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Kent State Senior Earns Renowned Hearst Scholarship for Broadcast Work

Posted Apr. 18, 2012

By Britney Beaman, senior public relations student
Jeannette ReyesJeannette Reyes has come a long way.

Earlier this school year, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation awarded her the top national television finalist award.

Reyes, a senior broadcast major, submitted two stories to the Journalism Awards Program’s Broadcast Features Competition without realizing the award’s prestige.

“I didn’t know much about it," Reyes said. "I found out through my JMC professor Gary Hanson and went from there."

So, she entered into what she thought was an average scholarship competition.

Little did she know, she would receive the $2,600 award for having the first place feature out of 73 entrants from 43 different schools.

“I am still surprised, and I wish I knew what did it,” Reyes said. “It’s a really exciting way to end my year, since I’m graduating in May.”

The story was an investigative piece about online job scams, featuring a woman who lost more than $20,000 to a fraudulent online company. Reyes dug deep to reveal this woman’s story, how scams happen and how to look for signs and avoid them.

To move through to the semifinals, she submitted two additional stories. One of her pieces was about the unreliability of eye-witness testimony in criminal cases, and the other was about interracial adoption.

“It's a bit nerve wracking. I've always been a competitive person, so it's more fun than anything else,” she said.

However, Reyes has not always felt so fortunate.

Growing up in Rhode Island
As a child, Reyes lived in a poverty-stricken Latino neighborhood in Providence, R.I., with her parents and three siblings. Her family focused on sustaining its culture, so at home everyone spoke Spanish, ate traditional Dominican meals and listened to Dominican music. Each summer, her parents sent Reyes and her sister to visit family in the Dominican Republic.

“The good thing about our visits was we were away from all the technology … it was good old spending time together,” she reminisced.

Although she loves to fully embrace her culture and family time, she developed a strong urge to leave Rhode Island. She decided to move to Euclid, OH, with her sister when she was a sophomore in high school. When her parents joined her in the Buckeye State five months later, she changed high schools again to live with her parents. Reyes moved back to Rhode Island with her parents a few weeks later when they couldn’t sell their mechanic shop. There, she attended two more different high schools.

“I had never been so lost in my life,” Reyes said about the experience. She explained that she struggled to keep up with her school work because each school taught differently.

“I didn’t see high school the way other students saw it,” she said. “It wasn’t a home. It wasn’t where my friends were. It was a building. It was, ‘I want to get this over with.’”

At graduation, Reyes found herself working two jobs to help make-ends meet while her parents were forced to move out of the state to find employment during the tough economy. For this reason, she wondered if she would be able to go to college.

She decided to apply to Kent State University, and her high school paid for the application. As she filled out the forms, she had the mind-set that she was only doing this to see if she was “college material,” especially since her financial situation made the possibility of her attending an out-of-state college seem ridiculous.

Making the move
Kent State University accepted Reyes. She decided to go for it.

“Others laughed because I could barely pay for my application,” she said. “I got in the car and drove the 12 hours here, winging it completely. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, but I finally felt in my element and wanted to try to stay as long as possible. I was certain I would never walk the stage because my family and I could barely keep a roof over our heads. I was simply curious to see how far I could get and, quite frankly, I had nothing to lose.”

Even after her move to Kent State, she didn’t know how long she would last at college. In the meantime, she wanted to embrace the American culture.

“Coming here to Kent showed me how Hispanic my family really was,” she giggled. “We always had Spanish food and had listened to Spanish music. I felt like I was living in two different worlds.” She enjoyed this learning experience and developed a new love for chicken parmesan.

When the first semester came to an end, she felt like she could handle another one. This time she wanted to make her school her home.

“What I did regret because I went to so many high schools was that I didn’t get involved and I never felt a part of it,” she said.

Reyes became president of the Spanish and Latina Student Association, co-hosted the Date ‘Em or Hate ‘Em show on TV2, co-hosted a bilingual radio show on Black Squirrel Radio and reported and anchored for TV2.

“After going full force, I felt like I made up for high school,” she said. “I may have even over-did it, but it was worth it.”

Now Reyes is an outstanding senior at Kent State. Other than the William Hearst Award, she’s been awarded many other scholarships, including ones from the Ohio Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists.

She has landed two internships during her college career. First, she interned with the News Outlet and second with CNN in Atlanta. Working at CNN is her dream career, so this internship meant the world to her. She worked in the special projects unit where she helped find stories, write scripts and transcribe.

Her determination
One may wonder where an individual would get so much motivation. Hers comes from her parents, especially her father. She applied for so many scholarships, so that she could help them pay for school. This paid off because she’s won every scholarship that she has ever applied for.

“When I found out that I had my junior year paid off, I called to tell my parents because they had been working 80 hours a week at the oil refinery,” she said. “When I finally told them, there was a huge sigh of relief and my father said, ‘See, now I can die.’” He always put great emphasis on the importance of education.

Two weeks later, a doctor diagnosed her father with terminal cancer, and her mother was able to take care of him full time.

“My motivation was being able to give that gift to my father,” Reyes said. “I remember thinking that I had to do really well because I always felt indebted to my parents. I couldn’t do anything less than be successful.”