A portion of Dashenka's winning essay:
My name is Dashenka Perera and I am from Sri Lanka. I am currently pursing a bachelor's degree in Corporate Communication at Lycoming College, Williamsport PA.
I used to be reserved and shy during my childhood; I was mortally afraid to speak up in a crowd and would always make excuses to shy away from public speaking and making presentations. My shyness was an obstacle and it prevented me from many opportunities presented to me. After graduating from high school in Sri Lanka I was inspired to overcome my shyness and I felt the only way I could do this was to be an on air radio personality.
After much persuasion I joined TNL Radio Network in Sri Lanka and trained vigorously to be an on air personality. I didn't think I had the personality or the voice but my boss had faith in my and encouraged me to proceed with my training. I worked hard, and practiced my talk segments in front of the mirror. I still didn't feel confident and kept postponing
being on air. I gave up and decided the media industry and public speaking was not in me and decided to submit my resignation. I felt I let everyone down but most of all myself. When I arrived at the radio station, there was a crisis, an announcer was unable to make it for his midday show due to a death in the family and I was ordered to get into the studio and go on air. I was shaking and thought I might pass out when I heard the news. My stomach was in knots, my throat was dry and I could not think straight. I walked into the music library, collected my CD's for the show and walked into the studio. The control room and microphone was in front of me and when I realized this as my moment of truth I felt an anxiety attack coming
on. It was at this point that I thought this was my moment to shine, to face my fears fear and reach my potential. I slipped the CD in the player, queued the track, programmed my jingles and commercial on the IR machine took a deep breathe, switched the mike on and started to speak. I sounded nervous, I felt my voice sounded horrible on air but I kept on talking. It
was clearly not the best talk segment or my best show but I did it. I had finally taken the first step to overcome my biggest fear and was proud of it.
I had proved to myself that I had overcome my initial free on talking on air and still wanted to resign, but my boss had other plans. Even thought my first attempt was not that impressive he saw potential in me and asked me to work on my talk segments and told to me to come in the next day and continue with the show. I was nervous the second, third and the fourth time I went on air. However, y the fifth time I relaxed and got over my inhibitions and just started talking. A week later I found my on air radio style, I was the girl next door, someone you can easily talk to and that was my on air personality. I laughed, joked made mistakes but most of all I had fun. While talking I always imagined there was someone else in the booth
with me spoke to this imaginary friend of mine. I wanted listeners to know me and to acknowledge that I was a real person and not just a radio personality who had a radio voice.
Within two months I officially had my own show; my boss took it a bit further by getting me to compeer for promotional events. This was another hurdle I had to overcome as in the radio booth I had to speak only to by imaginary friend. Being in front of a mass of people scared me. I was nervous and came up with numerous excuses but my boss would not hear of it. At the promotional event I almost had a fainting spell when I saw all the crowd of people. I collected my thoughts, grabbed the microphone with sweaty palms, said a prayer and got up on stage. I froze for about 10 seconds because I felt intimidated but found courage within me and opened my mouth and started speaking. The whole time I kept picturing myself in the
serenity of my studio doing my show in my private world, I had this picture in my mind and spoke to a crowd of over 300 people. I was able to read the crowd and began to have fun. It was a great feeling when the show was over and a listener came to me and said "Dashenka you sound the same as you do when you are on air, just like the girl next door." I think this was the biggest compliment that I had ever received and still remember it to this day. I have my own style and one of the things radio thought me was to be myself. I didn't need to put on a radio voice. I didn't want to sound different when I was on air and sound like someone else when listeners met me in person. The radio station was my life for two years; I did creative
work, marketing, promotions, publicity and community service during my tenure at TNL radio. The station gave me so much that I needed to repay this company that had helped me to find myself. After two years I decided I wanted to further my career in the media industry and pursued higher studies in communication. A small liberal arts school in rural Pennsylvania caught my attention and I applied and got was accepted. Lycoming College did not offer a major in radio broadcasting but with my experience with corporate promotions and sales I wanted to purse a major in corporate communication. I got exposure in television broadcasting when I got involved in the college run TV station. Radio however was my first love and during my freshmen and
junior year in college I had a radio show. I was conscious of my accent but decided I needed to over this barrier. My professors and friends who listened to the show said that I sound natural and like I've been born to be on the air. The latter part of this comment was not true I worked had to be a good radio personality. I was not born to be on air, a lot of hard work
and confidence in myself and my abilities made be a great radio personality.
The radio industry has given me so much to be thankful for. It helped me find myself and realize my full potential. Public speaking was one of my favorite courses in college and I thrive on being in settings where I have to be a leader and speak up. I have one more semester left in college and am graduating in September 2007. I continue to be involved in the college radio station where I have a radio show and am one of the music directors for the station. Music and radio is my life and I will forever be thankful for being able to get behind and mike and realize my potential.