Scholarship Recipients



Justin Michael Williams is a Senior Public Relations Major at the University of Texas at Texarkana, with a 3.1 Cumulative Grade Point Average and 3.4 GPA in his major.

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the incredible power of effective communication,” he wrote in his scholarship application essay. “My journey toward a career in public relations (PR) was ignited during an American History class when I first heard the iconic speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy [and] his famous call to action, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you –ask what you can do for your country.’ That left an indel­ible mark on my heart and steered me toward PR.”

“President Kennedy’s inaugural address was more than just a history lesson,” he continued, “it was a master class in how a thoughtfully crafted message, delivered with the perfect tone and timing, can capture the hearts and minds of a nation.

“Just as (he) navigated the evolving challenges of his time, the PR industry evolves with emerging technologies…offering opportunities for innovation and adaptability.”

“In essence,” he concluded, “my passion for PR is a multifaceted journey, and my commitment lies in leveraging my communication skills, creativity and adaptability to excel in this field…contribute to a better-informed…and positively influenced society, much like the impactful legacy of JFK’s words and leadership has inspired me to do.”


Lia Marisol Portillo is a Junior Communications Major at Northwestern State University. She has a 4.0 Cumulative Grade Point Average and, obviously, a 4.0 GPA in her major.

“I have always wanted to change the world,” she began her scholarship application essay, “but I learned early that one way to do that is through my writing. Even when I was in my home country of Honduras, I wanted to change the violence, the restrictions and corruption I witnessed.”

“In high school,” she continued, “I learned some basics about journalism from my U.S. History class teacher, Mrs. Friendlander. She taught me the impact journalists have made throughout the course of history. I had no idea how to write an article…but I loved the concept of exposing the secrecy and corruption tainting our communities.” She said when she visited the NSU campus, “I couldn’t wait to see the newsroom. I saw the editor-in-chief running with a newspaper in her hand and her photo editor trailing behind her, excited to deliver the paper around campus. When I saw them, I imagined what it would be like to chase stories in that newsroom.”

Now the editor-in-chief of The Current Sauce, she concluded her essay by saying she wants “to pursue a career in journalism because it gives me hope. Journalism allows me to transform communities I care about and give voice to those who feel they are voiceless. The world needs journalists…and I want to be a part of this movement.”



Anna Olivia Graney is a Junior Communications Major at Louisiana Tech University, with a 3.1 Cumulative Grade Point Average and 3.25 GPA in her major.

“When I was growing up,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay, “I always noticed how certain moments in life can be
captured through words and photographs.”  She said she has an “increasing passion” for continuing to develop and refine her ability to communicate a story “through visual and written media forms … and spread messages across the globe and impact countless lives.”

Her dream, she said, “would be to work for a nonprofit organization as a photojournalist or social media manger. … I could curate content that would promote the ideals and values of the organization while also affecting the lives of others in positive ways.” She pointed to Compassion International
as an example of an organization she admires that uses its communications materials to “call others to action in seeking to help children in poverty around the world.”

“The field of communication,” she concluded, “is a valuable opportunity for me to use the skills I am learning in college to impact people in my community and the world as a whole. I hope to use my adaptable outlook and the knowledge I am learning to begin a successful and fulfilling career.”


Brennan Ramian Thompson is a Senior Mass Communications Major with concentrations in Journalism and Public Relations at Louisiana State University – Shreveport. He has a 3.45 Cumulative Grade Point Average and a 3.15 GPA in his majors.

“Pursuing a career in journalism,” he began in his scholarship application essay, “is something a person does out of passion rather than fame or fortune Those are the perks of being famous, but the mean of journalism is an incessant need to pursue the truth.”  He said “‘Truth’ is a nebulous term, meaning many thing to many people. For me, the truth is both concrete and abstract. The truth is the fact-gathering we do every day as journalists, be it data or photographs, testimony and quotes from figures or topics…. But, the truth is also knowing no matter what happens, people have a solid idea of how the world works around them and if we should affect change.”

