Marcene Robinson’s interest in journalism started with a passion for writing.
He was an economics major when he first started school at the University at Buffalo. Now, the 20-year-old senior is in the early stages of a career he hopes will allow him to do what he loves best: tell stories.
Robinson is the 2012 winner of the $1,000 Carl R. Allen Memorial Scholarship awarded each year by the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists, with support from The Buffalo News and the Buffalo Newspaper Guild.
Robinson likes to tell other people’s stories. “And with a passion for writing, I guess I pretty much went into journalism to tell everyone else’s story,” he said.
There’s another reason he likes journalism: “I get to meet a lot of people, and that’s probably one of the best reasons. A lot of people who have been instrumental in pretty much starting my career.”
Robinson has increased his range by working at UB’s student newspaper, the Spectrum, and the Reporter, a faculty and staff magazine, as well as by writing press releases and articles for the UB Office of Media Relations.
There was the story of a young college student’s excitement at being crowned homecoming queen. Another about a UB civil engineering graduate student whose passion for improving the lives of the Native American community won him a scholarship.
Robinson’s own story is equally intriguing.
Born and raised in Buffalo, he grew up near downtown, around Madison and Sycamore streets and Jefferson Avenue.
He attended School 61 and then the now-defunct Stepping Stone Academy, where he was eighth-grade valedictorian. He also started attending Buffalo Prep, a high school preparatory program for minority students.
He graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute.
Known as the “school artist” for his drawings while at Stepping Stone, Robinson originally intended to enroll in the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts. But his parents wanted him to attend a private school. So it was St. Joe’s.
Mark and Kim Robinson insisted that education came first: “As soon as I stepped foot in the house, ‘You have to do your homework,’ ” he recalled his parents saying. Failing to do so meant no football practice.
School always came easy to this top achiever, but he still worked, whether it was hitting the books or making extra money for his tuition. The oldest of three children, Robinson worked almost every day after school sweeping, mopping and cleaning chalk boards. Eventually, he got a part-time job at OfficeMax on Union Road in Cheektowaga during his junior and senior years. Then 16, he caught the bus every day.
“It was not fun during the wintertime. The cold … the wind, ice would just cut your face with snow this high,” he said, chuckling and measuring off a height above his ankle.
He learned how to pay for things, including his braces. That work ethic has continued at UB, where another scholarship covers only his tuition. Robinson says he’s had virtually every job on campus.
He has a plan that may include putting off a fall graduation so he can study abroad – a plan that jibes with his philosophy about journalism, and what wonderful experiences it brings.
The scholarship is awarded annually in memory of Allen, a longtime reporter at The News who died in 1999. Allen wrote extensively on matters of concern to the local African-American community during his 20-year career.
The BABJ is the Buffalo chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.