Personal update: I am a White House Correspondents’ Scholar!

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Hi, everyone! I am incredibly excited to announce that I have been selected as a White House Correspondents’ Scholar. I will be awarded a scholarship in addition to attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in the last week of April. Read more about the White House Correspondents’ Association here.

Below, I am attaching my essay for the scholars program about the relationship between democracy and the press. Thank you for your support!

I cried the first time I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

I stood in awe beneath the towering building, eyes hungrily devouring the words the basis of my career revolves on: “freedom of the press.” I’ve read those words over and over — and I even have them tattooed on my forearm alongside a newspaper — but there was something about seeing the First Amendment etched into stone in the most important city in the free world that made me tear up with pride. It seems fitting: the foreground to a picturesque backdrop of the Capitol building, where the highest elected officials in the country gather to make decisions that will influence everyone in the nation.

This prompt was one that could be easy for me to delve into a long-winded rant about the beauty of democracy and its relationship with the press. But the fact is: democracy is messy. Putting citizens in charge of governing themselves is a daunting task, especially when some officials seem to have their own agendas and motivations. It’s our job as the press to not only show shining moments in American history, but to show the side of our country that falls short.

When I interned in Asia, I read “I Am Malala.” I was shocked by the story of a teenage Pakistani girl shot in the head for publishing autobiographical works detailing the brutality of the Taliban for the United Nations. But in all actuality, the rest of the Western world might not be as progressive as we think. While studying language and media in France, I found that although the democratic system found in Europe was more allowing of free expression, there were still heavy restrictions on rights we would find in the United States. French Muslim women are not allowed to wear burkas in public. It is illegal in 16 European countries to deny the Holocaust ever happens (which as terrible as it may sound that I’m advocating for that, limiting any speech or thoughts, so long as it is not directly violent and hateful, threatens all speech).

“Freedom of speech doesn’t exist in France the way it does back home for you,” my professor, a Moroccan journalist jailed for writing pieces that disrespected the monarch, told us in class.

It’s true that our country is different. “Freedom of the press” are some of the first words our Founding Fathers penned into the documents that define the fabric of our democracy. Along with that right comes incredible responsibility and a duty to inform the public freely and honestly without external motivation and fear of government retaliation.

The press is a direct reflection of health and livelihood of a working democracy. Where journalism falls short, as does democracy and vice versa. History is chock-full of authoritarian rulers who recognize the danger of the press to their questionable or unethical leadership tactics, which is why they often defame journalists in the harshest ways. Stalin once called newspaper the “enemy of the people” — a term the current U.S. president has used on many occasions. Journalists recognize the danger that language poses: I was so proud when 350 newspapers nationwide banded together to push back on Trump’s war on the media. It takes bravery to publish the truth, even when public opinion or leaders are adamantly against us.

It takes courageous reporters like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who are willing to face public ridicule and government pressure to uncover major corruption in the most powerful office in the country. It takes emboldened editors like Ben Bradlee to make the decision to publish the tumultuous findings of the Pentagon Papers. It takes opinion writers like Nicholas Kristof to take us on a journey to far-away places to discuss humanitarian atrocities and foreign policy.

Since the existence of power dynamics, so existed the potential for corrupt leaders to manipulate, misinform and instill fear in their constituents. While power grabs seem to be a part of human nature, fortunately, so is curiosity. I’ve dedicated my life to that curiosity and craft. I proudly announce to the world that I am a reporter: someone who is willing to face public ridicule from even some of the most powerful people in our country to serve the citizen and unveil the truth.

Now more than ever, when misinformation and “fake news” clouds social media and the mouths of politicians, our work is crucial to an informed public and a working democracy. I want to be a guiding light of truth through my work with real and genuine news. I’ve studied foreign policy and language in Asia and Europe. I’ve worked in the state’s capital covering news for The Columbus Dispatch. Now I’m eager for the opportunity to go to our nation’s pulse, where the country’s most influential political reporters gather.

Thank you for your consideration.

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International Street Fair brings the globe to Athens

A walk down East Union Street on Saturday was like a walk across the globe.

The 50th anniversary of the International Street Fair brought passersby a range of senses, from the sounds of a live band and traditional music to the aromatic scents of various seasoned dishes.

This year, about 22 participating groups lined up to bring a little bit of their own culture to Athens from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event was the finale to the annual International Week, hosted by Ohio University’s International Student Union.

Among the participants was ISU Secretary Isaac Owusumensah, who said the 50th anniversary brought a record attendance number for the weekly events, which included art galleries, live performances, panels and more.

The street fair kicked off with a parade of people from many nationalities who carried their flag across the bricks of Athens. Among the vendors and parade-participants were members of various OU students groups, such as the Latino Student Union, who sold out of their popular arroz con leche, a rice pudding, only a few hours into the event.

