ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The next wave of journalists, reporters and broadcasters are waiting in the wings right here in Abilene.

ACU students are getting ‘invaluable’ experience daily through several student media outlets, such as 89.5 KACU.

The longtime Abilene NPR station is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

ACU senior Katie Pantoja has worked at the radio station for three years as an on-air host and producer.

She wakes up early to cover her 6-9:00 a.m. shift, which she said was difficult at times, but well worth it.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot of good, quality traits about what a good reporter should be,” Pantoja said.

She credited the ACU Journalism and Mass Communication Department for allowing her the opportunity at a young age to get that on-air experience before she stepped foot into the working world.

“ACU has done a really good job of molding me into a great reporter and host,” Pantoja said.

General Manager, professor and alumni Nathan Gibbs said KACU is just one of several student media outlets in the department, but offers the same experience in all different fields.

Gibbs said those media outlets are not just there to provide the latest news and information, but are intended to give many students their first shot at real world experiences.

“It’s spreading beyond that, in terms of students,” Gibbs said. “They are able to take that experience elsewhere.”

Some are staying right here in Abilene, like our own Mercedez Hernandez, who worked part time at KACU while getting her foot in the door at the television station.

“I remember that first day in Doug Mendenhall’s class,” Hernandez said. “I remember thinking ‘Wow, this job really matters.'”

Hernandez said she remembers the progress she made during her short stay at KACU, but said she looks back and called it “invaluable experience.”

Nathan Gibbs reiterated that they are dedicated to teaching their students to think independently and shaping the next generation of quality journalists in America, and said there are a few of those examples right in our backyard.