CJA scholarship helped associate board director achieve journalism dream

By: Sarah Foster, Associate Board director

In addition to winning CJA’s 2014 scholarship, Sarah Foster also became an associate board director later that year. Photo courtesy of Sarah Foster.

It was a phone call I’d never forget.

I was sitting in my dorm room during my freshman year of college, shuffling through an endless pile of homework assignments and papers, when I noticed that a number with a “312” area code was calling me.

I had to pick up. 

“You are the winner!” a voice said.

I soon found out who was on the other end of the line: a man named Lloyd Weston, who is vice president of the Chicago Journalists Association. With enthusiasm, encouragement and kindness, he told me some of the most exciting news I’d ever heard.

“You are chosen to receive the 2014 Chicago Journalists Association Charitable Fund Scholarship!”

The judges were impressed with my work, he said, especially with my mature style of writing and my grades.

It’s been two years since this moment. I’m now in my last year of college at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But it will never mean anything less. 

As a journalist, it’s often hard to find encouragement — from other people but mostly from yourself. The stories are tough. The public is skeptical. I wish I got that quote; I wish I met that person. There are definitely times when it is hard to carry on.

But on that day, I realized that my passion for journalism will help me persevere. When I feel discouraged or worn down, I can return to Lloyd Weston’s word as an inspiration. It empowers me to get through all of these days — both the challenging ones and the rewarding ones.

The Chicago Journalists Association Charitable Fund scholarship helped me accomplish everything I ever dreamed of — and so much more. It made attending my dream university possible. It helped me immerse myself in the craft of journalism, to reach out to experienced and wise professors and to get to know so many students with unique and wonderful talents. It even led to my receipt of two internships in Chicago — one at Workforce magazine and another at the Chicago Daily Herald.

But most importantly, the Chicago Journalists Association Charitable Fund scholarship gave me a way to continue telling the important stories that need to be told. It helped me to find those people deep within the shadows and reach out to bring them to light. It allowed me to use my passions in a way that helps others.

I’m so thankful for my college experience, along with the many lessons that this scholarship led me to receive.

In the end, this scholarship helped me become the person I always wanted to be. It showed me how to recognize the remarkable stories that are hidden in plain sight. Most importantly, it showed me how to stand up for what I believe in and to always do what’s right.

Please consider making your donation to this remarkable fund, so you, too, can ensure that future generations of students and aspiring journalists get the same opportunities to attend a prestigious university just like I did.

You won’t regret it.