By Lenzi Causey, Editor-In-Chief, TSU Herald Student Newspaper.
Fifty students from across the nation attended the first-ever White House College Reporter Day on April 28th at the White House. As each student received his or her place setting and briefing folder in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, they prepared to make history, not knowing what was ahead of them. I was one of those fifty students.
College Reporter Day, coordinated by White House Director of Special Media, Hallie Ruvin and a team of White House correspondents, is a day-long conference that serves to educate young, emerging journalists on the nation’s issues of the day, i.e. college affordability, sexual assault awareness and students’ exposure to opportunities to attend college and receive scholarship dollars.
Each student who attended is enrolled at a college or university in the United States, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Howard, Hampton, North Carolina A & T, Morgan State and Wayne State Universities. As a representative of Texas Southern and HBCUs across the nation, I pondered on the issues we have when it comes to acquiring and paying for our education. As a student leader and as the top editor for our student-produced publication, it was an honor and privilege to sit amongst other great students, some of which are graduating and going straight into the field of journalism.
Secretary of Education, John King, spoke on ways to promote college affordability and options students have to pay for their education while minimizing debt such as pay-as-you-earn plans and federal dollars that contribute to Pell Grants. Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council for Women and Girls, Valerie Jarrett, spoke on the White House’s #ItsOnUs campaign that raises awareness and works to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.
“One in five girls are assaulted during college, and men are assaulted, although there are smaller numbers,” Jarrett said. “About two-and-a-half years ago, the President and Vice President created a task force to look at what we can do to end sexual assault on college and university campuses.”
Aside from all the great information we acquired, the best part of attending White House College Reporter Day was the connections we formed with one another and with the White House staff as we went through the day’s press conferences. We met White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, several White House administrators and correspondents. We met the Obamas’ dogs, Bo and Sunny. But to top it all off, following our press briefing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest, we were surprised by none other than, President Barack Hussein Obama, aka #POTUS.
“I hear there’s some hotshot journalists here. Josh was speaking for me, and I wanted to make sure he was getting it right,” President Obama joked as he approached the podium to give us the most prized press conference any of us will probably ever have, as he closes his final term as, arguably, the best President of the United States.
To hear from our nation’s leaders about what they are working to do to provide us quality, affordable education as we endure our tenures at our respected colleges universities, was an experience I am sure none of us will forget. As we continue on to find and report the truth, and build our careers around that, we are secure in knowing that there are many firsts, including being the first class of college reporters ever to try and grill the President on his own turf — Certainly grounds to say College Reporter Day was the best day ever.