A knack for journalism and a commitment to the success of minorities in the media are qualities that earned a Detroit high school senior a full-ride scholarship to Central Michigan University. Darnell Lyndon Gardner Jr. of Detroit has been selected to receive CMU's most prestigious journalism scholarship -- an award worth nearly $80,000.
As the 2009 recipient of CMU's Lem Tucker Journalism Scholarship, Gardner, a student at Davis Aerospace Technical High School, receives a four-year scholarship covering tuition and room and board. The Lem Tucker Journalism Scholarship is named for CMU alumnus and Saginaw native Lem Tucker, who graduated in 1960. Tucker worked for three major television networks and earned two Emmy awards before his death in 1991.
Gardner will be honored May 14 during the Lem Tucker Journalism Scholarship and Media Leadership Speaker Series event at the Atheneum Hotel in Detroit's Greektown. The event will feature four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Michele Norris, host of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," as keynote speaker.
Gardner, editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, wrote in his application essay, "Journalism, as part of the media, is the best way to further force prejudice out of the American zeitgeist and into the history books. Lem Tucker's work in journalism set a reputable standard for all journalists, minority and non-minority alike. Through print journalism, I hope to advocate for those whose voices are often silenced or overlooked..."
True to his philosophy, Gardner penned an April 2008 Detroit Free Press opinion piece about the state of Detroit's schools, neighborhoods and politics that led one Free Press editor to call him "one of the city's great literary hopes" and to say that Gardner's "voice -- clear, forceful, well reasoned -- was a clarion of sanity at a time of unprecedented craziness in Detroit." Several Detroit media outlets interviewed Gardner about the piece, which received national response.
He went on to serve as a summer apprentice at the Free Press, writing articles and guest blogs, as well as providing photographs, for the paper and its Web site.
"Darnell is a gifted writer and an extremely promising young journalist; he asks the kinds of questions that we all should be asking and will continue to ask them until they're answered," said Diane Krider, interim dean of CMU's College of Communication and Fine Arts. "He will be sure to carry out the Lem Tucker legacy and we are excited to see him excel as a student at Central Michigan University."
Gardner participated in Focus: HOPE's Excel Photography Program and "Focus on the Mission" diversity program, both from 2005 to 2008. He also has attended Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, participated in the Henry Ford Health System high school internship program and was invited to participate in a WXYZ-TV town hall meeting featuring Bill Cosby.
Among Garnder's charitable and philanthropic endeavors are volunteering with such causes as Habitat for Humanity and Motor City Makeover, participating in Health Alliance Plan's charity bowl-a-thon, and providing lawn maintenance for a neighbor.
"Darnell doesn't sit back; he takes action, and his writing is his gift," wrote one mentor in their letter of recommendation. "Very mature for his age, Darnell has a sense of responsibility to his community and given this opportunity he would continue to shine."