Nytesia Ross ’17 has always been a storyteller, but it wasn’t until college that she knew she would make storytelling her career.
A poetry assignment in seventh grade sparked Ross’ love for writing and, in turn, led to a desire to address social issues with spoken word.
“After that assignment, I started writing poetry more frequently and later began reciting it,” Ross said. “This continued into college where I was introduced to the world of spoken word. It became a love of mine, which led me to the Kennedy Center stage in Washington, D.C., where I recited a piece I wrote titled ‘Teach Me’ about the high school drop-out crisis.”
At SFA, Ross worked in the Office of Multicultural Affairs where the importance placed on diversity and listening to different perspectives shifted her storytelling style toward newscasting.
“Through these experiences and opportunities, I saw how necessary and important a person’s story is and how telling one’s story can be a catalyst for change,” Ross said. “I later found that poetry is not the only way stories can be told. They also can be told through news and sports. When I interned for KLTV in Tyler during the summer of 2016, I saw how telling a person’s story made an impact on people’s lives the way poetry does, and I was inspired.”
In fall 2016, she received the first Raycom Media scholarship and received it every subsequent semester until graduation. Through the program, students are paired with a professional at KLTV or KTRE who acts as a mentor. The mentor regularly interacts with the student, providing job experience and giving him or her an opportunity to shadow and gain exposure to the field. The program was started with the goal of preparing students for their first after-college job, according to Pat Stacey, vice president and general manager of KLTV and KTRE.
“As an industry, we regularly see graduates enter the workforce only to discover they are not fully prepared on what to expect in that first job,” Stacey said. “They have the technical skills and are well-prepared from their university experience, but there are other components that occasionally surprise them.”
Brad Streit, Raycom Media group vice president, said the program overcomes this issue by exposing the students to the “culture of the TV station and their area of interest,” while they learn through the firsthand experiences of their mentor. Not only do students become accustomed to the day-to-day tasks involved with their future careers, but they also are introduced to the practical aspects that go along with it.
“This relationship gets the student thinking beyond the immediate goal of graduating and challenges them to consider what positions they will need to start in, where geographically they might go for that job and what skills they will need to exceed performance expectations,” Stacey said.
Ross spent her last three semesters at SFA being mentored by Anissa Centers, award-winning news anchor for KLTV. Centers has anchored for news stations across the Southeast and served as a correspondent for CNN, interviewing high-profile public figures such as former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
“Who can say that they’ve been mentored by an Emmy Award-winning anchor?” Ross asked. “I don’t know many, but I can say I have, and that is something I do not take for granted.”
Throughout her time in the program, Ross and Centers met to talk about goals and plans. When they couldn’t meet, they would talk on the phone about what Ross was learning in the classroom and how she was developing her craft.
“The program allows us to most effectively blend the educational world that SFA provides with the work environment at our stations,” Streit said. “In some ways it is not only educational for the student, but it also is educational for us, too.”
Ross said the program provided her with more than just educational benefits.
“One of the biggest blessings throughout my experience with the Raycom Media scholarship/mentorship program is the relationship I established with Ms. Centers,” Ross said. “She taught me the value of fostering relationships with individuals in my desired field and the passion that is required in order to do an exceptional job.”
Working with Centers at KLTV gave Ross the opportunity to form relationships with the people at Raycom and the station that would eventually become her employer after graduation.
“Being able to shadow and work directly with those who have already made strides in the industry was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Ross said.
Ross credits her success to both Raycom and the mass communication department at SFA.
“The mass communication department at SFA, as well as working live productions on ESPN3, prepared me for my job,” Ross said. “I am not only familiar with fast-paced environments, but I also understand the importance of being fluent in every aspect of storytelling, from camera operating to reporting and all the way to producing.”