Clarece Polke Is Trading Journalism for International Diplomacy

A career change made possible by the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship.

The lead-up involved print journalism studies at Florida A&M University, two years with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and some time covering government regulations for Thomson Reuters. The payoff was delivered on the outskirts of our fair city.

From a report in the Tallahassee Democrat:

Established by Congressman Charles B. Rangel and managed by Howard University, the Rangel Fellowship supports talented individuals who want to pursue careers as Foreign Service officers with the U.S. Department of State. The fellowship will help sponsor Clarece Polke’s graduate studies over a two-year period and give her the opportunity to represent the U.S overseas.

She was one of only 30 fellows selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants nationwide. Polke, who turns 25 Wednesday, said she was entering New York City on a Megabus in late March when she got the email announcing her acceptance.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said Monday from Washington. “I woke the whole bus up.”

Ha ha, love it; mega-news shared on the Megabus. Polke will study intercultural and international communications at American University (part of the program’s academic network) and complete two internships, one of which will be at a U.S. embassy abroad.

In 2014, Polke wrote a piece for the Post-Gazette tited “I Got a Great Education at a Historically Black University, and So Much More.” In the essay, she recalled the horrified reaction of her high school academy counselor when she was offered a fully paid Presidential scholarship by Florida A&M:

I showed the letter to my counselor and asked him to be honest with me about the prospects for my academic and professional future should I choose to accept. His pale blue eyes couldn’t meet mine. He shuffled papers on his desk, clicked his computer mouse and took several deep sighs.

“We can’t let you go to FAMU,” he said, his eyes glued to his desk. “We’ll keep looking. We’ll find you something. Anything. It’s not over. We just … we can’t let you go there. I can’t let you go there.”

As Polke relates in the rest of the article, and as the Rangel Fellowship further confirms, she was wise to ignore her counselor’s concerns.