Every summer, the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) deploys young, aspiring students to various District organizations in hopes of providing opportunities to gain experience within their desired career field. This summer has brought Delaware State University student Devynne Johnson to the doors of The Washington Informer.
We sat down with Devynne to learn more about her goals, experience with The Washington Informer, and plans for her fall semester of school amid the coronavirus pandemic:
Washington Informer: Where are you from, Devynne?
Devynne Johnson: I’m from Washington, D.C. — born in the southeastern area, and I live in Southwest now.
WI: What school are you attending, and what is your current standing?
DJ: I go to Delaware State University, and I’m a rising junior. I’m a Mass Communications major with a concentration in journalism.
WI: What brought you into the field of journalism?
DJ: I’ve always been nosy, and I like to write. So I thought that being in journalism would be best, and then being a writer and having great communication skills kind of made it easier to fall in line with this area of work.
WI: How long have you been writing for, personally and professionally?
DJ: Personally, I have been my entire life. I started writing short stories at the age of maybe 6 or 7, and ever since then I’ve been writing.
WI: What is your favorite genre of writing?
DJ: I do creative writing, fictional stories. That’s how I mostly express myself.
WI: Are you looking to publish some of your short stories?
DJ: Yes, as soon as I find them. Not necessarily that I’ve lost them, but misplaced in my room. I have a lot, so I have to go through and find them.
WI: Tell me about your life and experiences growing up.
DJ: Growing up I was very sheltered. I went to my neighborhood school in southeast D.C. I lived on MLK Avenue, so it wasn’t somewhere where I was allowed to be out all the time, because during the time it wasn’t very safe, so I was very sheltered growing up.
WI: You know that The Informer is based out of southeast D.C. How would you say being a Washingtonian, growing up in the heart of D.C., if you will, influenced your writing, journalistic goals, and your outlook on how you are tackling your stories in reporting news today?
DJ: I was very sheltered growing up so I was never able to get any kind of inspiration growing up, but being that I got older and I got to explore more, not just Southeast but D.C. in general, it gave me more of an aspect of the diversity that is in D.C. Not just of Blackness and the African Diaspora, but of people in general. So I got to meet, and touch, and talk to different cultures, creeds, and creations of all sorts. It’s a very nice experience living here, but you also get to feel what other microaggressions are as well.”
WI: What issues are you currently seeing in the District, and around you that you really want to place focus on?
DJ: Mental health disparities that are within the lower-income communities. Also, gentrification that is happening in lower-income communities, along with the entry of non-minorities within the district and how that correlates to more construction, better buildings, and areas within the SE location.
WI: How did the decision come about for you to join The Washington Informer’s intern program?
DJ: I got to The Informer through MBSYEP. So when I went to apply for a job through the summer youth employment program, I was looking for a place where I could get my foot in the door as a journalist. And when I was there I decided to choose The Informer.
WI: What would you say you have learned and can take away from this experience that has helped prepare you for future newsrooms?
DJ: I really enjoy this environment. It’s very homey. You get assignments, and then they let you work with it. You do what you’re supposed to do with it on time, but there’s not a lot of breathing down your neck to say “was it done yet?” I like the almost-family kind of style there is at The Informer. Everyone has a mutual respect for each writer in the office, and there’s a lot of great communication, and a lot of great ideas that happen at The Informer as well. I really just enjoy being there overall.
WI: As far as the fall, will all of your courses be virtual for the semester? How will you be completing your education at Delaware State moving forward?
DJ: There has been a plan to have students actually come back on campus. They have different prerequisites set in place for everyone that’s coming in. Only 75% of the campus said that they are able to come back. If they choose, they can do an online option as well. I’m combing through that decision now, but I’m thinking about going back to school. They’re a lot of reasons, but I focus better when I’m in class.
WI: Thank you, Devynne. Are there any last sentiments you would like to leave us with?
DJ: Your perception is your reality, but your reality is how you perceive it.