“I am the end result of the Talk Story, Write Story program’s mission,” said Kia Breaux, Midwest Regional Director of The Associated Press based in her hometown of Kansas City. “I certainly could have benefited from this program, and I know many others who could have as well.”
She offered her remarks during a day-long brainstorming session in Columbia, Missouri, this past spring about the future of the volunteer community mentoring program.
Breaux spoke candidly about her struggle, sacrifices and the compromises of getting a college degree without funds to pay for it.
Two decades ago she was an academically ambitious African-American high school senior with excellent grades, a reputation for leadership and a long-held goal of graduating from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.
Faced with the reality of no money for higher education, she made a tough decision that still impacts her life.
“While I had the grades and test scores to get to college, my family could not afford the tuition,” she told the Talk Story, Write Story gathering.
“Ultimately I worked my way through college and took out student loans (for undergraduate and graduate tuition) to fill the gaps. I am still paying back those loans today.”
Breaux eventually won an AP Gramling education award in 2004 and used it to complete her master’s degree in management and human resource management at Baker University in Overland Park, Kansas, while working full time.
Now 42 and the mother of sons John, 10, and Jaden, 6, her job requires frequent travel to support AP members spread across more than 208,000 square miles of Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. An enthusiastic Little League mom, she seldom misses a practice or game. She also serves on a half-dozen nonprofit boards.
Sacrificing a precious Saturday with her sons to contribute her views at the Talk Story, Write Story retreat, Breaux said she made the five-hour round trip because she is passionate about helping young people move forward into bright futures.
I have long mentored aspiring journalists through national, state and local programs for disadvantaged youth.
“I have long mentored aspiring journalists through national, state and local programs for disadvantaged youth,” she said. “I feel this is a much-needed program with a lot of potential.”
The media executive said the benefits and connection to local media outlets that become local sponsors “are pretty clear to me.”
“Funding for high school journalism programs across the U.S. is being slashed and fewer college students are majoring in journalism,” said Breaux. “Ultimately this means there will be a much smaller pool from which to draw talent.
“Newspapers would have an opportunity to educate their readership and potentially develop future journalists by participating in the Talk Story, Write Story program.”
Breaux received newsroom leadership and management training at Harvard University’s Maynard Media Academy and the Poynter Institute for leadership training. She recently accepted an invitation from Missouri School of Journalism Dean David Kurpius to be one of eight members on his new Strategic Planning Leadership Team composed of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
She added that commitment to her responsibilities as vice president of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, a William Allen White Foundation Trustee, a working press trustee on the Iowa Freedom of Information council and a member of the Missouri Publishing Association board.
Breaux said she wants to follow Talk Story, Write Story’s progress as it transitions from its Hawaii and Alaska roots and this year’s demonstration project at Columbia’s Hickman High School, where it was sponsored by the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, to other Midwestern communities.
“I admire the work and commitment to this project. It is off to a great start in Missouri,” Breaux said. “(It) has made a huge impact on the lives of so many young people. Even if the … participants don’t receive the top scholarships, the experience and skills they learn will serve them well in other areas.”