I made it to the nation’s capital as a health reporter under one of my school’s professional programs. In the middle of a pandemic and just in time for perhaps the biggest presidential election of my generation, I reported on stories – both breaking and enterprise – meant for Arizona audiences on a national platform.
Professional programs are mandatory at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. There are over 20 programs a student can choose from, all based at the Cronkite school in Phoenix. All, expect for two: Cronkite News – LA Bureau, and Cronkite News – D.C.
If I had to do a professional program anyway, I was going to go to D.C. The problem was going to be whether I could afford it.
While the Cronkite school paid for plane tickets to and from the capital, transportation around the city and provided a $1,300 scholarship, it was not enough to cover the cost of living in one of the nation’s most expensive cities for four months by itself. That’s where EAW came in.
For the past two years, my tuition has been paid off in full with the added funds from EAW’s Tuition Assistance program. After earning approximately $7,000 in tuition assistance total, I was able to save and allocate extra money toward a saving’s account since my freshman year. On top of that, I earned an hourly wage which paid my bills in the meantime – and of course, I saved all the money I could.
In total, I landed in D.C. with $8,000 to spare for four months (and this was after I was able to pay for student housing in the city out of pocket – from wages alone).
Reporting in D.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic was strange, to say the least. Working as a health reporter during the COVID-19 pandemic was even stranger. But it was an unforgettable experience and one I may not have gotten without EAW.
Week one of reporting in D.C., Arizona surpassed 5,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the U.S. Health and Human Services department and Department of Defense ramped up Operation Warp Speed to get the vaccine into the arms of Americans as quickly and as safely as possible.
The next month, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away while I was still in the newsroom. My team and I ran to the Supreme Court to cover the vigils, the memorials, and the weeping men and women who looked up to her. We had about a 14-hour day of working that day, getting home at about 2 a.m. and getting back up and out the next morning at 9 a.m.
In October, former Arizona Senator Martha McSally praised Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett in D.C. while I spoke back and forth with her staffer about possibly getting an interview (the answer was no), and President Donald Trump cited Arizona during the first presidential debate – a citation that I needed to fact-check from my apartment that night, across the street from the Supreme Court.
And finally, in November, I helped my team cover Arizona turning blue for the first time since 1996, electing Senator Mark Kelly, and playing a key role in President-elect Joe Biden’s bid for winning the election. We covered celebrations which erupted in D.C., while protests took place in Phoenix.
My experience in D.C. was unlike anything I can possibly compare it to or otherwise imagine. While I definitely worked hard to get there – even picking up a second job for a year, working to get promoted so earn higher wages, etc. – I still could not have reached that goal of mine without the help of both ASU’s Cronkite School and EAW’s tuition assistance program.
I understand that my circumstances were lucky, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve received and experienced. But ultimately, I believe, a little bit of help can go an extra-long way when it comes to meeting your goals.