Growing up in rural Knox County, Maine, Erin Rhoda ’06, had never seen the Colby campus before a high school field trip took her past Mayflower Hill. “I knew instantly that I wanted to go there,” she said. “There was never any doubt.”
Though she was at the top of her class at Medomak Valley High School and “played every sport I could,” she didn’t think she’d be admitted. When she was, “I figured I was at the bottom of the ladder. It must have made me study really hard.”
Rhoda graduated near the top of her Colby class and has continued to work hard since. She’s been to Africa twice, spent a year as a George J. Mitchell National Scholar in Ireland—and started a career as a daily newspaper reporter.
Obstacles make her more determined.
When Colby officials said they couldn’t support a student humanitarian trip to Sierra Leone—the country had recently suffered through a civil war—Rhoda and other students raised $23,000 and traveled to the West African nation the week after graduation.
“The rural villages that were destroyed by the civil war were being destroyed by malaria,” she said. Many of the 2,000 bed nets they provided are still in use.
Later Rhoda got involved in the Maine/Ghana Youth Network, which helped educate and provide meals for children in that country. She chaired the board as its American representative while working her first reporter’s beat for the Courier Gazette in Rockland. “It was like holding down two full-time jobs,” she said. “I don’t recommend it.”
By that time she had been selected as a Mitchell Scholar and attended Trinity College in Dublin, studying creative writing and working on her poetry. During her stay in Ireland, she traveled extensively, visiting 12 countries to bring her total to 28.
Back in Maine she was hired in September 2009 as one of two reporters in the Morning Sentinel’s Skowhegan bureau. She finds the attractions of daily reporting simple but compelling.
“I get to tell people’s stories,” she said, at the newspaper’s office in Waterville. “I get to learn about what’s going on before anyone else.”
Rhoda particularly enjoys the diversity of newspaper work. “I’ve covered homicides and I’ve interviewed candidates for governor,” she said. “I’ve also talked to mothers after their children had died.”
Rural Somerset County, her beat, looks like a place to settle down. “There are a lot of fascinating people here,” she said. “There are a lot
of strange people.”
Just a year into the job, she says she’s hooked. “I’ll stay here as long as I’m able.”
—Douglas Rooks ’76