He characterized “countless journalists who work without sleep, sometimes away from family, pursuing stories that…help democracies flourish.”
“Without information, without knowledge,” he concluded, “our [U.S.] democracy will fall. A democracy without information is not democracy – it is chaos, ignorance and despair. No room should be made for chaos. Democracy and the truth prevail when their guardians stand ready. I am one of those guardians, and will defend democracy through my profession.”



Shelby Nicole Sellars is a Senior Mass Communication/Public Relations Major at Stephen F. Austin University, with a 4.0 Grade Point Average both Cumulative and in her major.    

    “Even when I was young,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay, “I never pictured myself working a typical desk job from 9 to 5. I wanted to do something that would keep me on my toes and give me a different experience every day.”

    She said she found that public relations is “not a one-size-fits-all profession and no two days are going to be the same. I love the variety this industry offers. There really is something for everyone,” whether it’s writing copy or the person communicating directly with the client.

    “I also love the creativity…,” she continued. “Sometimes you may need to use your imagination. It isn’t just about technical skills all the time…. I have a servant’s heart and want a career where I can truly help people.”

   “I love networking,” she concluded, “and making connections. This industry comes with genuine relationships…with clients, coworkers or the public. I thrive in situations that require teamwork. I truly believe the best ideas come from several brains working together. I have always been fascinated with the world of public relations and have loved every minute of the past few years learning more about it.”


Alexis Nicole Newman is a Senior Journalism/modern languages Major at Louisiana Tech University, with a 3.9 Cumulative Grade Point Average and a 4.0 Cumulative GPA.

    “I am often asked what made me choose journalism as my major,” she began in her scholarship application essay, “especially considering I started college intending to get a degree in engineering.” She said part of her reason is that “many people don’t understand the entire picture of what journalism is.”

    She said journalism is “the perfect fit for me because it gives me experience in writing and photography, combines creative and technical aspects and teaches me the skills I need to tell a story as objectively as possible.” Writing has always been one of her interests, “but rather than…an English major, I chose journalism because I felt it had broader applications. The writing style allows me to tell true stories in as accurate and succinct of a manner as possible, which is a valuable skill.”

    She said one of her favorite parts of journalism is having to think outside the box “in order to come up with story ideas, but then I must apply the technical skill of writing in a journalistic style…despite how unnatural it is for me to be brief and to the point.”

    A career in journalism, she said, “will allow me to tell authentic stories from real people, and that’s what motivates me to continue pursuing a journalism degree.



Leanna Coy, is a Junior Mass Communication Major at Northwestern State Uni­versity, with an overall Grade Point Average of 3.82 and a 3.88 GPA in her major.

“When I was in high school thinking about what I wanted to study in college,” Leanna wrote in her scholarship application es­say, “all I knew was I wanted my major to involve writing. I’ve always had a passion for writing, but I couldn’t see myself as an English teacher or author…, but when I learned about the public relations concentration, it seemed perfect. [I]t is a job with creative aspects. Between writing, speaking, event planning and marketing, I find the job more exciting than most 9-5s.”

“…[P]ublic relations…offers so many opportunities,” she continued. “My minor is in hospitality management and…it would be my dream to…incorporate it into my ca­reer. Since almost every company has some form of public relations, I think combin­ing my major and minor will be achievable.

“As…the national media gets increasingly tense…,” she concluded, “it is more im­portant than ever for communication professionals to have integrity. Public relations can get a bad reputation, but I am dedicated to working honestly to give the field a good name…. express my creativity [and] uphold the values I believe in.”


Brianna Corley, is a Junior Mass Communication Major at Northwestern State Univeristy, with overall and major Grade Point Averages of 4.0.

“My source and I sat in a corner office built from ceiling to window glass and a hope for a better future as we discussed Loui­siana’s education gap,” Brianna began her scholarship application essay, “Between questions and responses, I thought back to my own hometown stuck in the rural backroads and the many places like it where good teachers worked from behind. It was there, as I typed on my computer and began to place pieces of an article together, I made the connection.”

“I chose journalism because I wanted to write,” she continued, “because sewing words together was all I knew how and have ever wanted to do. It was only after I became involved in student media that I understood what stories meant, that the work of journalism extends far beyond technical skill and descriptive profiling. There is something unfathomable about realizing that all the topics that seemed untouchable can be examined, explored, and given life by asking questions and creating a piece to share with an audience.”

