Volunteer Spotlight: LaPorsche Thomas, Lindsay Hood and Rick Hirsch

Each year more than 150 volunteers contribute specialized and general support to help ONA pull off one of the industry’s premier events. We’re producing a series to celebrate some of our amazing conference volunteers, who bring the ONA spirit to life in a number of crucial roles. Say hello when you see them at the conference!

Number of years volunteering with ONA?

LaPorsche: Two.

Lindsay: 6 years.

Rick: Ten.

What’s your volunteer role at ONA19?

LaPorsche: Bag stuffing and conference setup.

Lindsay: Unconference and Lightning Talks Chair.

Rick: I am a speaker sherpa.

What’s your favorite memory as a volunteer? 

LaPorsche: I enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people that I still speak with today. I gained a rockstar mentor from the conference that plays an active role in my career.

Lindsay: Visiting the Newseum in D.C. [at ONA17] reminded me why I became a journalist. As journalists, we are literally documenting history every day.

Rick: Chaperoning Cookie Monster, Elmo and Abby Cadabby to their panel [at ONA14].

How has volunteering impacted you? 

LaPorsche: I went to the conference with a job in market 126 and I basically left with a job offer from the Tegna NBC affiliate in Atlanta (market 10). My digital leaders — Director Phillip Kish and Editor Kristen Reed — have taught me so much and push me to be better and learn more every day. I’ve also been able to create my own creative on-camera digital content, which led to more than 700,000 views for one segment on the Central Park Five. Plus, I’m working on a new project that I am so excited to share. Not to mention, I am also learning a ton about analytics. It’s safe to say the conference had a positive, and huge, impact on my career.

Lindsay: I love it because I feel more involved, as opposed to a bystander.

Rick: It’s enabled me to give back to an organization that has given me much — and allowed me to meet a wide range of interesting people.

What’s your best advice for a new volunteer? 

LaPorsche: Talk to everyone. You should be exhausted at the end of the day from talking so much. I would’ve never guessed I was talking to my new boss… but I was, and it paid off in more ways than one.

Lindsay: Take ownership of your conference experience. Engage where you can. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t. Want a job? Ask! Want to learn something new? Get an email.

Rick: This is a great opportunity to network outside your discipline. And the person you meet today could be your boss, peer or colleague next week. Meet people and learn what they are about.