Sasha Ndisabiye
Sasha Ndisabiye attended the 2023 HBCU x White House Press Briefing as a Langston University representative Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (Provided)

I grew up in an academic household, where table conversations were filled with debates and car rides to school consisted of NPR’s daily morning broadcast as my mother deliberated with whomever was on the other side of the radio.

Owing to this, I always had an acute awareness of what was going on in the world around me, which later turned into an insatiable need to serve the communities closest to me and the ones in desperate need.

Unfortunately, I had more interests than I knew what to do with, so I put aside my childhood dream of playing professional soccer and jumped around with my potential career fields: from working in sports medicine, to studying psychiatry, to working for the FBI, to pursuing orthopedic surgery, to studying nursing, to learning journalism.

Throughout high school and my first year of undergrad, I was convinced that emergency room nursing was my calling. As a Black woman, I hoped I could support and protect other minorities within the medical field, but I soon realized I didn’t have the passion for the medical aspect of the job. Having already committed to a full-academic scholarship at Langston University, I was not willing to give up the financial support by transferring and pursuing other degree options.

I spent hours discussing my options with family and advisors before concluding that entering Langston’s broadcast journalism program could possibly satisfy my curiosity as well as my desires to make an impact, to travel, and to aid the disadvantaged.

Switching my major during the spring semester of my freshman year, I immediately dove into mass communications courses and was introduced to the news writing professor who would later become one of my biggest supporters and most trusted confidants. When time came to write my first story for the university’s paper, The Gazette, I knew almost instantly what I was going to write about following a few negative experiences and lingering questions within the housing department at my institution.

What was supposed to be my first biweekly article turned into a six-week investigation looking into overbooked housing units and warnings ignored by administrators who knowingly left dozens of students — both instate and out-of-state — stranded without viable placement options.

By telling this story, I discovered my passion for investigative reporting and independent journalism. I learned what it takes to get sources to trust me, as well as how to find and protect people willing to provide necessary information and documentation.

Meanwhile, Langston’s administration hopefully realized that the students in a university’s journalism program seek to serve their community and the students affected by administrative decisions instead of the institution itself.

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‘The people must know before they can act’

Over the next two years and through my graduation in May, I have tried to hone my news judgment when considering the subjects about which I want to write. Now, as I begin an editorial internship with NonDoc this summer, I want people to know that topics worth covering are not always pretty.

Both of my parents grew up outside of the states. My father immigrated from Burundi, Africa, in the 1980s, and my mother moved abroad to Germany and Switzerland for the majority of her secondary schooling. They raised me on stories of their lives outside the country and taught me about differing cultures, social norms and conflicts.

Although my father had already immigrated to the U.S. when the Rwandan Genocide started, the rest of my family in Africa — his siblings, parents and other relatives — were subject to the violent conflict.

As I got older and talked with the surviving members of my family about their experiences, I grew frustrated with the lack of attention the horrific tragedy garnished. Knowing what so many people went through while acknowledging my own privilege in the broad context of global issues, I have struggled to understand why others lack that same awareness.

My loved ones’ experiences and their dedication to being kind and giving has been further motivation to pursue a journalism career. If I can help even a fraction of the population to open their eyes, be open minded and pay attention, I will feel accomplished in this field.

So far in my brief career, I have completed an internship with the USA Today Investigative Team, have served as editor in chief of The Langston Gazette from 2022 through 2024, and have represented my university as one of the top Black student journalists at the 2023 HBCU x White House Press Briefing. Now, I am proud to join NonDoc and sink my teeth into community journalism about local civic issues that matter, such as this year’s electoral cycle.

As a member of the Ida B Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, I will always reference one of her most famous quotes while reporting: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

(Editor’s note: NonDoc’s paid summer internship program is supported financially by the Inasmuch Foundation Community Fellowship, which funds internships each year in a variety of sectors, including Oklahoma journalism.)