By: Vivian Duncan and Madison Farmer
Newnan alumni often go on to accomplish great things, and at the end of August, one of Newnan’s recent graduates came back to visit home and brought a plethora of advice and knowledge back from Washington D.C. with him.
Copeland Tucker, Deputy Press Secretary and Digital Media Manager for Congresswoman Diana DeGette, spent his morning speaking to Newnan High School’s Journalism class about his career and life experience. Tucker explained how his experiences as a Newnan Cougar shaped his path towards success, and he encouraged the generation of aspiring writers sitting in the desks to reach for their goals.
Visiting campus, the students automatically felt a connection to the Newnan alumnus, who they could ask questions about what life was really like after high school and in the real world. Students took turns asking questions about everything from his experience in college to his multicolored and patterned socks announcing his style at the bottom of his slacks.
Tucker took his answers to great lengths, elaborating on the life lessons he has learned and how he has kept a positive attitude throughout his career.
“Just remember it’s up to you. You have what it takes to be successful,” Tucker encouraged the classroom full of upperclassmen.
Tucker’s journalistics roots began to grow at Newnan High School. Even though he felt like he did not belong to a certain group of people or a clique, he had friends from different groups of people and participated in an array of different sports and clubs. Tucker ran cross country, was captain of the quiz bowl and also acted in school plays.
In addition to his wide range of extracurricular involvement, he had his own talk show on Newnan Utilities Cable titled “The Last Word with Copeland Tucker,” where he spoke about issues that teens specifically cared about.
“It was super low budget, but really fun,” Tucker reflected on his time with the television series.
He had another television program called “On the Job with Copeland Tucker,” where he shadowed different local jobs for a day. He had about one episode a month that aired on TV focusing on taking people behind the scenes of different careers and professionals’ daily lives.
Tucker shadowed a variety of jobs ranging from firefighters, police officers and Sprayberry’s Barbecue for a day. Besides being a local television presence, Tucker always looked forward to learning as a student.
Tucker specifically said his perspective on the world was deepened by his AP U.S. History class. This class influenced his later love of policy, which is the principles of governments, parties, or individuals. “AP U.S. History really informed me about this great, crazy experiment that is America,” Tucker explained.
He also mentioned how he was a part of the Governor’s Honors Program in high school, and he noted how his experiences at the program have always stuck with him.
During high school, he also wrote a teen column for The Newnan Times-Herald. He wrote about different topics and events that he felt strongly about, bringing his voice and perspective to the current issues affecting high schoolers.
One of the articles he noted as having the biggest impact on his passion for journalism was his article discussing diversity in the school’s cafeteria. He wrote about how he saw different groups separated from each other and sitting at different tables. Tucker elaborated, “It was something that bothered me for such a long time.”
His interest in local and current issues existed alongside his interest in journalism during high school. Tucker, however, admitted that he always thought that the field of journalism was “glamorous.” He then revealed that the field is quite the opposite and can actually be quite stressful.
Tucker countered this somewhat troubling reality with the positive side of journalism, when he noted the “satisfaction of creating a great story out of nothing and sharing the truth with the public.”
After high school, Tucker attended and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in broadcast journalism and in political science, and he would then go on to earn a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from UGA as well.
While at UGA, he worked for Grady Newsource, UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s independent student run cable television station, where he continued to gain journalistic experience and further develop his interest in connecting people with information.
Tucker said when creating a story, “it gives you a great sense of accomplishment.”
After college and graduate school, Tucker decided to visit Washington D.C. to stay with his friends and scope out the professional landscape, and while there, he decided he liked the area and wanted to begin his career in the country’s capital.
His career started with humble beginnings. After moving to Washington D.C. on a whim, he had to literally start from scratch, with no job and no place to live.
He explained how when you are in school, you are taught that as long as you work hard and dedicate your best effort to an assignment, then your grade will reflect what you put in. Tucker, however, noted that in the real world, you do not always see the immediate return.
Sometimes, he explained, you get something completely different than what you thought you would, and sometimes, what you get may even be much better than what you initially expected as a result of hard work and determination.
Taking what he learned in school to the real world, Tucker explained to students how “success requires taking risks, but hard work pays off.”
“If you work hard you can expect something good, it may not be what you expected it to be, but you’ll be rewarded for hard work,” is one of Tucker’s favorite quotes that he tries to live by. He heard the quote when watching an interview of a successful actress discussing advice she had received from her mother.
Even with his extensive education and previous journalism experience, Tucker found it difficult to find a solid career opportunity. When times were tough and hard, he explained he kept going “knowing that I was so close to what I wanted.”
Finally, he received the opportunity to become an unpaid press intern for Charles Rangel, U.S. Representative for New York’s 13th Congressional District, writing press releases and learning the ropes on Capitol Hill. He worked at this internship for seven months with no pay, while he made his living working at a restaurant in the D.C. area.
“I really got an inside look and a lot of great experience into the press side of political communication,” Tucker said.
His hard work and long nights transformed into his current position as a Deputy Press Secretary and Digital Media Manager for Diana DeGette, U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 1st Congressional District. Tucker explained how making things happen
depends on how hard you press for an opportunity to show your ability.
“It’s really just looking for opportunities. Opportunities are not just going to fall into your lap. No matter where you are in life, no matter what college or high school that you went to, no matter what job you’re in, there are always opportunities. You just have to find them. It’s not always about where you are. It’s about what you’re willing to do.”
He cautioned students, however, from setting too strict of an expectation for themselves, and he explained how embracing new opportunities will take you where you want to go or maybe even show you a better direction.
“Don’t set this goal that in five years, I’m going to be here, or in ten years, I’m going to make this much money,” he said. “It’s not going to be worth it, because it’s going to really keep you from seeking out other opportunities.”