New to Town: Jackie Zubrzycki

Roll out the welcome wagon. In this series of folks "New to Town," meet Memphis' newest recruits. Learn what brought them here, what is keeping them happy here and how the city looks through their fresh eyes.

 
Jackie Zubrzycki, 29, moved to Memphis last fall to cover education as a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee. She's excited to be working in a market often called "ground zero" for education reform, but the hard-to-describe "vibe" of Memphis also had a magnetic appeal for this Philly native.

How long have you lived in Memphis? Since November 2013.

Where did you relocate from? Washington, D.C. (originally from Philadelphia).

What attracted you to Memphis? Part of it was the job, since I'm an education reporter. There's a lot happening in education here. I had been living in D.C. for 6 years, and was kind of interested in being somewhere with a different vibe. I liked the music, the history, the feel (of Memphis).

What is Chalkbeat exactly? We are a nonprofit online news site. We are focused on education change in low-income communities; part of the reason we do that is that a lot of the time media focuses on where the money is. We think the things that are happening in cities, where a lot of change is happening, we think it's important to tell those stories. We are part of a national network. There's one in New York, one in Denver and one in Indianapolis. I was a teacher, and I was covering urban school districts in my last job. All of our reporters have studied education or have been writing about education for a while. We believe that lets us tell the stories with a little more nuance and understanding.

What's one of the most interesting stories that you've covered so far in Memphis? I spent a lot of time covering the school closings, and that, I think, really helps me get a sense of the challenges facing the schools here. Also so many people came out for those meetings that I met a lot of people. That's when you realize that there are no simple answers to these questions.

What has surprised you about Memphis? One thing that I like is that I think that city and Downtown has become more beautiful to me. When I first visited it was a really hot day in August. I was like, "Oh man. This city is so intense." But spending time here I see all the different buildings from different eras in South Main. I walk around and will be just struck, "This is kind of beautiful."

The art scene here has pleasantly surprised me. There are fewer big institutional museums than in D.C., but I've gone to a high-quality dance show or a surprising fun little art gathering.

What unique opportunities exist for you here? This job was a unique opportunity. To be a part of a startup media group and right now being in a moment where there's a lot going on in education.

I think that the size of Memphis makes it a great place to be a young person with ideas, because there are needs here, but you can also get connected to people and institutions more easily than in some other cities. The cost of living is so good that you can do something creative more easily than in other cities and support yourself.

What local organizations or initiatives do you like here? I've participated in a program with the New Memphis Institute (Embark) that I thought was a good way to meet people throughout the city.

What would you like to see for the future of Memphis in general? I would like Memphis to keep its quirky and great personality and not try to become a different city. But the city needs to reduce the number of people who are living in poverty and improve the quality of life and education for those who are.

Read more articles by Elle Perry.

A native of Memphis, Elle Perry serves as coordinator of the Teen Appeal, the Scripps Howard city-wide high school newspaper program. 
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