Ambitious, passionate, warm, vivacious, jubilant. These are a few words one might use to describe the ideal student or friend, and all of these things definitely describe Aijha Thomas, a student here at LC. Thomas is a part of the radio program, and is the promotions director for the station. Meaning she runs the events, social media and concert ticket giveaways among other things.
Thomas started the program in January 2018, and has loved it ever since, noting, “I genuinely feel like I’ve found my calling … I definitely want to stay in radio.”
School has been a rocky road — Thomas tried two different schools before coming to LC, and even at the beginning of her journey here, she was studying paralegal. She notes that life never works out the way you plan. “Back then … I guess I thought that would be right, but in my law classes I was like, ‘I’m gonna go to sleep in here!’ But every single radio class [I’ve taken] I’m always excited to be there, always happy, willing to learn.”
She hadn’t always been interested in radio; it was in her role as a server at a senior living community where radio was recommended. “My manager happened to be walking by, and she said, ‘You know what I think you should do? Radio.’ I was like, ‘I would never.’” She credits that manager, recollecting that they recently connected on Facebook and had a conversation about her career in radio. “I don’t know what made that pop in her head, but I appreciate her for that.”
Going into the program felt way out of her range for Thomas (“I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into.”), but she settled in quickly. She notes that there’s a science behind it, and it’s a lot more than having a big personality and talking into a microphone.
“[You learn] where radio fits in such a media-based world, compared to TV, podcasts, people doing their own news … you need to know your format, you have to learn how the system is set up, and then you start learning production. They teach you every single aspect.”
A surprising amount of bookwork goes into radio, but once the behind-the-scenes is nailed down, a student will learn about production, knowing your audience, and the right terminology with which to talk to listeners. “Once you learn all that, you love it so much more.”
“When I go on air for the station, I’m always so excited … My favorite part is interacting with the people that listen.” Thomas loves radio so much because when she was younger, she was often told her personality was too loud, too extra, too much. “But then I get in this atmosphere where they’re like, we love your energy. Finally there’s a use to all this energy I’ve been given, like finally it all makes sense.” But they try to teach you professionalism. Let’s just clean it up a little bit.”
As for role models, she mentions Pharrell Williams, admiring aspects such as the movements he’s behind: cleaning up the earth, and believing that no person is above another. “He’s so humble, he just wants to grow, and he admits that he’s still learning.” She also referenced Issa Rae as one of her inspirations. “She lives in her truth. She was told she was too this and too that as a kid and says it shaped her career by not giving up on herself and not letting people change her.”
Thomas, like most other people, just wants to make a positive impact in the world. “You never know what someone is going through or where someone mentally is at … I love uplifting people and I love celebrating people. Maybe being on radio I don’t have the total impact that I want to help shape the world, but sometimes you have to start small. If I can change one person’s day or get someone to smile that might not have smiled, little stuff like that makes me happy.”
“Maybe one day I will get to tell my story about where I began, to how I got here, to how I changed my own life. That chance that I might become a public figure one day kinda helps me, like I’ll be able to reach more people. We get listeners from Alton and Godfrey to St. Louis. You never know who’s listening or who you’re helping get through the day.”
Her advice to anyone interested in the program is simple: “Keep going. You can’t do it if you don’t want to do it. Sometimes it is a lot of work, just keep going, trust in the teachers and put faith in yourself. Believe in your process.”