Allison Harris developed her dream of becoming a television news anchor when she was a student at McKinney Boyd High School.
She was competing on the school’s debate team when coach Dave Clayton pulled her aside and suggested that her skills fit well with a career in broadcast news. Harris enrolled in Clayton’s broadcast journalism course, and from that point on worked on honing her reporting, producing and editing skills. She learned how to use Final Cut Pro editing software, worked a teleprompter and wrote news stories.
“I’ve always loved being in front of people and being a public speaker,” said Harris, 21, now a senior journalism major at the University of Oklahoma. “It made me realize that this broadcast journalism thing could be suitable for my knowledge and skills. That made me latch onto it.”
In her senior year at Boyd, she anchored the school’s Bronco News Network weekly program and also hosted the district’s Inside McKinney ISD program, appearing on local television.
At OU, she continues to pursue her career. She rotates anchoring, reporting and producing for OU Nightly, the university’s student-run newscast. In 2011, Harris won the first place award for student television news anchors through the Broadcast Education Association. This year, she won second place.
Harris interned at WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., last summer. Last winter, she interned at KTEN News in Denison. While there, she reported on zebra mussels in Lake Texoma, a DUI patrol on New Year’s Eve and the local unemployment rate.
Harris said the broadcasting class she took from Dave Clayton at Boyd prepared her well for college and internships. “Who knows what I would be doing in college had he not pushed me,” she said. “I’m so grateful for that.”
Clayton said his goal is to give McKinney ISD students a head start in journalism training before college. “We’re trying to get students ready for a college program,” he said. “Allison, or any student coming out of Boyd’s program, is going to have a leg up on most students. I literally go out of my classroom and walk into our studio. That’s something most students aren’t going to have walking in as a freshman in college.”
Harris also stood out as a student leader among Boyd’s first graduating class in 2008. In the high school’s first published newspaper edition, she wrote an article about the challenges of uniting incoming juniors at a new high school. As senior class president, she worked on projects that included planning Boyd’s first prom. During that time, she recalls spending many hours planning programming in class sponsor Dawn Adams’ office. She was also the varsity cheerleading captain.
“She had so much energy and really good leadership ability even back then,” recalled Adams, an instructional technology integrator. “It was quite a job for a student in a school where we had no traditions and it was up to them to set the path. I just added my wisdom to her ability.”
Harris won the leadership award for her graduating class during her senior year. “The things I remember from high school that have made a mark on me were getting recognized and appreciated a lot,” she said. “It was helpful and encouraged me to be a leader and give back.”
Following her freshman year at OU, Harris and two other McKinney ISD graduates formed a non-profit called Past. Present. Action. They raised about $35,000 to bring motivational speakers to McKinney high schools. “I’ve always felt the overarching objective of my life is to educate, inform and encourage,” Harris said. “We were so involved in high school that we couldn’t really detach ourselves completely when we went off to college. We wanted to stay connected in some way.”
She maintains a strong connection to the community, and also has interned at McKinney Chamber of Commerce and McKinney Living Magazine. She’s also spoken to journalism students at Boyd.
“When I look back, it’s an appreciation and passion for community that has encouraged me to do journalism,” she added. “Cheering on the football team Friday nights, going to the same schools, living in the same town, and working on community service projects gave me a great sense of community.”
Harris said her loyalty to community transfers to a passion for local news.
“Journalism as a whole is supposed to be a service to the public,” Harris said. “You can be an anchor for a community and represent that community.”
Harris graduates in May. To view her anchor resume tape, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/allisonloree12/videos.
Written by Katherine Leal Unmuth. This story is the fourth in a series of profiles on McKinney ISD graduates making a difference at home and around the world.
Pictures: Top, Allison Harris on camera at the University of Oklahoma. Harris anchors, reports and produces for OU Nightly, the university’s student-run newscast. Above right, McKinney ISD graduates (l-r) Jason Valdivia, Allison Harris and Carson Radke formed the non-profit Past. Present. Action. to bring motivational speakers to McKinney high schools.