Kenya Hunter is in her first year covering Richmond, Henrico and Hanover schools for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Tell us about yourself and your background?

I’m a 24-year-old Georgia Peach who moved to Richmond in April. This is my first year in the business of journalism, and it’s been quite eventful. Before this, I was the education reporter at the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, GA where I covered Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools.

What led you to the job you have now?

I had to become an adult very quickly after my mom passed away from breast cancer last year. I had just finished graduate school in Boston when she passed, and I didn’t have a lot of time to get my life together. I really wanted to be a politics reporter, so I was a little disappointed when the job I applied for in Rome told me that I would mostly be focused on education. Then I learned that much of education is very political.

After working at the RNT for five months, a mentor called me and asked if I was interested in a job “more north.” One thing led to another. I met my incredible editor, Katy Evans, who hired a first-year journalist to cover Richmond Public Schools.

Tell us a little about what you do.

At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I cover schools in Richmond, Henrico and Hanover. I’m very passionate and adamant about covering education issues through a lens of equity because Black students, brown students, and poor students feel the brunt of a lot of the aftermath of Massive Resistance and Brown vs. Board of Education. Right now, I’m following school reopening and the diversifying process at Maggie Walker Governor’s School.

What do you appreciate most about your career?

My mother was a special needs teacher in public schools for 40 years, and my sister is also an educator in D.C. Charter Schools. I used to tell them that I wasn’t going to be a teacher, I was going to be a journalist and I wanted nothing more than to be out of school! Education was the most important thing in my household, but I was ready to let it go. God is really funny in making me the education reporter, but I feel close to my mother in every story I write, especially those where I get to examine equity and learn about forgotten Black history in Richmond’s education. I’m grateful that I can be close to her in that way, and it also opens up interesting conversations between my sister and me.

What is your proudest career moment to date?

I got the June Watchdog award from RTD for my coverage on Maggie Walker Governor’s School’s process of diversifying the program. Like I said earlier, I feel strongly that education reporters should cover education through a lens of equity given the systemic issues that have plagued education, gifted programs included. The Maggie Walker Governor’s School is a gifted school that is housed at a building that educated Black students during segregation, but now has fewer than 100 Black students. Along with the underrepresentation of Black students at the school, some of the history is being forgotten, and I’m glad I’m able to learn more about it.

What is the most exciting thing going on at your paper right now?

There is a new generation of folks at the RTD who are under 35 years old and demanding change in the institution that is journalism. It’s really great to know like-minded people who want to see journalism be what we thought it was supposed to be about in college: giving a voice to those most ignored. In college, I don’t think we were trained to actually do that. We were all sort of trained to believe that everyone had equitable access to community journalism, so we didn’t really have to do the work to get those voices in the paper. But now, we’re all willing to do the work and encouraging each other to do the work to stop ignoring people.

 What adjustments, if any, have you had to make while working during the pandemic?

I was lonely working from home, so I got a cat. He’s taken over my apartment, so I still work in the office. Honestly, I’ve put plexiglass at my desk and wear a mask.

What is one new thing you’ve learned, whether it’s industry related or not, in the last month?

I’ve learned that parents wake up very early because children wake up at 6 a.m.

Who is your mentor and why?

I have so many incredible mentors, but the one who has inspired me the most is Erica Green, the education reporter at the New York Times’ Washington bureau. She covers Betsy DeVos and national education policy. She’s given me advice that has shaped my career and how I view these ethics that we abide by. She’s fearless in everything she does, and somehow does it while being an incredible mom.

What are some things you enjoy doing outside of work?

I watch Catfish, the TV show, often. I also have a great group of friends that I hang out with, and I’m going to learn how to skate soon.

What is your favorite quote?

“Your silence will not protect you,” — Audre Lorde

What advice do you have for those who may want to follow your career path?

Be yourself, your truest self. I used to spend a lot of time trying to conform to this archaic version of who a journalist should be, specifically a Black journalist. That never got me anywhere. The politics of respectability have never gotten me further, never got me more money, and never made me smile. All it did was drain me. Once I decided that I’m allowed to be loud, creative, Black, and proud of it, I started seeing my best work.