“It’s so important to expand and understand cultures outside your own,” said Eleanor Elias, an OU senior and member of the Latino Student Union. “As a Latino student, it’s so cool to see other people get involved here.”

Though the street was packed full of community members enjoying the vendors, some made their way to College Green, where colorful flags dotted the pathways. Some posed for photos with the flags or sat on the green to eat their meals, where others bounced around a slackline strung between trees and enjoyed the 70 degree weather.

The event coincided with OU’s Moms’ Weekend this year, which made for a larger crowd than usual, but it was a welcome addition, Owusumensah said.

“The street fair gives us the opportunity to meet and socialize with friends, as well as meet new people,” he said. “It’s such a colorful and unique event with so many people involved. It’s the best week of the year.”

Originally appeared on A1 of The Athens Messenger on April 9, 2019.

Hillel at OU welcomes new executive director

 

Hillel, a campus community for Jewish students of Ohio University, has welcomed a new executive director.

Sarah Livingston is the organization’s new leader and began working on March 1. She called the position her “dream job” and one she is eager to serve students in.

“Hillel is paramount to a sense of identity for Jewish students,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to engage with others on campus.”

Moving to back to the Midwest from Toronto felt like “coming home,” she said. Though she was born and raised in Las Vegas, Livingston is a graduate of Ohio State University. Her areas of study included Jewish philosophy, Jewish studies and Russian-Jewish history. Livingston later earned a master’s degree in Canadian-Jewish food history from the University of Toronto.

Livingston has a long history of work in Jewish education and community building and development. Though she said she grew up in a secular household, she said she found her religious identity through Jewish community in college.

Hillel is an international organization, with roots in various colleges and universities throughout the United States. Livingston said she has been involved with Hillel on three separate college campuses and is excited to add OU to the list.

“The students here are deeply passionate and engaged and interested in things,” she said. “It’s so much different than any other campus I’ve been on.”

Her husband and two children are still in Toronto until the end of summer until they can secure the proper immigration paperwork to join her in Ohio, but she said OU already feels like home.

“I want to be radically inclusive in this role,” she said. “Everyone is welcome. If you’re Jewish — or not Jewish and you just want to learn about us — come say hi.”

Hillel’s history at OU dates back to 1938, according to the organization’s website, when a group of Jewish students “joined together for friendship, Shabbat services and community.” Since 1966, the organization has been located at 21 Mill St. near uptown Athens.

For more details about the organization, visit www.ohiohillel.org.

Originally published on A1 of The Athens Messenger on March 22, 2019.

Developmental Disabilities Fest celebrates tech

Smile!

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month continued this week with a festival celebrating community members and resources available for individuals with disabilities.

The event celebrated its “biggest and best” festival in 15 years on Tuesday at the Athens Community Center, said Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities Supt. Kevin Davis. About 45 organizations set up tables to showcase various services.

This year’s theme was technology, with organizations featuring a wide variety of technological advancements made to help individuals with developmental disabilities live independently, such as in-home security cameras.

Other organizations educated the general public about their services, such as transportation services, the Athens Public Library and various health centers.

“It’s good to raise awareness for people in the community — especially those with disabilities — about all the wonderful services these agencies have to support them,” Davis said.

The event spanned two hours and included a performance from the Athens County Community Singers — a nonprofit choral group for all people with and without disabilities which is led by director Stephanie Morris.

“I love getting to perform and showcase all the hard work these folks practice every week,” Morris said. “I love celebrating and supporting everyone in our community at this event.”

Tuesday’s festivities were part of a series hosted by ACBDD to recognize March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The theme this month is “Integrate Athens,” meant to be a reference to ACBDD’s new Office of Integrate Athens located at 9033 Lavelle Road. An open house at that office is planned for Tuesday, April 2, from 3-5 p.m.

“Athens is a leader in Southeast Ohio as a progressive, integrated and inclusive city,” Davis said. “I’m happy to be a part of that and highlight the agencies that make it all possible.”

Originally published on A1 of The Athens Messenger on March 21, 2019.

What’s Good? podcast announcement

Hi, everyone! This website has become something of an online portfolio where I publish my work from various outlets. I am thrilled to add an audio option to those who follow my site. I’m not ditching words for podcasting by any means, but playing around with audio has been so fun. I love exploring storytelling in various ways.

Introducing: What’s Good?, a podcast focused on the positive, feel-good global news. I am something of a Debbie Downer *insert trombone sound effect from the classic SNL sketch*, especially when so much of what I write about is what’s wrong with the world. Fortunately, my energetic and positive friend Emily Gayton hosts this podcast with me. I tried my hand at producing with Adobe Audition. We record in a professional podcast studio, and I record street interviews with a Zoom handy mic.

I am working to get the podcast on Spotify, but for now, you can use the RSS code below to subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Pocket Cast and more.

https://pinecast.com/feed/whats-good