Fall is approaching, and so is the upcoming Louisiana football season.
It may take some people years before they find their true passion in life. For alumna Leigha McNeil, she knew that she was destined to be a news reporter from an early age. McNeil '19 is currently a bureau reporter at KXXV 25 News in Killeen, Texas. Before moving to Texas, McNeil worked her way up to be a weekend anchor at KADN-TV in Lafayette, Louisiana, all before graduating from college. The career that McNeil has built at such a young age is outstanding. None of that would've been possible if she hadn't started her journey at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Originally from New Orleans, McNeil knew that UL Lafayette was the home for her as soon as she stepped foot on campus. "When I drove in front of campus, I knew that it was the one," said McNeil. As a student, McNeil was very involved and made sure to soak up everything the University had to offer. She got involved in Greek life and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She also was a UL Lafayette Peer Mentor and got the opportunity to mentor freshmen students. For McNeil, getting involved allowed her to embrace the University. "I feel like when you get involved on campus, you grow a love and appreciation for the campus even more," said McNeil.
As a broadcasting journalism student, McNeil had a very rigorous curriculum that challenged her. At one point, she even thought about changing her career path. However, she had one communication professor who guided her and pushed her to jump headfirst into the industry. "Professor Maniko Barthelemy is one of the reasons that I'm still in the industry today," said McNeil.
Because of professors like Barthelemy, McNeil started to get involved in the broadcast news industry as an undergraduate student. She initially took a job at KADN-TV during her junior year of college. She worked hard and eventually got promoted to a reporter and later a weekend anchor at the local news station before she even finished her undergraduate degree. Throughout her time in the news industry so far, McNeil has found a passion for telling other people's stories. She has already covered so many monumental events throughout her career. She hopes to continue to learn and grow as a reporter in her new role in Texas.
As for McNeil's plans, she hopes to make it back to Louisiana one day to continue to do the work that she loves in her home state. "I would love to come back home and…tell the stories of people in our community," said McNeil. She is driven, determined, and has her sights set on her future. But ultimately, McNeil thinks it's important to remember to enjoy every moment that life has to offer. "To me, happiness is everything," said McNeil. McNeil has a bright future ahead of her as a news reporter and will continue to use the lessons she learned at UL Lafayette to pursue her dreams.
Photo Caption: Leigha McNeil at the news station.