Roughly a year and a half ago, I was questioning my purpose and where I fit in as a student at Hampton University. Very few know I began my college career as a biology premedical major battling depression and even contemplated leaving school altogether.
Allow me to reintroduce myself. I am Zoey Hodge, a junior strategic communications major on the pre-law track. I am the youngest in the 2023 Class of Rhoden Fellows, and I have accomplished beyond all that I ever imagined. During this fellowship, I became a proud spring 2023 initiate into the Gamma Iota chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the prospective president of the Black is Gold mentoring organization and an inductee of Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society with a 3.89 GPA, to name a few accolades acquired after overcoming what I feared was impossible.
Historically Black colleges and universities are breeding grounds for talented and unstoppable young Black students. Hampton has poured into me so that I may reach back and give unto others.
The experience granted to one attending an HBCU is unlike any other undergraduate experience. I have developed a desire to learn, serve with intention and set a standard of excellence as a proud alumna.
Getting involved at my school is how I found my footing and even opened the doors to the Rhoden Fellowship. Applying yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone can play a pivotal role in your college career.
At my HBCU, like many others, there is something for everyone. I discovered my love of social media and writing through Her Campus, a digital media platform marketed to college women.
Eventually I decided to change my major and transition into the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton.
Being accepted into the Rhoden Fellowship has been an unforgettable opportunity. I will never forget receiving my first media credential and sitting in the Washington Nationals’ press box among many accomplished journalists thinking to myself, “Is this really happening?”
Frequently I reflect on touching the field for the first time as a media professional, pitching weekly ideas and collaborating with the other fellows. It has all been surreal.
Networking with fellowship leader William Rhoden, the rest of the Andscape staff and numerous professionals has granted me priceless constructive development and played such an integral role in my career as a junior in college.
We are at a point in history where Black women are gaining prominence in the sports journalism industry, a trade currently dominated by white men; it’s unofficially “the year of the Black woman,” if you will. I often envision sports journalists Taylor Rooks and Arielle Chambers, two young Black women who are moving and shaking an industry with systems already in place.
Before joining Turner Sports and Bleacher Report, Rooks worked as an anchor and reporter at SportsNet New York. At just 19 years old, Rooks appeared on CBS Sports Network, breaking her way into the industry as a college student. Chambers is a pro athlete turned reporter after humble beginnings snagging postgame interviews with fellow athletes. She uses social media to continue to elevate her platform as a growing journalist. In those moments where I believe I can’t speak up or be myself, having role models is so important because it proves it can and has been done.
“Being a Black woman in itself is a rebellion. Our existence rubs people the wrong way, especially us occupying space in a loud way,” Chambers said in an interview last year with PopSugar.
Unapologetically exuding confidence when entering any professional space is no easy task, especially as a Black woman. My time as a Rhoden Fellow and an HBCU student has pushed me to be confident in those environments and thrive.
So whether it’s curating a reel for the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic basketball showcase or interviewing athletes at the Cricket Celebration Bowl, this fellowship has taught me to be sure of myself and what I can bring to any prospective environment.
If there is one thing I want the world to know, it’s this: Although my time as a Rhoden Fellow is ending, this is only the beginning. This won’t be the last time you see me reporting on the field or in the press box.
To all the Black female journalists who have come before and set the precedent for young Black women like me, thank you. Because of you I believed I could – and I did.
It’s “the year of the Black woman,” and I’m just getting started.