Staci Bunton started small in the world of broadcast journalism, but has worked her way up in a short time. A familiar face on the WSIL-TV weekend news, Bunton said she owes her success to the Cooperative Education program at Rend Lake College.
When she enrolled at RLC in 2000, Bunton was not sure what career was right for her, she said. Frustrated with working low-skill, low-pay “high school” jobs, she went to Cooperative Education Specialist Mark Clark in search of a more challenging position.
Cooperative Education, or Co-op, is a method of instruction that places students into jobs relating to their majors and is an attractive program for both students and employers. Students receive practical “real-world” experience which assists them in the career decision-making process and they earn college credit.
In an effort to find a good fit for Bunton, Clark examined her strengths – an affinity for theater and good speaking abilities. Although Bunton had never considered a career in broadcast journalism, Clark was able to find an associate producer position available at WSIL-TV, which she quickly accepted.
“Back then, I didn’t even know what an edit bay was,” said Bunton. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career until I got the job at WSIL.”
Bunton found that she thoroughly enjoyed her work, and after graduating from RLC in 2002, she enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Psychology. She said she had considered attending the University of Illinois, but chose SIUC in order to remain at her job at WSIL.
She gained more experience volunteering in River Region Evening Edition’s newsroom at WSIU, and also interned for WJPF News Radio in 2003.
Bunton eventually was hired full-time at WSIL as a photojournalist. “I figured if I learned how to run a camera, the producers would start sending me out on stories,” she said. That did happen, and she began accompanying reporters on stories to shoot footage. Bunton sometimes acted as a “one-man gang,” shooting the footage for a story and reporting by herself.
Her rise through the ranks has continued since then, and now Bunton is regularly seen on WSIL newscasts in her duties as a weekend reporter. She is still a photojournalist during the week and specializes in producing Channel 3’s “Unsung Hero” segments. She said she would eventually like to become more involved in the journalistic aspects of her profession and perhaps become an anchor. But for now, she is happy to work and learn.
“I think of it as a team concept. I want the final product to look good. If the final product looks good, then I’m happy,” she said.
“Who knows what the future holds? I can still grow a lot at WSIL. They are very generous with opportunities here,” Bunton said.
But she has never forgotten her roots or the people who helped her establish her career. “I would never have found this career if not for the Co-op program. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I probably would still be trying to figure that out if not for them. I feel like they are greatly responsible for my success,” she said.
“Staci is a great success story. It’s very rewarding to open up an opportunity for a student and watch them take it and run. With her abilities, there’s no limit to what she can do in her field,” said Clark. “This is a perfect example of how Co-op can make a difference in a student’s life.”
Staci, 25, grew up as a Pinckneyville Panther and now resides in Herrin.
For more information about the RLC Cooperative Education program, contact Clark at (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1352, or call toll-free at 1-800-369-5321, Ext. 1352.
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