Chicagoan Justin Grant shakes off shyness and finds Beloit a great fit

Justin Grant is finding his voice at Beloit, both literally and figuratively.

With one semester under his belt, he is already hip hop director for the college radio station, hosts his own radio show, and serves as the only first-year student ambassador for Beloit’s Admissions Office.

First-year Justin Grant almost quit after his first WBCR radio show aired.

“My first week, I didn’t have a script,” he says. “I had topics to talk about, but it was awful. I was sweating under my arms. I didn’t have the headphones in because I can’t stand to hear myself speak. When I got back to the dorm, I was like, ‘That was the worst thing that ever happened to me.’ I cried. I told my friends I’d never do my show again.”

While Justin was embarrassed, his attitude changed before his next 90.3 FM show rolled around the following Friday. “I was like, I’m just going to write a script and started writing pages,” Justin says. “I had the set playlist I wanted to play, the words I wanted to say, and I wasn’t terrible.”

Since then, the South Side Chicagoan has been proud of his show. “Somewhere between 15 and 300,000 people could be listening,” he says, only half-joking. “We don’t have a way of knowing who’s listening—potentially millions!”

Justin takes his role at the studio very seriously. After listening intently to as many student-hosted shows he can, he spends much of the week searching for music or planning his topics in advance, beginning right after Friday’s show. Justin also is the hip-hop director for the WBCR manager team.

Public speaking didn’t come easy for much of Justin’s life. One reason he applied to host a radio show was that he felt himself returning into his shell. “I hated to speak,” he says. “Then I grew out of that near my junior year of high school. When I got to college, I fell back into that ‘not-talking’ space.”

In high school, he was an ambassador of sorts, thanks to a program called After-School Matters. As an upperclassman, he was selected to introduce celebrities and philanthropists alike to his school, from former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to author, preacher, and radio host Michael Eric Dyson. “They inspired me to want to inspire other people,” he says.

Now, Justin finds himself in a similar role as the only first-year currently working in Beloit’s Admissions Office. He’s an ambassador there, too, speaking with prospective students via email, Zoom video calls, and social media campaigns. “It’s comfortable to do it because I’ve done it before,” Justin says. “It’s something I see myself doing in the future as well.”

Justin’s future at Beloit wasn’t clear until he heard about the Beloit Action Plan, implemented in April as a response to the pandemic. “Last year, I was procrastinating a lot with the college process because I had no idea what college I wanted to go to. I knew I wanted to go close to home, to a small school, and for it to be affordable for me. Beloit is all those things. I was a fan of the mod system because it was two classes at a time. It really reeled me in.”

While he’s discussed the election, news, and other various topics on the air so far, Justin hopes to focus on interviews in the future. His list of hopeful interviewees includes the founder of his high school as well as Provost Eric Boynton and President Scott Bierman.

“When I think of things, I don’t think anything small—I think huge-scale,” he says.

December 17, 2020

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