Welcome to my online portfolio...
Hello. My name is Beth Walton Braaksma. In the following pages, you will find a collection of my work as a print and online journalist and communications professional.
I have dedicated the last decade of my life to two things: journalism and satisfying an insatiable curiosity about the world around me. I twice joined the United States Peace Corps. I learned to speak difficult and little known languages. I backpacked overland from Saigon to Delhi. I climbed the Great Wall. I rafted the Nile. I even lived and worked in Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, I obtained a master’s degree, published front page stories in one of the nation’s largest newspapers, worked as a crime reporter in Las Vegas, and was awarded first place for short form news writing by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. I could hardly afford the gas in my car, but from the outskirts of Minneapolis I beat out top-tier writers from New York and Los Angeles. I was published in a book.
There aren’t many people who would drop everything mid-career to fulfill a lifelong dream of joining the United States Peace Corps. Even fewer would sign up a second time after evacuation. It is this kind of determination and conviction that makes me a great journalist. I’m tenacious. I work hard. I’m resourceful. I don’t let things get in the way of my dreams or a good story.
To see more of my work and learn about my background, check out my resume, portfolio and occasionally updated travel blog. A complete catalog of my published writing is available here.
Recently Published Work:
A citizen of nowhere: Uncertain futures for undocumented immigrant youths wanting work and education in the U.S.
ASHEVILLE – The day Carolina Siliceo Perez – at the age of 15 – discovered she was as an undocumented immigrant living in the United States, she locked herself in her bedroom, threw herself on the bed and sobbed. Later, before the long road to finishing high school, earning a college degree and finding steady work, she would scream in rage at her mother for hiding her gamble to stay in the U.S. rather than return to Mexico after her migrant visa expired. Despite those successes and through no fault of her own, Siliceo Perez, now 24, essentially lives as a citizen of nowhere even though she has built a life for herself in Asheville. Should the U.S. take a hard line in changing the way the nation handles illegal immigration, she risks being returned to Mexico, a country where she would have no friends, no job and no place to live. Click here for the full article text.
Lessons from Berlin, one woman's story of the Holocaust
ASHEVILLE – Local Jewish historian Sharon Fahrer grew up in a household where the Holocaust was never discussed. Yet, her mother and aunt narrowly escaped death during World War II and fate was not so kind to her uncle, his wife, and the baby who would have been her only first cousin. As an adult, Fahrer took it upon herself to document her family’s history, writing bureaucracies throughout Europe to track their movements. Now, a neighborhood in Berlin is caring for a stolperstein, a brass commemorative plaque set into the cobblestone near where her uncle once lived. "It's such a great memorial," said Fahrer, who runs History at Hand, an organization which documents local history by creating street panels so people know what happened in the past at the spot where they currently stand. "It's not just something you are going to pass by like a statue and look at. It's something you can interact with, it's something people can participate with." Click here for the full article text.
Asheville spared amid NC sports boycott over HB2: Hundreds of athletes and thousands of fans to visit the U.S. Cellular Center for SOCON
ASHEVILLE – The dominoes began to fall Sept. 12, the day the NCAA announced it would pull seven tournaments from North Carolina in protest of legislation limiting protections for transgender people. Two days later, the Atlantic Coast Conference, which in North Carolina includes UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest, deepened the blow. It would move all its 2016-17 events from the state. But in Asheville, the town where a gay pride flag once hung from City Hall and bumper stickers read, ‘Y’all means all,” the tenor was different. Here in this mountain city, where the Register of Deeds Office stayed open late just to be one of the first places in the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many begged the Southern Conference to keep its annual March basketball tournament in Asheville. Don’t punish the diverse and inclusive people of this city for action taken in Charlotte and Raleigh, they said. It worked — for now. The tournament, which brings an estimated $3 million-$4 million a year to the region, is back in Asheville this weekend despite failed efforts to repeal HB2. Click here for the full article text.
Gladys Knight and husband move forward with Canton center
CANTON - Even though famed soul singer Gladys Knight grew up in Atlanta, she says her marriage to a Western North Carolina native has turned her into a country girl at heart. And while Knight and William "Billy" McDowell own property in Fairview, their hearts are farther afield, in Canton's Gibsontown neighborhood. McDowell grew up nearby. This week, the couple launched a fundraising campaign there for the Reynolds Community Center, which will be at the site of the crumbling Reynolds High School. The now-closed institution was once the only African-American high school in Western North Carolina west of Asheville. Organizers need to raise $4.5 million to $5 million to renovate the 20,000-square-foot building, which was constructed in 1930 and functional until 1966. The family purchased the site at auction in 2015 for $80,000 to preserve the spirit and history of the area and give it back to the community. "I know this is where we are supposed to be," said Knight, standing Tuesday in front of the remains of the school nestled on the lawn where the neighborhood ends.
Click here for the full article text.
A complete catalog of all my work is available here.