Communication student credits UC mentors for success

A&S student and podcaster gets practical experience in news internships

Nailah Edwards’ conversation isn’t laced with “ums” or “likes” or other language crutches most people use to fill the dead space while struggling to express themselves.

The University of Cincinnati student is a communication major, after all. She hosts podcasts and speaks with the confidence of a seasoned broadcaster.

But Edwards said she hasn’t always felt confident as an undergraduate struggling with the rigors of college life.

“I was a student who didn’t have the best grades. Sometimes I thought college isn’t for me,” Edwards said. “But I had mentors who encouraged me to keep going. You need those people in your life.”

Nailah Edwards sits at a microphone with earphones on.

UC communication student Nailah Edwards co-hosts a podcast for The Cincinnati Herald. Photo/Provided

Edwards graduated in 2016 from Cincinnati’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where she studied dance. She competes in pageants, winning Miss Black Teen Cincinnati in 2015 and nearly winning Miss Black Cincinnati as first runner-up last year. She served as a pageant ambassador at public events, where she first met longtime Cincinnati news broadcaster Courtis Fuller of WLWT.

“He’s the one who encouraged me to be a communication major,” she said.

Edwards enrolled at UC Blue Ash College. UC’s Accessibility Resources Office helped her cope with some of her disabilities, including dyslexia and dyscalculia, which makes it harder to make sense of written words and numbers.

An education can change the trajectory of your life like nothing else.

Cindy Jones, Program Director, College Credit Plus

Even with the support of her mom, money is tight, Edwards said. So she leaned heavily on UC’s financial aid experts at One Stop Student Service Center to help navigate tuition and fees.

“I had a lot of mentors who took me under their wing,” she said.

“Cindy Jones in the financial aid office was always making sure I was up to speed so I wouldn’t run into any obstacles.”

Jones said UC can help students overcome the financial burdens of college so they can focus on learning. 

“An education can change the trajectory of your life like nothing else,” Jones said. “UC has lots of opportunities for students. There are so many scholarships available, especially for first-generation college students. And work-study allows students to get jobs around campus.”

Students pose in front of a UC Blue Ash College banner.

Nailah Edwards poses with members of the student group Sister Circle, representing UC Blue Ash College in the Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Parade. Photo/Provided

Edwards worked as a student assistant in UC’s Student Life Office and coordinated a student group called Sister Circle, a women’s empowerment organization. As a graduate of Cincinnati Public Schools, she was eligible for a Cincinnati Pride grant that covered most of her tuition. She also contributes to UCommunicate, which gives communication students practical experience with event planning, marketing, social media and public relations for third-party clients. And she works part time after school at an eyeglass retailer.

Now she’s finishing an internship at The Cincinnati Herald where she’s contributed to podcasts and webcasts. One called “Lit 513” celebrates Cincinnati culture and arts. Edwards also co-hosts a podcast called “Influencers,” where she interviews newsmakers such as Cincinnati singer Tyshawn Colquitt who competed on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2018.

And she has another broadcast news internship lined up next year with FOX19.

Nailah Edwards and Brenda McGee pose for a selfie.

UC student Nailah Edwards, left, said her mom, Brenda McGee, provided the encouragement she needed to do well at UC. Photo/Provided.

“Nailah’s been a wonderful example. She’s positive, she’s encouraging and she takes guidance so well,” Jones said. “The important thing is when you face adversity, you step past it. She was able to do that.”

Edwards said she can’t take all the credit. She has a lot of people at UC looking out for her. And her mom is always there to help. When she feels discouraged, her mother likes to remind her of the origins of her name, Nailah. It means to be successful.

“I had a good village around me. If I offered advice, I would recommend students connect with people who can help you succeed,” Edwards said. “Make friends and get involved. Your professors will help you when you’re in a jam, too. They’ll work with you.”

Edwards’ mom, Brenda McGee, earned a master’s degree and is a big believer in higher education. It can be daunting for anyone to graduate from college, she said. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

“Take baby steps. Look down that tunnel and hold onto that vision. If you see it, you can do it,” McGee said. “I’m happy we made that choice to send Nailah to the University of Cincinnati. I’m extremely proud of her. UC should be very proud of her, too.”

Featured image at top: Nailah Edwards says she found a lot of support at UC to help her succeed. Photo/Provided

Students in UCommunicate pose for a group photo.

Students the UC group Sister Circle help each other navigate life as a college student. Photo/Provided

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