LENOX DALE — Sydney King admits she wasn't always a "news person." But it was a humanities class and complementing after-school program that inspired this year's Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship winner to pursue a career in journalism.
The recent Lenox Memorial High School graduate has been a member of the Student as Voices for Empowerment group, led by English teacher Lisa Wespiser, during which members would read news articles about humanitarian crises happening around the world as well as columns by Nicholas Kristof.
"It was really surprising to learn what was going on. It was the kind of material we were not used to hearing about," she said. "I love the idea of going to visit people around the world who have struggled and who clearly have a story to tell."
The Pearl scholarship is awarded annually to a Berkshire-area student who intends to follow one of Daniel Pearl's twin passions, music and journalism. There were seven applications received this year.
Pearl cut his teeth as a reporter for the former North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle. He was the south Asia news bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal in 2002, pursuing a news story related to terrorist activities, when he was kidnapped on Jan. 23, 2002, by Pakistani militants. He was murdered six days later, and his body was found in May that year. He was 38, with a wife, Mariane, who was expecting their child, Adam.
A collection of Pearl's writings, "At Home in the World," was published in 2002. The first Pearl Berkshire scholarship was awarded in 2003, and continues to be supported by friends of Pearl, local journalists and contest judges.
In addition to the $1,000 scholarship, King received a copy of "At Home in the World," which she says has made a lasting impression on her.
"I love [Pearl's] voice. I think he's an excellent storyteller," she said. "I have a lot of respect for everything he did."
King herself is an impressive young woman. The daughter of Judith Boschetti King and Gregory King of Lenox Dale, she plans to attend McGill University in Montreal to study political science and communications — subjects she feels will help shape her career pursuits.
At LMMS, King was a member of the National Honor Society, film club, quiz team; was a student council member and president; and a peer mentor. She also led a school debate on presidential candidates. Like Pearl, she is a musician, and has played flute with the school band and as an accompanist for the school's chorus. She's also danced ballet most of her life.
In her scholarship essay, King wrote that "the first step in aiding in a crisis is alerting the public and providing accurate information. Through my work at a news agency, I plan to take a stand against global human rights violations."
In an interview with The Eagle, she says her journalism goal is "connecting Americans to the reality of our policies. If you can tell a personal story of someone affected by laws, it would help all of us become more compassionate and understanding."