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Sheila, Rodney Brooks vow to sponsor Grambling students at NABJ

By Justin Madden
Grambling State University

An Emmy-award winning journalist businesswoman has agreed to pay convention registrations for three Grambling State University students to attend the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in New Orleans in June.

Rodney Brooks at Grambling

Rodney Brooks, personal finance editor at USA Today, talks with Lacey Mayo, a Grambling State University student.

Sheila Brooks, CEO of SRB Communications in Washington, D.C., made the offer at the end of a two-day visit to the university’s mass communication department as a part of the Reynolds Visiting Professional program. She and her husband, USA Today personal finance editor Rodney Brooks, visited Grambling April 16-17 as the third installment of the Reynolds Visiting Professionals Program, part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism visiting business journalism professor program. SRB Communications is paying $225 for each of three students to attend the convention June 20-24.

Mass communication majors Andrea Beasley, Lacey Mayo and Christopher “Reneaux” Ruffin will be the recipients of the NABJ grant. All three are NABJ student members, active in the Grambling NABJ student chapter and participants in the optional Reynolds Tigers workshop. The program has a business journalism focus for students who go above and beyond class work to improve.

“She gave me a shot,” said Beasley, a business journalism major. “I’m beyond excited.”

“The opportunity is a blessing,” Beasley continued. “I’m looking forward to being able to learn more, meet great people, attend the seminars and eat good food.” Beasley, who is a multimedia journalist who works with the campus television network, is the only business journalism major at Grambling.

Mayo said she was appreciative as she took time to thank Sheila Brooks. She said the surprise registration “humbles me more and more and I understand that this something Ms. Brooks is not obligated to do but does it out of the kindness of her heart and I respect that extremely.”

Sheila and Rodney Brooks Visit Grambling State University from Reynolds Center on Vimeo.

Brooks insisted that Will Sutton, Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism, make selections based on which students are NABJ members, active with the campus chapter and a part of the Reynolds Tigers program.

“It is a great training ground and training experience for students,” said Sheila Brooks. “You need be active in NABJ and on this campus.”

The Brookses spent two days at Grambling sharing knowledge about business journalism and business. They visited mass communication classes, spent time with the Reynolds Tigers and did one-on-one advice, counsel and feedback sessions with students. Sutton and the Brookses are long-time friends through NABJ. Rodney Brooks, a former SABEW board member, is a former NABJ treasurer and served on the association’s finance committee from 2000 through 2006. Both Brookses are NABJ lifetime members.

Each year the organization holds an annual convention and career fair each summer with dozens of plenary sessions and workshops for professional development. The career fair draws hundreds of recruiters and is among the best means of finding a job in the industry. The annual Salute to Excellence awards and special recognition honors such as: Lifetime Achievement, Journalist of the Year and Community Service are bestowed at each convention. This year’s convention will be held in New Orleans on June 20-June 24.

Both, Rodney and Sheila Brooks are lifetime members of NABJ. Rodney Brooks served on the finance committee for six years from 2000-2006. Sheila founded and organized NABJ TV, which was week-long student project where students would produce a newscast and a newspaper at the organizations yearly national convention. While operating NABJ TV for the first 10 years, Sheila Brooks trained more than 300 student journalists.

NABJ is an organization of journalists, students and media-related professionals that provides programs and services to and advocates on behalf of black journalists worldwide. NABJ is headquartered on the campus of the University of Maryland-College Park.

Justin Madden is a senior mass communication major at Grambling State University in Grambling, La. He is a reporter and editor with The Gramblinite and president of Grambling’s NABJ student chapter. A native of California, he longs to work a summer internship at a news outlet where he can learn to dig and research more, write better on deadline and produce some hard-hitting and feature journalism.

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