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DPS Notables | Ayesha Rascoe: DPS Alumna Bringing Joy in a World of Darkness
Ayesha Rascoe: DPS Alumna Bringing Joy in a World of Darkness
When Ayesha Rascoe settles onto her throne as host of National Public Radio’s global newsmagazine NPR Weekend Edition Sunday on March 27, one of the jewels in her career crown will represent her years as editor-in-chief of *Southern High School’s newspaper.
“It had a really big impact on me,” she said. “It was a big role in my life.”
Rascoe says she’ll never forget receiving a letter of appreciation–that she thinks she still has today–from a state official for her fair coverage of a dignitary’s visit to the school. Being viewed as a fair, objective reporter is the biggest compliment she says she can receive as a journalist.
Her interest in journalism began at Carrington Middle School, and she nurtured it while in high school after being told about newspaper class. As a junior and senior, it was her favorite class. She made lifelong friends, spent lunchtime in the newsroom, and thoroughly enjoyed covering the news as a newspaper staffer. She also sought other opportunities to write and became a published journalist for the teen section of the Durham Herald-Sun.
After graduating from Southern in 2003 (shoutout to her English and journalism instructor Ms. Foster), the rest, as they say, is history. She reiterates that Southern had a big role in her trajectory “because I knew I wanted to be a journalist.” She loved history and writing, thinking she could “write tomorrow’s history today.” And over time, she learned that she could ask probing questions. But let’s be clear, she says, “I didn’t have a five-year plan.”
Now the “queen of questioning” will bring 10 years of reporting for Reuters, six years covering the White House, and four years as NPR’s White House correspondent to the national airwaves as host of the newsmagazine Weekend Edition Sunday. She’s earned her stripes. She’s traveled abroad, to include Japan and Russia, covering policy, energy, and the 2010 BP oil spill. She’s also covered American legal cases and the United States’ response to a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear plant. Then, she started filling in at the White House.
“I don’t think that I had recognized how much time and experience I had built up to that point, things that I could take with me all that time that were of value. And when I got to the White House, I was able to take my knowledge of policy and put that to work. Her ability to ask thoughtful questions garnered attention, and NPR recruited her in 2018.
“I really felt like I found my voice,” she said.
Her discovery came through hard work. Because she had faced her internal and external difficulties head on, Rascoe now encourages aspiring journalists to do the same. She said developing confidence in her ability to do the work was one of the biggest challenges she’s had to overcome. She told herself, ‘I can do this and I have something to offer.’ She faced uncertainties about who she was, what she could do, and what she was offering.
“I thank God that over time, I have (developed confidence), and it has taken time to really develop the idea that I do have something to offer. I’m good at asking questions, I’m good at breaking down complex subjects into a way that people can understand. There’s worth in that. And sometimes the abilities that we have are not the abilities that everybody else has. And if you’re not like everybody else, you’re like well, what is my gift? But your gift is for you and so it can be different. But that doesn’t mean it’s not of value, it’s not of worth.”
Her family taught her that she would be successful if she was honest, worked hard, and treated people well. She takes that to heart, and seeks out stories of inspiration to share with her readers and listeners because she wonders how the world will fare through this tumultuous time.
“I worry about the future of this country now… What I always wonder is how people are able to survive and how as a society what can be done to help people live better, fuller lives, and not fall through the cracks. So that is something that I am always thinking about, especially those people who are from marginalized communities who are often not necessarily thought of so I try to focus a lot of my reporting on those people.”
For her, information is key, and giving her subjects a voice is critically important to her work.
“I hope that I can change lives (through information), so I hope that what I do makes a difference. The world is very dark so if I can bring you a little piece of joy and brighten your day a little bit, that’s a gift and that’s what I want to do.”
*Southern is now named the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability.