CQS 25th Anniversary Tribute: Donovan Harrell

Donovan Harrell (Summer 2015)
Breaking News Reporter
McClatchy Washington Bureau

I nearly dropped my phone from shock when a representative of The New York Times Student Journalism Institute called me with an offer soon after I graduated from Florida A&M University in December 2016.

Even with the journalism internships and workshops I’ve participated in and the innumerable hours I’ve spent slaving away in student newsrooms, securing something as prestigious as the Times’ institute felt like an impossible undertaking. After years of self-doubt stemming from a procession of rejection letters, the opportunity finally validated my toil as an undergraduate. Once the initial shock had passed and I called my loved ones to celebrate, I melted into the living room couch in a mix of relief and pure exhaustion. I felt years of tension release from my body.

Being accepted into the 2017 institute, to be held in May in Manhattan, is my greatest professional accomplishment following a year’s worth of disappointments and mental health struggles. In my darkest moments, friends and family would console me, assuring me that things would improve. After that phone call from the Times, I finally believed them.

I had to forfeit the institute opportunity two months later in favor of a full-time reporting position with McClatchy’s bureau in Washington, D.C. But recognition by The New York Times was enough for me. I allow myself to believe that perseverance does eventually pay off.

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