Voyage Houston Feature: Meet Trailblazer Erica Ponder
Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Ponder.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Erica. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. I am a 26-year-old writer and digital producer here in Houston. From as early as elementary school, I’ve always wanted to make a living doing something where I could utilize my talents of writing and telling stories. I was the child that was a part of the school’s “news team,” and I loved putting the PowerPoint slides together while reading the school announcements. I also remember my mother making sure I participated in the writing contests at school and church, and both of my parents instilling the importance of reading, writing and education to me. When I started winning those contests, it just amplified my love for storytelling and confirmed what I already knew in my heart. After writing for my high school newspaper, I pretty much knew it was something that I really wanted to do for a long time. I come from a supportive immediate family that includes my dad (Eric), mom (Rhonda) and three older sisters— LeKeshia, Andrea and Alexis. They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, so I was really confident in going to school and studying Mass Communications at Prairie View A&M University, where I also wrote for the university’s newspaper and worked as an editor.
While there, I was able to interview people like activist Sybrina Fulton (the mother of Trayvon Martin), Kim Coles, author Ndaba Mandela (grandson of Nelson Mandela), and more. PV gave me a lot of experiences and opportunities that helped me in my career later on, and I’m forever grateful. I feel like those things helped open the door for me to later interview people like Irma P. Hall, Meagan Good, Dick Gregory, LeToya Luckett, Chuck E. Cheese creator Gene Landrum, and more, because I had that practice and foundation. I took my writing opportunities and ran with them. Even writing stories here and there for the Eta Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (my chapter of initiation) made me happy, because I was utilizing my skills for the things and organizations that I love. Fast forward to today, and I have written and/or digitally produced for Houston Style Magazine, CW 39, ABC13, and FOX 26, where I currently work as a digital content creator. I also have my own platform called Empowered Expressions, where I write stories and post interviews that are of interest and importance to me. I started Empowered Expressions as an assignment while in graduate school at Sam Houston State University for Digital Media Studies, and I kept it as a way to have something to call my own.
Has it been a smooth road? The road hasn’t always been smooth. After graduating college, I went through a rough period of time where I was really just trying to find my way. Like most people after they graduate, some jobs fell through and some things didn’t go as I wanted them to go. I went through a period of really questioning what God wanted for me, and I feel like the more I asked and sought Him, the more connections I began making. I went through a number of things after graduating, such as my vehicle flooding while I was in it after moving to Houston from San Antonio, to jumping into opportunities that weren’t a good fit for me, but I never gave up, because I knew what God put in my heart. I definitely couldn’t have gone through all of that and came out the way I did without the support of my family and close friends. This was the time period when I really began to understand my value even more. I’m grateful for it all. My advice to young women who are just starting their journey is to be gentle with yourself. You won’t have it all together, and you won’t know all the answers. Things like rejection, a “Sorry, but we went with another candidate” email, or even a loss is really God’s protection. Know that it probably doesn’t make sense now, but it will in the future. And pray for discernment. Everything that appears to be a good opportunity may not be for you, and that is okay.
We’d love to hear more about FOX 26 Houston and Empowered Expressions. I produce and write stories for FOX 26’s digital platforms in order to engage users and get our stories out. A lot of times you’ll notice that you see breaking news stories through push alerts on your phone, and you also typically see it first on the internet. I work to ensure those push alerts go out as soon as possible while telling stories that are factual and of interest to the reader/viewer. I am also really big on writing happy and inspiring stories. Though writing breaking news is typically exciting for me, it can be mentally draining sometimes because journalists are some of the first ones to see disturbing, sad or unfortunate details, so when I find those stories that can potentially put a smile on someone’s face or give them hope, I leap at the opportunity.
Since being in the news industry, I have written several articles that have gone viral, some that I haven’t even put my name on. There’s a thrill and sense of joy that I get from writing stories and seeing them spread across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. What makes me proud is being able to go to work and actually do what I love. When you love what you do, you don’t mind working hard. Every day I work to perfect my craft. I’m so grateful for that. I think what sets me apart from others is the passion that I have for what I do. It has always been there, and it’s given me the push that I’ve needed in difficult times. When it comes to my own personal platform, I post and write the stories that I love. I enjoy attending different events in the city and writing about my experiences when I have the time to. This year, I’m committed to writing on my blog a lot more. It’s my “baby,” so I aim to give it more attention.
Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for? It can be hard for women to break into male-dominated industries, and when we do, it can be an ongoing battle of having to prove ourselves, but when has difficulty ever stopped us? I can truly say that I (thankfully) see a lot more women in leadership roles in newsrooms as of right now, some of which have really helped me in my own career. It gives me a lot of hope because I know these women have made a lot of sacrifices to prove that they belong in these positions, and these sacrifices will help women that look like me in the future. While I wish we didn’t have to work harder than the average male, there are a lot of opportunities that women are well-positioned for, but where there aren’t, I have faith that there will be one that opens that door to help pave the way for others to enter. One “yes” from God can eliminate several “no’s.”