Alumni Spotlight – Jason Kane
Among the ranks of Hilliard alum is Emmy-award-winning journalist and producer Jason Kane. A 2003 graduate of Davidson High School, he credits several of his high school teachers and courses for his success. Working for “The Wildcat,” Davidson’s news magazine, was his first journalism “job,” and he’s been hooked ever since.
“Donnette Calhoon helped me believe I could make it as a journalist. Her enthusiasm about the profession and its potential to change the world inspired me to pursue this career. She’s a true saint in my life and continues to be a dear mentor and friend,” he said.
After attending Ohio University during his freshman year of college, he transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where he earned a degree in journalism. Throughout college, he gained experience through internships with the Religion News Service and NPR.
The reading of “Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa” by Mark Mathabane in one of his high school English classes is another example of how his secondary school experiences shaped his future. He said the book – which he called “an inspired choice” by an English department then led in part by Robin Brenneman and Diana Vance – opened his eyes to the inequalities of the world. He had such a visceral reaction to the story that he vowed to one day visit. He made good on this promise by studying abroad in Cape Town.
“The experience changed my life in more ways than I could imagine,” he said.
What he learned in Africa is directly tied to his work. Upon his return, he spent a year with AmeriCorps working on a campaign that brought HIV education to D.C.’s public schools. He next spent 12 years with PBS NewsHour, where he worked as a healthcare producer, reporting on topics such as the Affordable Care Act and efforts to end the HIV epidemic throughout the world. It was this work that earned him his first Emmy in 2016. He followed this up with an Emmy in 2019 for a series he produced alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci warning that a potentially devastating pandemic was overdue and the world was underprepared. The first case of COVID-19 appeared in the U.S. just six months later. Today, he is a producer for NBC News in New York, working for the TODAY show.
His AP English teacher, Regina Meyer, also left an indelible mark on him. He said she changed his perspective on writing and the power of the language we use.
Kane said, “Her class and teaching were crucial to developing my voice as a writer.”
English and journalism classes aren’t the only experiences that served him well in high school. He was involved in the theater program, then led by Brenneman and Vance. He played the Wizard in the “Wizard of Oz,” lifting off in a hot air balloon in the closing scene. He said the production value they created was incredible. Theater also led to an opportunity for him to visit Scotland his senior year when the Davidson theater program was selected to perform “Godspell” at the International Fringe Festival.
“I work with a lot of people who went to expensive boarding schools on the East Coast, yet I can go toe to toe with them thanks to the public education I received in suburban Ohio,” he said. “The education and opportunities I had were just as good as anything they received. It was an honor to learn from these incredible teachers in Hilliard. I can’t sing their praises enough.”
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