“I want to write stories about the things I do understand and write to understand the things I do not,” she concluded. “I am pursuing journalism to chronicle human life in all its phases and be a small part of a larger whole working toward the betterment of people.”



Misty Nicole Boggs is a senior at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX, with a 3.4 cumulative and major GPA. She is the first SJF scholarship recipient from that school.  She is majoring in mass commu­nications with a concentration on public relations and advertising. “I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to be in mass communications,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay.  At age 6, “I was standing in front of the television, absorbed completely (in) John Stossel’s emphatic and powerful story on ABC’s 20/20.

She was captivated, she wrote, “by the images of a swarm of … Chinese orphans … surrounding an American couple who were to choose one of those hearts to hold forever.  With tears streaming down my cheeks, I looked up at my dad.   ‘I want to tell stories like that,’ I said.”

She looks back on “that moment when I knew what I wanted to do.  I realized it was the ability to weave imagery, emotion, and fact together to tell a compelling story that truly captured me and moved me to action.  …A career as a public relations professional provides an incredible opportunity to help others communicate their messages with the force that moves audiences to action.”



Graysen Avery Reid is a senior mass communications major at the University of Texas at Tyler with a cumulative and major GPA of 4.0. “Stories,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay.  “From the first words, they grab our attention and, if they’re really good, they stay with you.  You think about them over and over, searching for a deeper meaning and connection beyond words on a page.  This is why I want to pursue a career in journalism.”

“My love for writing and storytelling,” she continued, “started in (second grade) when my teacher gave us creative essay prompts.  I wrote, my pencil scrawling across the paper for what seemed like hours.  In those first few essays, a spark ignited, slow at first but growing with each sentence.  Today, I write every day for almost everything I do, striving to keep the same fervor and passion that began almost 15 years ago.”

“…I know much more about journalism than I did as a second grader,” she concluded, “but one thing has stayed the same:  my love for journalism.  The passion that sparked long ago has flourished, burning brighter as I get closer to a dream that has glowed in my mind for almost 15 years.”



Alex Wallace small

Alex Wallace is a senior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 4.0 cumulative GPA. She is majoring in mass commu­nications with an emphasis in public relations. “I want to be hands-on with people and relationships in my job,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay. “I want to use what I’ve learned in my studies … and be a mediator be­tween organizations and their publics.”

“My dream,” she wrote, “is to do PR for a nonprofit or­ganization. A nonprofit’s relationship with the public is even more important because that’s where donors come in. I want to work for a nonprofit … to use my skills to make a difference, and, in my opinion, that’s the best way to use them.”

“My studies,” she continued, “have provided me with strategic planning and communications tools I can use to help raise money for a good cause.”

She also understands how valuable social media is for brand awareness.

“I want to work in PR,” she concluded, “so I can use my passion for people, along with my acquired knowledge of networking and campaigning, to make the world a better place.”


Cooper Adams small

Cooper Adams is a junior mass communications major at the University of Texas at Tyler with a cumulative GPA of 4.0. He is the first SJF scholarship recipient from outside Louisiana. “As a child,” he wrote in his scholarship application essay, “I wanted to be a news reporter … asking the types of ques­tions only a 7-year-old could think up in the hopes of finding ‘breaking news.’”

In high school, he joined the yearbook staff, “the closest thing to a newspaper Troup High School had to offer,” he wrote, “and soon became the head photographer.”

His early training in photography and page design lead to his own part-time photography business and his current post as director of art and design for Patriot, UT-Tyler’s student-run newspaper.

“My interest and desire to go into this field is obvious to me,” he concluded. “As I continue in my courses, I find myself falling more in love with my stud­ies. Admittedly, I am both nervous and excited to see what opportunities will come my way thanks to this path I walk. And, while the future may be uncer­tain, I do hope to make the 7-year-old reporter I once was proud.”



meghen jones-smallWhitney Martin is a senior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 3.40 cumulative GPA and 3.75 in her public relations major.  “When I first began college,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay, “I was lost.”

“I was a nursing student,” she continued, “who knew in her heart she was not where she was meant to be.  It was truly terrifying not knowing what my life’s purpose was.”

