sophomore year, I joined the school radio news broadcast, WNYU News, and covered stories about the refugee crisis in Europe and the challenges of finding student housing within the city. I also interned at Scholastic News and one of my favorite aspects of that job was helping out with the news stories. I loved being able to research key facts about global events for my boss and contribute to the story. The most valuable project I worked on was one in which I transcribed a phone interview for my boss after he interviewed two Syrian refugee children that had just arrived in the United States. The interview was eye-opening. As the children talked about the hardships and discrimination they faced, I knew it was really important to share their story. It’s important that citizens and world leaders alike have a deep understanding of what refugees endure so that they can act in a more compassionate way.
With the completion of every story I felt a sense of thrill and a sense of pride. My favorite stories to cover were the ones in which I learned something new. I wanted to continue this expansion of my knowledge, and I felt that the best way to do this was to spend a semester abroad in Prague. I’m currently writing this essay from the Czech Republic because I’m willing to do anything it takes to accomplish my dreams. Not only am I willing to take on two internships during one semester working for the Prague Daily Monitor as well as the PragueCast, but I’m beyond excited. These internships are exactly what I wanted: a chance to report overseas. Alongside of these internships, I am also currently taking a class called International Reporting, and it’s my favorite class of the day. In this class, I get to learn about all the ins and outs of being a foreign correspondent and I get to complete several reporting assignments for my homework. I’m currently working on a story assignment about the stereotyping of foreigners within the Czech Republic.
As I continue my education at New York University in the next two years, I will continue to take classes that enrich my knowledge of reporting and I will continue to seek internships that will expand my comfort zone and allow me the chance to conduct reporting on important subjects. In the summers I want to immerse myself in reporting and spend my free time enabling people to share their stories.
I don’t want New York University to be the end of my studies in journalism however. One of the reasons that I work to maintain my excellent grades is because post-graduation, I hope to enroll into Columbia University’s graduate school for journalism. I want to apply to the international program that they offer, and take also take investigative reporting classes while I’m there. I believe that this type of further education will enable me to become the best reporter possible.
This type of education does not come cheap however, and as a girl with three older brothers, I understand that my parents will not be able to finance the full costs of my education. This is why I have taken responsibility for my own fate by spending countless hours completing scholarship applications. So far, I have been able to finance most of the cost of attending New York University through scholarships, and my goal is to graduate debt-free. Because I have had to work for my education, I understand how valuable every class that I take is, and I only miss class when I am sick. I am lucky to be able to study a topic I love, and despite what many doubters tell me, I know that I will make a career for myself in journalism.
I believe that I am an ideal candidate for this scholarship because I refuse to give up on my aspirations, and I am not afraid to dream big. I truly believe that I can make a difference through my journalism career and I fully intend to do exactly that. I know it will be a long road to success, and that it will require many more sacrifices, and lost sleep, in order to keep up with my schoolwork while reporting stories. People will tell me that I can’t do it, that the journalism field is dying, that jobs are scarce and I won’t be able to make it into a career, but I never listen to doubters. People have been trying to tell me what I can and can’t do with a hearing loss my entire life, and I have always proven to them that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I believe the world has an irrefutable need for the type of journalistic work that I want to accomplish, without which people would remain close-minded and closed-hearted. My drive to open these minds and hearts through my storytelling fuels me to overcome any challenges that I may face in order to become a professional
journalist. When you have a dream this important, you make it work no matter what.