Not Meant for That Life After All
Sean Barnhill ’15 always knew he wanted to be on television. From a young age, he dreamed of working in the media and living in a city like New York or Los Angeles.
“I remember when I was five years old playing ‘news anchor’ with my dog, Bailey,” he says. “My dog was the co-host. It’s funny to think about now, but that’s what I did.”
Barnhill eventually traded up in terms of co-workers—the recent graduate worked full time in television production as a teen and college student, and landed internships with CNBC and the “Today” show as he completed his advertising/public relations degree at Drury.
That experience did not lead to a glitzy gig in a big city, however. The Willard, Mo. native is back home in the Ozarks working as the director of communication and community development for The Kitchen, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless. He credits his internships with showing him that he was destined for a different path —one that combines the storytelling and community-building skills he learned in TV with service to the less fortunate.
“It’s gratifying to see so many people support our mission to help prevent and end homelessness,” says Barnhill, who graduated in December. “It’s great to know I’m making a difference, whether it’s by getting the word out or raising money to help others.”
Barnhill worked for the Vacation Channel in Branson at age 16 and moved on to a production assistant position at CBS affiliate KOLR in Springfield at age 17. He then went to work at NBC affiliate KY3 after graduating from high school, where he worked his way up to the position of digital producer thanks to his skills with social media, video editing and writing. It wasn’t easy being the new (younger) kid in a newsroom, he says. But any doubts his co-workers might have had about his age made him double his efforts.
“You have to go above and beyond,” he says. “It’s about working hard and asking questions. A lot of people are hesitant to ask questions and you just can’t be hesitant. If you don’t ask questions, you can’t learn.”
Barnhill was also working hard academically. After two years at Ozarks Technical Community College, he transferred to Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies because of the flexibility provided by available online classes and the instructors’ personal approach. The move to Drury turned out to be a great advantage after a recommendation from KY3 led to internships in New York with CNBC and “Today.”
At both stops, Barnhill wrote and edited stories, worked closely with videographers and producers and got to know the on-air talent. Brushing shoulders with celebrities was a nice perk, too.
But being so close to the 24/7 rush of big-time television news showed Barnhill that he wasn’t meant for that life after all. He achieved his childhood dream – now he is working on the next one.
“Never give up on your dreams,” he says. “Always put forth your best effort because that could definitely lead to something else in the long term. And you feel great about it when you do your best. You feel that sense of accomplishment. You go home feeling like a rock star.”
BY MIKE BROTHERS
Director of Media Relations