Pich Chet is not yet out of high school, but she’s already certain about the career she wants to carve out for her future. Her dream is to own and run a news outlet that operates differently from the organizations she’s encountered throughout her youth. “I want to create jobs for journalists that are built upon ethics and morals,” she says. This idea started when she was growing up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where, she believes strongly, the population was misled by the press. “I was surrounded by biased news that manipulated and corrupted my innocent mind. Many news organizations in Cambodia were shut down because they had antigovernment views.”
When she moved to the United States at age 13, Chet still felt that she was inundated with fake news and clickbait. “As social media use increases, false information spreads like wildfire. Journalists and writers get paid based on the number of clicks on their articles,” she points out. “This is why I aspire to become the owner of a news organization that operates without bias.”
Chet moved closer to fulfilling this goal last December, when she received an early-decision acceptance to Syracuse University. She has been admitted to the dual degree program in broadcast journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and business at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management . “I was ecstatic,” she says. “It truly felt like a dream come true. Knowing that Newhouse is one of the top communications schools in the country made Syracuse my first choice, so I didn’t apply to any other schools.”
A Head Start
Chet is currently on track to graduate as class valedictorian at the Institute of Technology at Central (ITC), a tech-based high school in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD). As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Media student, she has gained media-related skills like video and photo editing and video camera operation. She has also accumulated more than 40 internship hours at WCNY Radio and is about to begin training as a production assistant through a partnership between SCSD and CNY Film Professionals. “CTE really helps students get a head start for college and real-world jobs,” Chet says.
“Pich has demonstrated stellar academic and technical skills that have improved vastly from year to year, but she’s also developed into a transcendent leader,” says Jeffrey Newell, who runs the Media Communications program at ITC. “She has inspired students to reach a new, industry-standard level of production in media. Her photographs, films, designs, research and critical analysis papers have set a high bar that has helped shaped my program.”
Her tuition will be covered by the Say Yes to Education Program , which provides funding for all SCSD students who are admitted to Syracuse University. “As an immigrant and first-generation student, it is extremely important that my tuition be covered for undergraduate study,” Chet says. “The Say Yes program provides reassurance for my two siblings that if they work hard during their school years at SCSD, there’s an opportunity for them to attend college.”
Chet lives in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood with her mother, stepfather, and younger brother and sister. “My mother always wanted to live abroad because she dreamed that her children would receive a good education,” she says. “Throughout my life, education has been my number one priority because I believe that no amount of money will ever repay my mother for her effort in bringing me here. My work ethic and determination come from my mom—she has been a great role model to me.”
The Benefits of Diversity
Chet feels that the Syracuse City School District has prepared her well for the challenges ahead. “I’ve been in a pool of people from all different backgrounds,” she says. “I feel very comfortable working with people of any race, gender orientation, background and religion. And as a CTE Media student I will bring some experience in radio, photography, film and videography to Newhouse.”
She is also taking part in the early college program between her high school and Onondaga Community College. “The business courses I’m taking at OCC provide me with knowledge about business that will help when I attend the Whitman School,” Chet says.
Somehow, Chet finds the time to work two jobs at Destiny USA—she is a barista at Kung Fu Tea and a beauty advisor at Ulta Beauty. She’s also a social media influencer with more than 3 million views and 100,000 followers across her Instagram and YouTube platforms.
Throughout my life, education has been my number one priority because I believe that no amount of money will ever repay my mother for her effort in bringing me here.
Syracuse University’s Fall Workshop provided an opportunity for Chet to spend time on campus learning valuable skills. Founded at Newhouse in 1999, the annual 3-day event brings world-class media professionals to campus to serve as coaches in workshops focused on photography, audio, video, motion graphics, design, writing and storytelling.
Mike Roy, an adjunct professor in Newhouse’s visual communications department, worked with Chet during the Fall Workshop. “It was immediately clear she was a serious student,” Roy remembers. “I was impressed with the focus she brought to learning photography and producing a multimedia story. Her editing and technology skills were advanced for her age, and ITC media studies teacher Jeff Newell deserves credit for that.”
When Roy’s company was hired to produce a video for Peace Inc., a local nonprofit, they wanted to use a young, local voice for the narration to give it authenticity. “Pich was one of four students to send in demo samples and was immediately selected,” he says. “She was very open to advice and direction, and she did a terrific job.”
Building Blocks for Success
Chet believes that the dual degree program she is about to undertake is an extraordinary opportunity to become both an effective leader and skilled communicator. “The Whitman School will advise me on the business strategies needed to operate an organization, and the Newhouse School will teach me how to differentiate authentic versus fake news and properly deliver news as a journalist.”
Jill Satalin, Chet’s history teacher at ITC, is enthusiastic about her potential to distinguish herself at Syracuse University. “Pich is an ambitious young woman whose work ethic and sense of purpose impresses everyone,” she says. “Her dynamic personality and creativity have helped her become a young entrepreneur who can balance high-level academics and internships with job and family obligations.”
Roy echoes this sentiment. “Pich is teeming with potential, and Syracuse University and Newhouse should be a place for her to thrive.”