By Lizzie Wilcox
The Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund is awarded annually to a student pursuing journalism who demonstrates both academic success and financial need, and who is also a Florida resident. The scholarship is provided by 2Lives: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation. Sotloff was a journalist who wrote for several publications including Time Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and The L.A. Times. In August 2013, Sotloff was kidnapped by ISIS after crossing the border into Syria from Turkey. Over a year later, in September 2014, he was murdered by a member of ISIS.
This year, the scholarship, which was created by Sotloff’s parents Arthur and Shirley, was given to two broadcast journalism students: Erika Orstad and Kayla Haley. The scholarship was presented to them on Dec. 3 at the Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos game at Hard Rock Stadium.
Orstad is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and political science with a minor in film. She was inspired by the scholarship’s backstory because she also wants to report from the Middle East despite her own personal limitations.
“There have been a lot of people who have told me, ‘You’re blonde and have blue eyes, there’s no way anybody’s going to send you to the Middle East to cover stories,’ and they have a point,” Orstad said. “But at the end of the day I don’t care what color hair I have or what color eyes I have. I want to cover the stories that I think are important.”
Orstad hopes to mimic the bravery and persistence that Sotloff had as a journalist.
“Being a part of his legacy in this way is really meaningful to me just because of who he was and everything that happened to him,” she said.
The other recipient, Haley, is a senior double majoring in broadcast journalism and religious studies. Like Orstad, Haley wants to take on the kind of journalism to which Sotloff devoted his life, and his story resonates with her.
“[Sotloff] was talking about things that no one was writing about and publishing at the time and now it’s something that almost dominates our media,” Haley said. “He was one of the first people to talk about ISIS and what they were doing and now today that’s a huge buzzword in the media.”
To her, receiving the scholarship is a great recognition of her passion, which is “the news and the truth.”
Haley quoted a professor to summarize what her goals for a career in journalism are, “A journalist’s job is not to change the world, but to show the world what needs to be changed.”
“That’s become my motto because I realize that I can’t put on the proverbial cape and save the world, I’m one person,” Haley said. “But I know that words and media trigger a response in people … especially today that’s how change is going to happen and how the truth is going to be shared.”
To learn more about Steven Joel Sotloff visit, https://www.2livesfoundation.org/.