After changing her major three times and “doubting myself every step of the way,” she found a curriculum sheet for public relations.  “It was the one that intrigued me the most … I felt in my heart that it was meant for me.”

“Since I have been studying public relations, I have discovered a sense of leadership in myself that I never thought possible.  I find myself wanting to dive into new opportunities more and more… I have not doubted my decision once… (Public relations) has brought out a light in me that I never knew was there.”

“Public relations is a diverse and vast career field,” she concluded, “where I will never get bored.  The possibilities are quite literally endless!”


whitney martin-smallMeghen Jones is a senior mass communications major (concentration in sports journalism) at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 3.40 in her major.  “From the young age of 12,” she wrote in her scholarship application essay, “I knew that I had a deep passion for writing.  This led to my desire of wanting to work in the field of journalism.”  Whether interpersonal or learning to communicate with different methods, she says she has always valued the importance of communication.

“To some,” she continued in her essay, “sports journalism is just another update of the most recent game, or keeping up with the high school athlete who’s signing to a college”

“To me, sports journalism … is someone’s story that’s waiting to be told in a different light … finding athletes with stories that touch the heart.  I love being on the field on a Friday night (filming) highlights … and putting footage together.  The excitement of the momentum flowing through a basketball game gives me so much energy.  Sports journalism has provided me an outlook far beyond sports.”



Jessica Ingram is a senior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 2.98 cumulative GPA and 3.0 in her public relations major. “For as long as I can remember,” she wrote in her scholarship essay, “I have been asked, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ A simple enough question without a simple answer. …The fear of committing to a path for my future was intimidating.

“Ron Torossian said it best, ‘PR is a mix of journalism, psychology and lawyering – it’s an ever-changing, always- interesting landscape.’ This is exactly why I’m drawn to public relations. I want to do something that requires a diverse skill set.”

She claims an avid love for writing, graphic arts and problem-solving; most of all she enjoys being around people. “A career in public relations (is) the perfect path for my future because I want to be challenged. I want to make a difference; and most of all I want something I can pour my heart into without completely changing who I am. I am creative but I am also a leader. I want to do something extraordinary. Public relations is exactly that.”


Elles Rock 2016Elles Rock is a junior mass communications major (concentration in journalism) at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 3.91 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in her major. Earlier this year, she wrote an article for Shreveport Magazine on “homelessness in Shreveport and the people who are working to combat this issue of poverty.”

“I was able to connect with the director of a local organization,” she wrote in her scholarship essay, “whose nonprofit is making ground-breaking strides daily … to help the homeless population in this city.”

“This piece took on a life of its own,” she wrote. “Writing (it) changed my mind about the way I looked at poverty in my city and in the world.

“Through the power of words, the power of a well-told story, tightly held opinions can change and people can start to see the world differently. This is why I want to pursue a career in journalism.

“I want to help inform people about things happening around them they may be missing. In my writing I strive to inform, but I also strive to inspire because I have witnessed the power of a well-told story.”



Burlison-smallBlair Burlison is a senior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 3.4 cumulative GPA and 3.8 in her Public Relations major. She finds great joy in helping people see the good within themselves, “more specifically determining why something didn’t work and using components of the good to achieve this.”

Seeing the good in herself was a major factor last year when she determined nursing school wasn’t a good fit for her career path. “Finding my strengths helped me determine that my heart was in mass communications, more precisely public relations … [which] requires an absolute understanding of the necessary tools to transform a client from bad to good and good to better.”

She also believes public relations requires a great deal of integrity. “I venerate a career,” she says, “where an individual or company instills trust in someone to help change his or her reputation for the better. As someone who over-analyzes everything, I am not someone who sees the glass half empty or half full … [but] someone who looks at the glassware and tries to determine how much the glass can comfortably hold while being consumed.”


Boyanton-smallMegan Boyanton is a junior Mass Communications major at Northwestern State University, with a 3.35 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in her major. She counts herself lucky, because “while other … students struggle to pinpoint their purposes, never have I wavered in my fervor for journalism.”She says journalism’s “combination of travel and writing has spoken volumes to my 20 years of wanderlust, but, as I explore the field, I never fail to find more reasons to pursue it further.”

