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Journalism student gets to tell the story

Journalism student Thandiwe Vela at her desk at the Toronto Star

She listens to the buzz of an all-night city on the radio, waiting for the next big story to break.

During a midnight shift at the Toronto Star, Thandiwe Vela sits at her desk in the Toronto Star’s radio room, scanning the airwaves connected to ambulance and police dispatchers. As an editorial assistant for the city’s largest newspaper, Vela knows what’s happening every minute.

“I’m right there, on the front lines of everything,” Vela said. “I’m constantly listening to the scanners for breaking news and writing stories at the same time for the Star’s online content.” She has also written several feature stories for the newspaper and hopes to become an editorial columnist one day. 

Ever since she immigrated to Toronto from Zimbabwe at the age of three speaking only her native Shona language, she has been striving to achieve her goals in both academics and athletics. 

As a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program at U of T Scarborough and Centennial College, Vela claims her academic experience has made her well rounded in the field getting the best of both worlds. 

“Not only do you get credited for having both a university and college education, you get the different teaching techniques offered by both institutions,” she said, “and they definitely complement each other.” 

“Our graduates have found placements and employment at many different media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations,” said Karen McCrindle, journalism program supervisor at UTSC. Field placements have included: Toronto Star, Toronto Sun,

OMNI TV, CBC-Radio, CTV, the National Post, The Town Crier, and media relations organizations. 

As part of Centennial’s field placement component, Vela was hired as an intern at the Toronto Star, where she submerged herself in the fast-paced environment of the staff reporters. 

Vela was recently awarded a $1,000 Centennial College Scholarship from the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ), which aims to highlight accomplishments by promising black journalists. “It was an honour to receive this award because it was an investment in me for a bright future in journalism, and it gave me more confidence,” she said. 

When she’s not in the newsroom, Vela runs track competitively for the university’s Varsity team. If she had not become interested in journalism, she says she would have pursued a career as a professional athlete.  Although her main event has been triple jump – for which she won a provincial gold medal – her new focus is on sprinting in the 60-metre dash. 

Vela plans to graduate in June 2010 from the joint program in journalism and is considering a graduate degree in African studies.  

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