Michelle Alexander believes the 2019 Discover the Unexpected (DTU) program might have been the best in the short history of the annual journalism fellowship.
“I think this year was just a little bit more special,” said Alexander, General Motors multicultural marketing manager.
“A lot of it had to do with the partners that we had this year, including DJ Envy as the program ambassador and Fonzworth Bentley as the program advisor,” Alexander said.
“I think this really elevated the program because both Bentley and Envy are HBCU graduates, and they are extremely passionate about the community,” she said.
Both Bentley and Envy are “car guys,” which probably helped, Alexander said.
“Ultimately the connection they had with us this year was in a way that I think we hadn’t had in some of the other years,” she said.
The engaged the fellows throughout the program and did much more than what they were contractually obligated to, Alexander said.
Chevrolet and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) hosted a closing ceremony earlier this month to celebrate the fourth year of the award-winning DTU program.
The eight-week fellowship kicked off in Atlanta with a boot camp and culminated in Detroit at General Motors Global Headquarters.
NNPA publications the Atlanta Voice, Chicago Crusader, Houston Forward Times and The Washington Informer hosted the fellows during their internship road trip experience.
The fellows were allowed to hone their print, broadcast, digital and photojournalism skills while driving the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer to discover unexpected stories in the African American community.
The 2019 DTU Journalism Fellows were Tedarius Abrams (Bethune-Cookman), Tyla Barnes (Hampton University), Elae Hill (North Carolina A&T), Miana Massey (Howard University), Emani Nichols (Morehouse College) and Sharon Joy Washington (Florida A&M).
The six students wrote several powerful pieces, produced video content, participated in press conferences and met Charles Muse, one of the Chevrolet Blazer engineers.
The fellows’ stories were featured on the NNPA website (www.nnpa.org/chevydtu) throughout the program.
“I think one of the key elements of this program is making sure that we’re connecting with the community in a way that feels very authentic,” Alexander said.
“It was truly a great year. We had students who were extremely strong, passionate, and those who had a ton of grit about themselves,” she said.
Since its inception in 2016, the annual program has awarded nearly a half-million dollars in scholarships and stipends.
It began with a select number of schools.
However, based on the overwhelming response, the submission process was opened to all students in their sophomore through senior years at HBCUs with interest in journalism, communications, mass media or visual arts.
Alexander said it isn’t easy choosing students from among a great deal of submissions received each year.
“You get hundreds and hundreds of applicants, and you’re sifting through resumes, and you’re trying to get a feel for these individuals. So, you never know but to see these fellows live in action, even from day one at the boot camp where we met them, was amazing,” she said.
“I think every year we have had great students. This year, I was impressed with the energy that the fellows had,” Alexander said.
During the closing ceremony, the fellows each received $10,000 scholarships and certificates of completion.
Bentley, a Morehouse College graduate; and Envy, a graduate of Hampton University; Chevrolet leaders and NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. attended the closing ceremony with the fellows.
“Chevrolet was excited to partner with the NNPA to drive the importance of storytelling and finding new roads during their fellowship,” Brad Franz, Chevrolet’s senior manager of Crossover Vehicles Advertising & Marketing, said in a news release.
“The fellows seized the opportunity to embark on this unexpected journey of professional and personal self-discovery while gaining new tools along the way,” Franz said.
The NNPA “was excited to partner with Chevrolet for another year in support of these young journalists to amplify community voices across our country,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
“Having these young journalists in our newsrooms working side by side with our publishers was inspiring, and we are committed to including young storytellers’ voices in our reporting.”
Alexander said she’s already looking forward to next year’s DTU program.
“You can expect some enhancements in terms of how we kind of cast our net even wider,” Alexander said. “I expect us to add another vehicle that I think is going to be a game-changer within the market as well. So, there’s a lot more to come, and I can promise you that, from a Chevrolet perspective, the passion will remain,” she said.
Learn more about the Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship at www.nnpa.org/chevydtu.