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What A Journey

Hurst’s Talents Put Him At The Top Of Bona’s Journalism School

In this photo from December 2019, St. Bonavnture University senior Cameron Hurst, second from left, is joined by Mike Vaccaro (Class of ’89), New York Post sports columnist; Joe Ceraulo, Hurst’s classmate; and Chris LaPlaca (Class of ’79), vice president of corporate communications for ESPN, at the gala celebration honoring the basketball program’s centennial. Submitted photo

Mark Hellinger was a journalist, a Broadway columnist and film producer of great renown. Since 1960, an award named in his honor has annually recognized the top student in St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication.

One of the recipients is Mike Vaccaro (Class of ’89).

“I’ve never made any pretense of the fact that when I arrived at Bona I made it a goal to win the Hellinger,” said Vaccaro, who is a West Hempstead, New York native. “I happened to know a little bit about who Hellinger was anyway, having grown up reading and absorbing New York newspapers, and I saw the list of past winners and I set that goal from day one.”

Mission accomplished.

It’s been 31 years since Vaccaro walked the Bona campus as an undergrad, but he’s certainly lived up to the award’s lofty standards. A columnist at the New York Post, “Vacc” is one of the best sports writers in the land.

In this August 2018 file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, presents Robert H. Jackson Center intern and Jamestown resident Cameron Hurst with a signed football in appreciation for the latter’s efforts in putting together a tribute for Goodell’s late father, Charles. Submitted photo

“Winning it was a thrill that still gives me pause; partly because it gave me confidence to believe I was good enough to make a living in journalism,” Vaccaro continued in an email Tuesday. “Mostly, though, because it allowed me to hear the words that the program’s founder, Dr. Russ Jandoli, has offered all past winners: ‘Michael, to whom much is given, much is expected.’

“I think about that a lot with Cam.”

Vaccaro was referring to Jamestown’s own Cameron Hurst, who graduated from St. Bonaventure last December and left the Jandoli School of Communication with plenty of honors.

And, yes, one of them puts him on the same list occupied by Vaccaro and many other esteemed alumni.

That would be the Hellinger Award list.

In this March 2018 file photo, Cameron Hurst, right, poses for a photo with Post-Journal sports editor Scott Kindberg, left, and Dayton Daily News sportswriter Hal McCoy before the “first four” NCAA Tournament basketball game in Dayton, Ohio. McCoy, who covers the Cincinnati Reds, was honored by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2002 as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spinks Award. It is presented annually at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction festivities “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Submitted photo

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The email arrived in my inbox at work in July 2013, and the sender was Cameron, who was inquiring about doing an internship in the sports department at The Post-Journal. I wrote back that we didn’t have an internship program at the newspaper, but that I would be more than happy to provide a job-shadow opportunity.

Cam began shadowing me two months later, the start of his sophomore year at Jamestown High School. In October of that year, he accompanied me to the media day for the Section VI high school championships at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

It was during that road trip that we discussed how best for Cam to make use of his passion for his school, his writing talents and his technological expertise. By the time we returned home, the idea for the “Rowdy Raider” blog was conceived. Days later, it was born.

The blog ultimately received tens of thousands of views; Cam was honored as the first recipient of the football program’s Walt Roode Memorial Award; and he even received a state championship ring for his tireless work in chronicling the team’s successes. Cam was interviewed on WJTN 1240 Radio at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse; and was the subject of a page-one story in this newspaper.

Fast-forward nearly six years.

Now splitting his time as a sports writer and a general assignment reporter at The Post-Journal, Cam’s resume is filled to overflowing, a testament to his talents and to his work ethic. During his time at St. Bonaventure, he landed a key role in the school’s athletics communications office his first two years; and was named the Olean Times Herald’s beat writer for the Lady Bonnies’ basketball team for the 2018-19 season.

But there’s more.

Much more.

I’ll leave you with a few opportunities that Cam knocked out of the park.

The first was in March 2018. The Bona men’s basketball team had just earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Three days later, Cam accompanied me to Dayton for the “first four” game. Two days after St. Bonaventure’s victory over UCLA, Cam was in Dallas for the first-round contest, covering it for The Post-Journal. Under an impossibly tight deadline, he delivered with a story normally expected from a veteran newsman.

As usual, he aced his exam.

The second “Hurst Highlight” came five months later. Serving as an intern at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown — he received a stipend underwritten by Bona alum and Southwestern Central School graduate Tom Marra — Cam produced a 24-minute video on Jamestown native and former New York State senator Charles Goodell and an accompanying historical timeline that filled an entire RHJC room.

The Goodell family, including Roger Goodell, was in attendance. At the end of the day, the NFL commissioner presented Cam with an NFL football. Written on the pigskin was the following: “To Cameron: Thank you from the Goodell family.” The ball was signed by Roger.

Cam tells me he still “gets goosebumps thinking about it.”

I find that interesting, because I have felt much the same way as I’ve watched that young man build a resume that seems to get better by the day.

Would you like another “goosebump” moment.

Last summer, Cameron did an internship at St. Bonaventure during which he worked in the office of marketing and communication in an effort to find all the archival material possible for a celebration of the school’s basketball centennial and 50th anniversary of the team’s trip to the Final Four.

Vaccaro has been impressed with it all.

“He was given responsibilities — notably the Goodell project and the Bona 50th anniversary project — that would overwhelm 99% of most college undergrads; I know they’d have overwhelmed me, as wildly ambitious as I was at his age. And yet it wasn’t only that he executed those projects perfectly, it wasn’t even remotely surprising that he did.”

The late Jim Valvano, the former basketball coach at North Carolina State University, once asked the following question: “Where do you go from where you are to where you want to be?”

His answer?

“I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be willing to do the work.”

From this view, Cameron Hurst has a dream, he has a goal and he’s shown in his young life that he’s more than willing to do the work.

His future is limitless.

Vaccaro, Cameron’s Hellinger Award comrade, agrees.

“I’ve had the privilege to learn from some Hellinger winners before me and talk to and occasionally mentor some who came after,” Vaccaro said. “I can honestly say Cameron won’t only honor that distinguished company, but the award itself will be honored to be represented by him for a full year. I can’t wait to follow Cameron’s coming journeys, and track his ultimate destination.”

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