In Memoriam: Sierra Jenkins, Virginian-Pilot Education Reporter
It is with tremendous sorrow that we share the news of the death of EWA member Sierra Jenkins of The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press. She was shot and killed over the weekend in Norfolk, Virginia, while leaving a restaurant. She was 25.
Jenkins joined EWA in fall 2021. She had already distinguished herself with strong education reporting for The Pilot and its sibling publication, the Daily Press.
“Sierra was passionate about the importance of journalism in general, and local journalism in particular,” Brian Root, her editor at The Pilot, told EWA. “She wanted the world to be a better place when she left it, and it breaks my heart that she didn’t get nearly enough of a chance to make that happen.”
Memorial service information is expected to be announced soon, Root said.
A native of Norfolk, Jenkins graduated from Georgia State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in African American studies. She interned at Atlanta Magazine and CNN prior to joining The Pilot newsroom in 2020. Some of Jenkins’ friends and colleagues have shared heartbreaking stories about her determination, her thoughtfulness, and her extraordinary promise as a journalist. (You can read The Pilot’s story here.)
Jenkins was also a 2022 member of EWA’s New to the Beat program, which matches newer education journalists with veteran reporters who serve as mentors and coaches.
Her program mentor, Lori Higgins of Chalkbeat, beautifully summed up what so many of us felt after having the chance to spend time with Jenkins at our New to the Beat workshop in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks ago: “After one meeting with her, I walked away feeling rejuvenated. She was so enthusiastic and had such a drive for journalism and this beat.”
EWA journalist member Sara Gregory of the The (South Carolina) Post and Courier’s Education Lab, who worked with Jenkins at The Pilot, said she wrote with authority and skills that belied the “rookie” label.
“Her writing was full of courage and compassion because she was full of courage and compassion,” Gregory told EWA. “She had the talent to work anywhere she wanted, but she chose to write about schools in her hometown and make them better. We are all worse off for the stories she won’t get to tell — the three in her notebooks and the dozens more that were just ideas.”
But even more than the stories Jenkins left untold, Gregory said, “we are all worse off for the loss of our kind friend, colleague, sister and daughter, who radiated joy wherever she went.”
We send our deepest condolences to Jenkins’ family, her friends, and her newsroom colleagues. While these words can do little to ease the pain, we hope they will bring some comfort to those who are grieving. If you have memories or thoughts on this senseless loss, please feel free to share them with us by sending an email to email@example.com.