MILWAUKEE — On the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, TMJ4 finds young journalists eager to tell stories and hone their craft.
Two young ladies got an opportunity of a lifetime when they were awarded the WUWM Eric Von Broadcast fellowship.
The gift is in honor of the late journalist Eric Von. The beloved and well-respected Milwaukee man died in 2016 after more than 25 years in radio.
Von interviewed local leaders from all walks of life on issues important to Milwaukee.
His widow Faith Colas tells TMJ4 what she misses most about her late husband.
"Every single thing about him, including hearing his voice," says Colas.
Colas is proud that with the help of WUWM, the Eric Vaughn Broadcast Fellowship is shaping the next generation of journalists. Colas admits, "It is bittersweet living life without Eric. But the sweetness is that his legacy lives on in all of the fellows that will become part of the WUWM Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship."
The fellows are excited about their opportunity. This year's winner is Simone Cazares.
"I like honestly couldn't say anything. I was so shocked when they called," said Cazares. "This have been like my dream since I was like 15 years old, to be like a fellow at a major public radio station like WUWM. To hear that I have gotten the opportunity to pursue my dreams and to go to a new city and to do something new. And to like, finally get the chance to be the reporter that I always wanted to be. I was just like, so shocked to know that they had chosen me out of everyone else."
27-year-old Teran Powell is a Marquette graduate. She was awarded the first ever Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship four years ago. That led to a full-time job at WUWM, where she's the race and ethnicity reporter. Powell says being a Von fellow has opened doors.
"I had an Alderman tell me like I'll talk to you. And I want to do the interview. It was definitely a plug and I appreciated that," said Powell.
Eric Von fellows get more than a career launch.
Colas explains, "This is a $70,000 a year fellowship. And when the fellows come in, they are paid a full-time salary. It's benefits that they get, vacation time off, and they get experience."
Eric Von worked at several radio stations, including WNOV AM. His last job was at WUWM 89.7 FM.
"His work did make a difference in the seeds of people listening, right? People made decisions differently. They listened differently. They thought about this community differently, whether by themselves or with their family or in their workplace. He did make a difference and this fellowship is proof of that," said Colas.
Supporters of the fellowship appreciate Von's passion for improving Milwaukee. The Eric Von fellowship is fully funded by gifts.
"People who appreciate his legacy and appreciate the work that he did in this community, who love the idea of building the next generation of broadcast journalists, they donate," said Colas.
The fellows feel a responsibility to live up to Von's commitment to the greater good..
Cazares adds, "It's a huge honor and I don't take that responsibility lightly. You know, I want to continue to tell the stories of people who look like me people, who don't see themselves represented on the air, and to be able to do that and continue on his legacy just means the world to me."
Powell says, "I always used to say I want to be able to put into giving voice to the voiceless. And there's nothing wrong with saying that, but these are people who have voices. They just need a platform to be able to talk about what's happening to them and around them. That's what I really appreciate about the race and ethnicity reporting. It's teaching me so much and I'm able to educate the community as well. I like it."
Colas notes, "Their voices are heard on NPR. Their work is heard on NPR. Their work is heard through the airwaves. Here at WUWM. Whether they decide to stay here or not, wherever they go with their career, they got their start here in Milwaukee, at WUWM, through the Eric Von Fellowship. What could be better?"
So as these young ladies embark upon the career of their dreams, they're inspired by a man they never met, whose presence lives on.
"I'm just so thankful to have this support, all of my mentors here WUWM, it's just the most amazing thing to me," admits Cazares.
Powell states, "Even to this day, knowing how many people still think about Eric can keep his name alive along with this fellowship. It's really amazing."
Colas smiles and proclaims, "His work did make a difference in the seeds of people listening. He made a difference, and this fellowship is proof of that."