“I have chased my passion across continents,” she says.

“Waking up at 2:30 a.m. for a summer internship, I hopped into news vans and sat in control rooms practicing writing my own segments….” She has taken layout advice from editors at The New York Times, and has followed her ambitions to PinkNews in London, England.

“As a millennial woman, journalism has … ingrained in me an incessant need to speak the truth for those who cannot,” she says. “In a society of propaganda and societal norms, a rebellious internal fire has been sparked to fight corruption with facts and to bring justice to the world through words.”



Malvya ChintakindiMalvya Chintakindi is a junior at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, with a 3.95 cumulative GPA and 3.75 in her Public Relations major. She calls Shreveport home.

She says it didn’t take long to select Public Relations as a major. “It is my dream to get involved with the United Nations … and Public Relations is crucial in any platform that demands extensive communication.”

“Be it international relations, corporate communications or simple organizational communications,” Malvya wrote in her scholarship application essay, “Public Relations as my major is teaching me the various tools to be effective in any given field. I plan on combining it with social activism and international relations in the future.”

She is an officer in the LSUS Public Relations Student Organization, and says the meetings and seminars she attends through PRSO help build her skill set. “My experience through being a part of the LSUS Debate Team serves as a proof that Public Relations is, indeed, my calling. My interaction with competitors enables me to communicate strategically which has become practical experience at hand.”


Kelsey NewmanKelsey Katherine Newman is a junior Mass Communications major at Northwestern State University, with a 3.18 cumulative GPA and 3.19 in her major. She lists Goldonna, La., as home.

“I want to pursue a career in Mass Communications because I have a passion for broadcasting and writing,” Kelsey wrote in her scholarship application essay. “I love being involved in student media because it allows me to grow as a professional in broadcasting.”

Since enrolling at NSU in the spring semester 2014, she has received a working scholarship reporting for the college radio station and has earned a position as the “weather talent” on the college TV station. “I enjoy making my presence known on campus through live broadcasting,” she says. “I am also the field-side reporter for all the home football games….”

“The world thrives on information,” she says. “I strive to communicate information as accurately as possible through my broadcasting. …working with the student media…has provided me with a solid foundation.”



(P1) Hannah SchillingHannah Schilling is a senior at Louisiana Tech University, with a 3.85 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in her major. She calls Bossier City home.

She is straight-forward about her pursuit of a career in journalism, “obviously not for the money.”  She writes in her scholarship application essay that she chose journalism because “I love to write and could not imagine myself doing anything else with my life.”

“We help people understand facts,” she continued, “and show them the truth so they can form their own opinions and become involved. Journalists are the connection between authority and the people, and that is a job not many people can handle.”

As a student journalist, Hannah has started an impressive portfolio of interviews. “I get to talk to people I would never talk to if I were in any other field — the president of our university, the 6-year-old winner of a peach-eating contest, the lead singer of a local band or a man in hospice who just lost his wife of 50 years. The best part is this: not only do I get to have these experiences, …(but also) readers get to hear what I heard and know what I know.”


(P2) Olivia MartzellOlivia Martzell is a junior at Northwestern State University in the Louisiana Scholars College, with a 3.1 cumulative GPA and 3.83 in her major. She lists Natchitoches as home.

“I knew journalism was the right choice for me as a young girl,” Olivia wrote in her scholarship application essay. “I was always a bit too inquisitive; I’d pry into conversations I’d overhear.  Almost instantly I wanted to learn the truth behind the conversation and what had happened.”

Olivia says journalism is the right career for her because it comes naturally. “With journalism, I am not struggling to keep up with the demands of the profession. I take the demands as a challenge to better myself and as the knowledge a journalist must possess.”

Journalism isn’t for the weak-hearted, she said, “and is surely not for someone who likes to take the ‘easy way out.’ It takes someone who will devote his or her time, mind and will to pursue a career like this.  I am more than ready to fulfill my duties as an aspiring journalist and one day be the journalist that undergraduates can look up to as a role model.”



RebeccaWheeler (4 web)Rebecca Wheeler is a senior at LSUS majoring in public relations, with a 3.9 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in her major. She lives on Barksdale Air Force Base and calls Southlake, Texas, home.

