Scholarship support helps aspiring journalist thrive

Scholarship support helps aspiring journalist thrive
Aleanna Siacon in Ghana, where she traveled to cover the country’s presidential election.

Aleanna Siacon was just two weeks into her first year at Wayne State University when she glimpsed a clear view of her future.

The journalism student was pursuing a story for The South End, Wayne State’s student newspaper, about paintings the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) might lose due to the death of benefactor A. Alfred Taubman. After several unsuccessful attempts to get comments from the curator of those artworks, she one day received a DIA media alert announcing an event to introduce the museum’s new director—who turned out to be the same individual she had been trying to reach. With just 30 minutes until the event, Siacon raced across Woodward Avenue to make it on time.

Sweating and out of breath, Siacon plunged into a DIA auditorium to find herself in the middle of a media-only press conference with reporters from the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and local TV and radio outlets. At first intimidated, she relaxed as she watched the reporters work. Finally, as the event was winding down, Siacon raised her hand in the midst of the cameras and recording equipment, identified herself as a reporter from The South End, and asked the new director of the DIA a question related to her article.

“This moment solidified my desire to become a journalist,” Siacon recalled. “I was ready to learn about how I could have handled that situation better, and ready to get myself into more situations like that in the future.”

Now a senior, Siacon has remained as ambitious as she was in those first weeks on campus, tallying an impressive list of internships. She attributes the freedom to pursue these hands-on working opportunities to the financial assistance she received through scholarships.

“I was incredibly lucky to have found myself at an institution that has not only supported me so heftily financially, but found me and my body of work worthy of such scholarships,” said Siacon.

Aside from her extensive work for The South End—in her first semester, she published a record-setting 37 articles for the newspaper—Siacon, who also is a double major in political science, earned an internship at Detroit City Council Member James Tate’s office, and was exposed to the political workings of the city. From there, Siacon continued to pursue opportunities, interning with Hour Detroit and Metro Parent, and traveling to Ghana to cover the country’s presidential election.

Most recently, Siacon was part of the highly competitive Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism, where she spent the summer honing her skills through a newsroom internship at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York.

“I had incredible experiences, from covering murder trials and working for weeks on enterprise stories to taking photos backstage at concerts, chasing down city parades for social media and making videos at an NFL training camp,” said Siacon. “Everyone in the newsroom was so willing to answer my questions, give me some help and be a mentor.”

As Siacon begins her final year at Wayne State, and an internship at the Metro Times, she recalled that when deciding where to attend college, Wayne State was barely a consideration.

But after talking to an admissions counselor at a campus open house and learning about scholarships and the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity (JIM), a Department of Communications initiative that trains high-achieving students for careers in media, Wayne State moved higher up the list. It was her admissions interview for JIM, and hearing of students’ experience in the program, that clinched it.

“I saw what my future could be like, and I was ready to fight for it,” Siacon said. “I was fighting for an experience, a chance to prove myself in a place that I was proud to become associated with. None of the other schools that I had been accepted to felt like Wayne State.”

(October 5, 2017)

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