Local university students win White House Correspondents’ Association scholarships

WASHINGTON — Several students from the D.C. area had the honor of attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Saturday.

President Donald Trump’s absence during the dinner brought in fewer celebrities and more figures of politics and the press. And as usual, the proceeds of the yearly “nerd prom” at the Washington Hilton that celebrates freedom of the press went toward WHCA scholarships for promising journalism students.

WHCA partners up with eight universities across the nation. And this year, among the 23 WHCA scholarship winners, five students from Howard University, George Washington University and the University of Maryland were honored.

Becca King, a junior at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, who received the Frank Cormier scholarship of $5,000, said the best way to describe Saturday night’s event was “surreal.”

“Everyone knew that last night was going to be different for a lot of different reasons,” she said. “I can’t even explain that feeling to you, standing in front of some of my idols — Major Garrett, Jonathan Karl — people who I learn about, watch on TV, strive to be. It was a really special thing to be a part of. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

King, from Baltimore, is pursuing a double degree in broadcast journalism and government and politics and has extensive experience with local news organizations such as an internship at WJLA-TV and the Capitol News Service’s Maryland Newsline. At the Washington Hilton on Saturday, she also represented three other students from her school who received the Frank Cormier $5,000 scholarships.

“This is just another amazing opportunity I’ve gotten because of the school I go to, being so close to D.C.,” King said. “It’s such an amazing support system. I feel really blessed and humbled.”

George Washington University senior Teniola Ayomide Ayoola from Bowie, Maryland, won a $2,500 scholarship. She is in GWU’s School of Media and Public Affairs and has held a yearlong internship with D.C.’s BBC News as well as a summer internship with the BBC Bureau in Lagos, Nigeria, where she is originally from. To add on to her already impressive resume, she completed a study abroad program on Globalization and the Media at the American University of Paris.

Anthony Brown Jr., Beryl C. Kessio and Merdie Nzanga attend Howard University and are also scholarship recipients.

Brown is a junior from Alexandria and won the one-time award of $7,000, the Harry S. McAlpin Jr. Scholarship. His experience spans from photography to restaurant reviews and marketing. He has worked at the Democratic National Convention and volunteered at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as in Flint, Michigan, during the Flint water crisis.

Kessio, from Harvest, Alabama, won the WHCA scholarship with a one-time award of $7,000. She was born in Kenya and is fluent in Swahili. Kessio has worked at the Morocco World News in Rabat
and has volunteered in D.C.’s Martha’s Table.

Nzanga is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has experience in research, writing, video editing, reporting and interviewing. Nzanga is fluent in French, and wants to become a foreign news correspondent.

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