“As a child growing up with two older sisters and a brother,” Rebecca wrote in her scholarship application essay, “I was constantly gathering ‘information’ on them and would report my findings to my parents.”  She once tried to start a family newspaper, but gives no reason for not doing so!

Wanting to be a nurse when she started to college, she quickly realized that “science and blood” were not her thing. When she “discovered” the communications department, she “had no idea you could be a professional at communicating…. The skills I had been subconsciously practicing and flourishing at my entire life had a place and a purpose.”

Her original career choice of nursing came from of a desire “to be an influential part of people’s lives,” she says. “I was just choosing the wrong outlet.”

“My passion for a strong work ethic and interesting in formulating a valuable, successful image for a company – as I tried to do for my sibling years ago –makes a career in public relations a perfect fit for me.”


Jennifer Middleton (4 web)Jennifer Middleton is a junior at LSUS majoring in journalism, with a 3.7 GPA both cumulative and in her major. She lists Haughton as home.

She’s been told she has a talent for writing and that she is adventurous.  “When it came time to decide on a career, journalism seemed like an obvious choice.  …I like interacting with people, I like the idea of traveling and I want to eventually become a novelist.”

People interest Jennifer, she says. “Everyone has a unique viewpoint, and … everyone has a story to tell. As a journalist, I would … hear these viewpoints and stories on a regular basis.”

Of being a novelist some day, she says she has “several writing projects – ideas for books and television shows – that I’m very excited about, and I would love to see these ideas realized one day. Journalism would allow me to continue to hone my writing skills and would provide me with a lot of valuable experience that I could draw on as a novelist.”

“From the people I could meet, to the places I could travel, to the experience I could gain from it, the field of journalism offers many exciting possibilities.”



Kelly Belton, 2010 and 2011 Dodson recipient

Kelly Belton, 2010 and 2011 Dodson recipient

Kelly Belton is the first student to receive two Shreveport Journalism Foundation scholarships, repeating this year as the recipient of the Kerry Garland Memorial Scholarship. Kelly is a senior at Louisiana Tech University majoring in journalism and political science.

As a journalist, Kelly finds encouraging students in foreign countries to change their nation through discourse a noble cause.

“Sure,” she continues in her essay, “my curiosity has helped me get where I am, but access to information has been key. After spending a year in newsrooms, I have determined what makes journalism most special to me: we are the holders of information. We can save lives literally by informing people of approaching dangers. But, I believe we do more. We educate the ignorant.

“It can be easy to take for granted the information and news I soak up daily. But as a journalist, I must never forget those who don’t have this privilege. It is a responsibility of ours to try to take this to others. [Foreign students have] found freedom through their knowledge and access to information, limited as it may be. Taking that freedom to others across the globe is how journalists make the difference.”


Naomi Allison, 2011 Garland recipient

Naomi Allison, 2011 Garland recipient

Naomi Allison is a junior at Louisiana Tech University majoring in journalism and Spanish, and minoring in marketing.

Naomi wants to pursue a career in broadcast journalism “because I am a passionate, hard-working woman with the strong desire to influence change.”

“To me,” she continues in her essay, “journalism is the perfect career path, because it is fresh, innovative and ages gracefully with time. From print to radio and even computers, journalism has morphed like a butterfly to adapt to society’s expectations. It allows me to combine my greatest strengths and present them on a professional platform. It challenges my ability to be creative and helps me grow spiritually and mentally. It sheds light on issues that are often overlooked, and gives a voice to people who may never be heard. It also gives me the opportunity to express my emotions through speech and writing, while impacting other people’s lives.

“Though some seem to categorize journalism as a dying field, I feel otherwise. At the end of the day, it is not about success, fame or money. I am a journalist because it is in my blood. It is in the air I breathe and a fundamental part of my heart and soul. As a journalist, if I can cause someone to create new ideas, then my purpose is served.”

2010 Scholarship Recipient Profiles

[NOTE: No scholarships were awarded in 2009.]

2008 Scholarship Recipient Profiles

2007 Scholarship Recipient Profiles

All recipients to date