Jennifer Coombes, a graduate student at Ohio University, is the winner of the new Roberts Camera Scholarship, which may be awarded to either a graduate or undergraduate student.

Among Coombes’ academic and professional accomplishments are:

Academically, I am proud of the fact that I put myself through school. Don’t get me wrong, I envied every friend I had whose parents had been forward thinking enough or financially stable enough to provide them with a solid education, but I learned quickly what it meant to be in school and what it was to take care of myself. No one else was going to pay my bills. I successfully graduated with a strong work ethic that served me well later on. I was the recipient of the Cliff and Vi Edom Scholarship while I was at Mizzou, which was such an honor because I was able to meet the iconic Vi Edom and thank her in person for her support. As a graduate student I have returned under similar circumstances. I am working hard and have earned a 4.0 while doing work that I truly believe is important and authentic. I am also helping to lead a team of graduate students as a server and lab manager, managing/curating the Visual Communication School’s first gallery and taking on a leadership role in our infamous Soul of Athens project. Professionally, I have long been proud of the relationships I have developed and my constant work to reach out and stay current. When NPPA offers a program, I have taken advantage of it to move my needle. I believe in journalism and storytelling and its importance and I believe part of my job on this earth is to share the stories that need to be told. It is a great pride of mine that I am capable and even talented at this skill. Some of my proudest professional moments have happened unexpectedly the last seven years as I was preaching the storytelling gospel to urban high schoolers in Denver. I took a federally funded program that was very close to being shuttered and made it into one of the premiere arts and media programs in Denver, Colorado. By the time I left, my student photojournalists were taking 5 out of 7 categories in the Colorado High School Press Association. My students were the only students from the entire district of Denver Public Schools to attend state conferences and were regular participants in the Denver Post Photo Nights. I was fortunate enough to watch many students get college scholarships, start their own freelance businesses, obtain internships and grow as visual storytellers and computer scientists. Part of my mission in this work was to give students a voice and an opportunity to go to college. I reached out and created a summer internship program with CU-Boulder’s Technology, Arts and Media School to create paid digital media internships. Through this program 10% of my students were accepted to CU-Boulder in computer science, engineering and journalism. Nearly 90% of my participants went on to college and all of my interns graduated high school. Off of that success, I also facilitated the adoption of a very successful partnership program called Kidstek, which brought in instructors to teach entrepreneurship, business practices, computer science and net security. Building off of that I started the Technovation program as a volunteer, addressing the need for females of color in the computer science and app creation world. It was a very rewarding experience that allowed me to share my passions for technology and communication. It also allowed me to continue to grow as a learner. It pushed me to be on the edge of current trends and tech skills. For this reason, I entered this fall into graduate school ahead of my peers in many areas. I was amazed by this and reassured that much of my self-taught learning was on point. Additionally, throughout my career I have been chosen for several fellowships including the Reynolds Journalism Fellowship, the University of Denver Socially Conscious Gaming program and was fully funded by Career and Technical Education to participate in the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Program. I am excited to continue learning and I cannot wait to leave and grab a job as a visual storyteller again so that I may share my work with my past students and show them that their skills are a lifelong passion worth fostering.

Career Goals

After graduation I hope to find work as a visual storyteller doing editorial work at a publication or online media house. My passions have been focused on telling stories about the human condition, stories that surprise and delight, stories that no one has seen before. I want to be a part of a team that takes storytelling seriously and puts the time and resources into it that is needed. My ideal dream job scenario would be to go back home to Denver and get a job doing this at The Denver Post. I admire the video work they have been doing and the paper’s commitment to developing DPtv and other innovative ideas around visual storytelling. I also plan to create a not for profit visual storytelling program for urban high schoolers to continue my successful work with youth in journalism and technology. Other goals would include personal projects that could be shared through the web such as Blue Chalk and Media Storm.


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