For Ila Wilborn, the best part of participating the General Motors’ and National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) 2018 Discover the Unexpected (DTU) Program was the opportunity to gain real-world experience while working for professional news organizations.

Wilburn, an Atlanta, Georgia native, graduated on May 3 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Florida A&M University, where she appeared as an anchor for the award-winning student-run broadcast network FAMU-TV.

Last summer, she joined five other historically black college or university (HBCU) students as a DTU Fellow at The Atlanta Voice in Atlanta, Ga., and the New Journal and Guide in Norfolk, Va., both NNPA member media publications.

“I was able to work closely with media professionals and see their daily steps to success,” said Wilborn, who drove a white 2018 Chevrolet Equinox as part of the fellowship. “I was placed in uncomfortable situations, which forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and grow as a journalist.

“I believe that I and the other fellows benefited because our work has been published online and in newspapers across the country and I can now search my name on Google and see the work that I’ve created or contributed to,” she added.

Each year since 2016, General Motors’ Chevrolet brand has partnered with the NNPA, a trade association that represents more than 200 African American-owned media companies across the country. The Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship provides a $10,000 scholarship, $7,500 stipend and the road trip of a lifetime to between six and eight students selected for the honor.

This year, the trip will take place in the all-new Chevy Blazer.

In addition to the cash and access to an amazing car, selected full-time sophomores, juniors and seniors attending HBCUs (who are at least 18-years old), will also experience exciting challenges while discovering and documenting inspirational stories about the African American community.

Using NNPA’s professional resources and traveling in the latest Chevrolet — fully loaded with features and innovative technology, DTU Fellows have shared stories, shattered perceptions and jumpstarted journalism careers. The alumni from DTU’s 2016, 2017 and 2018 Fellowships have proven an encouragement for all to Discover the Unexpected.

Alexa Imani Spencer, who founded the first student-chapter of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at Howard University, drove an all-new Chevrolet Equinox for one month as a 2017 DTU Fellow working with the Washington Informer in Washington, D.C. Spencer said she was honored to work for the historic black newspaper and benefitted greatly from the experience.

“In the same objective as the ancient scribal practice of writing on walls in Ancient Egypt, or Kemet, we ensured that the African experience in America would be chronicled precisely as it was lived,” Spencer said. “As fellows, we did not have to worry about transportation, as well as funds for housing, food and other living expenses,” she said. “We were well taken care of and the program took full consideration of our needs in a way that other programs that do not acknowledge the disparities of African-American students may not.”

The DTU fellowship was an unforgettable experience and like no other, Spencer said.

“To have such an immersive learning experience with media professionals is something that I will forever be grateful for,” she said. “I learned photography, videography, editing and on-camera interview skills from this fellowship and have been able to master my craft.”

As one of the first fellows of the program, Briahnna Brown drove a 2016 Chevy Malibu during her assignments with the Chicago Defender.

A Howard University alumna and current staff writer at “GW Today,” Brown said she enjoyed her experience, which included live-reporting through social media both in Chicago and in Cleveland, where she covered the Republican National Convention.

“I think it helped me to get social media reporting experience,” Brown said. “I also loved traveling with the program because it exposed me to new experiences such as covering a NASCAR initiative in Indianapolis.”

A senior at Howard University who’s majoring in Media, Journalism, and Film Communications with a concentration in journalism and a minor in Spanish, and a budding communications professional and strategist,

Daja Henry, a 2018 DTU fellow, said she enjoyed her time working at the Atlanta Voice and The New Journal and Guide, where she got the opportunity to direct and produce a documentary.

“DTU was an amazing experience for me because it solidified my beliefs in the importance of the Black Press and self-determination,” Henry said. “The Program exposed me to so many new places and people, which in turn, expanded my mindset tremendously. I also enjoyed a lot of autonomy in choosing and writing stories The program allowed me to do exactly what the name says – Discover the Unexpected.”

Perhaps speaking for each of the Fellows, Spencer said she believes it’s absolutely necessary that the younger generations are aware and engaged with the DTU program and the Black Press.

“We are next up,” she said. “This is an extension of the call-to-action put forth by NNPA to today’s youth: I urge you to pay attention to the Black Press.”

Pictured from left: 2018 Chevrolet DTU Fellows: Tyvan Burns, Denver Lark, Ila Wilborn, Daja Henry, Diamond Durant, Natrawn Maxwell)

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National CorrespondentNNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Stacy is a veteran journalist and author of the new book, "Celebrity Trials: Legacies Lost, Lives Shattered, So What's the Real Truth." He's also the author of "Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula...

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