2020 KEMPA scholarship recipients thrive at UNC-Chapel Hill and UW-Madison

KEMPA’s two 2020 scholarship recipients recently completed their Fall semesters of their freshman year in college and have many exciting experiences to share with KEMPA students who would like to follow in their footsteps next year. Charlotte Geier from Maine South HS in Illinois had multiple opportunities to use her journalism skills at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and she tells us about it in her own words below:

     This past semester, I began studying journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although my school couldn’t seem to get out of national headlines, it made for great stories to cover on a local level, as I wrote for the University’s independent paper, The Daily Tar Heel.  I primarily covered topics directly related to the pandemic. Most recently, I wrote an article on the Spring semester change in quarantine and isolation dorms, as students who are confirmed positive and exposed will be housed in the same dorms. I would say the biggest and most interesting story I covered this semester was when we found out the reporting of confirmed positive percentage cases included positive cases from both Campus Health and outside COVID-19 positive tests, resulting in a higher positivity rate metric than was accurate. This data had been used by the University as a piece of reasoning for sending students home, so to report on the inaccuracy was high pressure yet important. Writing for the DTH really increased my connection with the campus throughout the semester and taught me a lot about reporting on a deadline. I have never had a 24-hour turnover like I did at the DTH, so it both threw me for a loop and made me a better reporter this past semester.

Charlotte Geier was a 2020 KEMPA scholarship recipient.

     In addition to writing for the Daily Tar Heel, I had an internship at the UNC Trauma Center as their Communications and Public Relations Intern for the semester. I tried to find the silver lining in being home for the semester, and being able to take on an internship my first semester of my first year was absolutely something I would not have had the time or courage to do if I were on campus this past semester. I also gained a whole new skill set in the communications end of writing, as my work in high school was heavily based in traditional journalism. I hosted a weekly podcast, ran the social media, put together monthly newsletters and more for the Trauma Center, and it was in this activity in particular that I saw lots of overlap between my journalism courses and the real world. From designing websites to editing together podcasts, my “Digital Storytelling” (MEJO 121), “Writing in the Digital Humanities” (ENGL 105i) and “Writing and Reporting” (MEJO 153) courses all provided me with transferable skills to the real world. UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media had given me a world of opportunities this past semester to report on real world topics and develop an up-to-date skillset. 

     Additionally, I tried to take advantage of The Hussman School’s wide range of opportunities this past semester to improve my journalism skills. I found my internship through their bi-weekly newsletter, attended zoom sessions to hear from distinguished alumni and met with my professors and the dean of The Hussman School individually. All of these opportunities gave me a more intimate and assistive community within UNC-CH. 

     Another significant journalistic opportunity I pursued this past semester was volunteer work with Special Olympics Illinois. This is an organization I invested tons of time into in high school, and I have so much passion for spreading its message of inclusion. This past semester, I was able to combine this passion with my love for journalism through virtually volunteering with their social media promotion, monthly newsletter, and other outreach opportunities that combined journalism and inclusion. This was another opportunity that I would not have been able to participate in if it weren’t for being at home. 

     Another opportunity I had this semester was connecting the graphic design skills I learned in high school through Maine South’s Southwords and Eyrie to my college life. I worked on numerous graphic design projects for Eyrie this semester. It has been so cool to go from being an editor for the yearbook to assisting with Photoshop work for the publication and continuing to uphold the quality of the book. 

     This upcoming semester, I plan on remaining involved in many of these activities. However, with my internship ending, I decided to work on staff for 1893 Brand Studio, The Daily Tar Heel’s AD/PR sect. I have worked on a few projects for 1893 over break, and it has continued to allow me to further explore the Public Relations sector of communications majors and given me another opportunity to connect with the Chapel Hill community. 

     If anyone is looking into UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media for their undergraduate studies, I would highly recommend it and be happy to speak with anyone through their application or decision process. I am so grateful for the opportunities in journalism Maine South gave me, as they truly set me up for success at UNC-CH. I am equally as grateful for these new opportunities I am now pursuing in Chapel Hill. 


     The second recipient of our KEMPA scholarship was Ella Ceelen from McFarland HS in Wisconsin, who is enrolled at the University of Wisconsin -Madison. Before she even started at UW-Madison, she took several journalism classes at the Madison Area Technical College to keep up with her journalism skills. Upon enrollment at UWM she was informed that should could not enroll in their journalism school until her sophomore year. This did not deter Ella as she immediately joined the Badger Herald school newspaper and started writing and publishing articles. 

Ella Ceelen, a 2020 recipient of the KEMPA scholarship

    Her first story dealt with the pressing issue of our times, Covid-19. Ella did an article on how Dane County and UWM were prepared for the influx of Covid-19 cases when students returned in the Fall. The focus was on student behavior and the precautions that they would have to take in order to return to classes on campus. Ella has written several more articles for the paper and looks forward to taking a Mass Communications class during the Winter semester.