The "Where Are They Now?" feature spotlights graduates of CSC-funded programs and their successful transitions to or toward adulthood. This episode spotlights the impressive trajectory of one Simone Nelzi, a participant in the CSC funded and YMCA operated 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program at Hallandale High School between 9th and 12th grades, until her graduation in June 2015.
An internet search of Simone's name results in multiple hits, including her interview of ESPN sportscaster Mike Wallace and her byline as a Huffington Post contributor. In addition, she was vice president of the Student Government Association; a scholarship recipient from Ford and a reporter for Broward Teen News. Her social media pages shows active involvement with community charity projects and she has a webpage called "Diaries of a Journoholic".
"I was in cheerleading and in the drama club at Hallandale High," says Simone. "These are linked to the 21st CCLC program in that members of school clubs are encouraged to participate in the afterschool program that also offers academic assistance and tutoring. The drama club teacher also coaches leadership skills. You must demonstrate these leadership skills before you can perform on stage. When I got to that point, the drama coach encouraged me to join more clubs, and it seemed the other clubs wanted me in leadership roles, as well," she says.
Simone also credits the Director of 21st CCLC at Hallandale, Mr. Cromity, for advice he gave her when she needed additional guidance. But it is her focus and tenacity that make Simone very special.
How did Simone get to interview Mike Wallace of ESPN? She was in the TV production magnet program of Hallandale High when she attended a conference where Wallace was a presenter. She made sure she got his business card. When she was assigned a class project to interview someone, she called Wallace and he agreed.
How did she get a byline in the Huffington Post? As a 12-year-old fifth grader, she applied to be a Times Kid reporter and won. During the 2008 presidential campaign she interviewed some candidates by email: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney. Her resulting article "Campaign '08: One Kid's Perspective" was published by the Times and Huffington Post.
How did she become a reporter with Broward Teen News? She applied in 12th grade and was one of six chosen from a pool of 50-70 applicants.
Just as impressive is how Simone won a $1,000 college scholarship. She was informed of the opportunity only a couple of hours before the application was due. She requested time during one of her classes to write the application, submitted it and won.
Simone knows what it takes to make her dreams reality. She explains that her passion for communication began as far back as elementary school. Later, as a student at Attucks Middle School Magnet, she was required to try each offered program for 9 weeks before committing to one. When she attended the TV production track, she knew broadcasting was the career for her. It combines her love for writing and researching stories with on-camera reporting.
Other influences in her life that inspired her are her parents. "They encouraged me," she says. Research supporting 21st CCLC indicates the importance of parental involvement in students' success. Simone adds that her mom advised that broadcasting is an extremely competitive field and recommended that she get involved with other related activities to gain the experience she would need.
Simone's advice to fellow students? "Balance is key. Be a leader and stay focused. Keep up with homework and studying as well as extracurricular activities. Help others." Simone has proven to be an excellent role model and is now at Florida Gulf Coast University majoring in Broadcasting and Communications. Not one to waste any time, she started her college career in the summer semester in June. Expect to see Simone on TV and other media in the not too distant future!