On the air: Communication grad to impact others through stories

On the air: Communication grad to impact others through stories

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A natural storyteller, Breanna Ruiz worked her way through college and graduates with a 4.0 GPA and degrees in  journalism and r

Compared with some, Breanna Ruiz had it easy. She knows this.

Born in Philadelphia the youngest of five children, Ruiz grew up in a loving household in suburban South Jersey. But that is not her full story.

Ruiz’s father passed away when she was just three, leaving her mother to raise her and her siblings. The family moved more than she’d like to remember – three times when she was in 5th grade alone – from North Philadelphia to the Great Northeast to, eventually, Washington Township.

“My mom would always move us to the next best thing,” she said. “She’d grind it out to give us the best of everything.”

Though her mother was a working single parent trying to support her own family, she didn’t hesitate to help others. Friends arrived needing a temporary place to crash and stayed indefinitely. Ruiz’s aunt, diagnosed with terminal cancer, moved in with the family after her graduation from high school and they cared for her through the end.

“I didn't dream of attending college right out of high school,” she said. “Initially, I didn't have any plans at all. I was confused with no sense of direction and it wasn't until the summer after graduation that reality set in and I realized no one was going to get me where I wanted to be in life but me, so I decided to go to college.

“Unfortunately, I didn't have the funds at the time and, with my aunt sick, I took a year off college. In that year I got a job at The Athlete's Foot where I saved enough money to buy a car and make my first payment to enroll to become an EMT. After the store closed down, I started delivering Chinese food to pay off school.”

Ruiz became an EMT and worked nights in Philadelphia, eventually enrolling in Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC), where she sought to develop her skills as a storyteller.

“Though working as an EMT allowed me to get there, throughout my four and a half years of college I worked a variety of different jobs including as a secretary at a pet salon, as an assistant teacher at a preschool and in a mailing factory where I sealed thousands of envelopes, all while juggling internships and full-time classes.”

Ruiz got such good grades at RCGC that she was offered a partial scholarship to study journalism at the University of Miami but, realizing she could not get enough in student loans to cover everything the scholarship wouldn’t, she didn’t go to Miami.

“It was hard,” she said. “I’m a first generation college student, and getting into a major university like that was a very big deal.”

So, she applied to Rowan, which she’d always considered a great option and where she had a family connection.

“My father many years ago was hired as a pastry chef when Rowan was still Glassboro State College,” she said. “He took the job hoping that one day it would allow all of his children to go to college for free. Unfortunately, because of his passing, that didn’t come to fruition, but there was still a way for me to carry out his dream. I decided to enroll at Rowan University and told myself that I was going to do my very best there.”

A commuter student, she graduated Wednesday,  May 15, with a 4.0 GPA and two degrees – Journalism and Radio, Television & Film – from the College of Communication & Creative Arts.

Last fall, Ruiz joined the staff of Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS-FM where she quickly became news director and this spring began an internship with the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, a nationally syndicated radio program in New York City.

“WGLS changed my life,” she said. “The hard-working and talented students and staff there inspired me to pursue a career in radio. (Station Manager) Derek Jones and (Assistant Station Manager) Leo Kirschner were always there to help me with my shows and give me advice along the way. If it wasn't for the two of them, I would have never applied for the position at Elvis Duran.”

The Duran program has exposed her to a world of career possibilities, from behind the scenes production to on-air talent. She also completed internships with Delval Media, a publishing group, and the broadcaster SNJ Today.

“I know what it’s like to feel isolated, to feel alone, to feel like your story is not getting heard,” she said. “Rowan provided me the tools to give a voice to the voiceless. My goal is to share powerful stories so that I can inspire as many people as possible to love themselves and to follow their dreams.”