My Internship at ESPN

RJ Nealon speaks at podium.
RJ Nealon speaks during the 2018 USA Summer Games event.

Ever since I was little, my dream was to work at ESPN. I always felt most comfortable in sports competition, it was my escape, my first love and a way to prove myself.

I would watch sportscasters Stuart Scott, Kevin Negandhi, Kirk Herbstreit and Scott Van Pelt and think to myself “That is what I want to do. No, that’s what I need to do. It is what I was born to do.”

In elementary school, I started competing in Special Olympics. When I decided to stop in college, I started advocating and sharing athletes’ stories. Special Olympics isn’t just about sports. It is a stepping stone to advance in the world. It is a place that allows you to compete and find your voice, which helped me become the person I am today. Without Special Olympics, I wouldn’t be a part of the ESPN internship program.

During the 10-week program, I worked on the X Games Team and the ESPN Content Strategy Team. I had the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis, where during the X Games, I was in charge of Twitter content. I handled the preview posts, live competition posts, and wrap up posts. It was a learning process to use Twitter that fast, but that is the point of an internship - to learn to step outside your comfort zone and to expand your strengths and weaknesses.

RJ and ESPN Anchor Kevin Neghandi.
RJ and ESPN Anchor Kevin Neghandi.

As part of that, the X Games and Special Olympics partnered together for a unified BMX race where X Games athletes partnered with athletes of Special Olympics. They did this for an excellent reason - they raced for inclusion. I was lucky enough to take part in the event. In an organization where I was once an athlete, I am now helping spread the importance of inclusion through my writing and voice.

Out of thousands of applications, I am one of 61 interns and the first Special Olympics athlete to earn a position in the program. That is something I take a lot of pride in, because everything I overcame. The odds were always stacked against me. I earned one of the hardest internships to get because of hard work and opportunity. I stayed patient. I knew what I wanted and what it took to get there.

My good friend Kevin Negandhi, who I’ve always looked up to, once said: “All I wanted was a chance.” That stuck with me and I’m so thankful that ESPN gave me that chance. I came into this internship with an open mind and a desire to learn new things. After 10 weeks, I have gained a whole new skill set and a wealth of knowledge from different areas of the company. What I take from this experience will not just help me moving forward with my career, but it will help in life.

ESPN is the place I want to be and I will continue to do whatever it takes to get back here.

Check out RJ’s interview of ESPN’s Kevin Neghandi.

RJ Nealon interviewing Kevin Neghandhi

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