At this year’s 29th Annual Benefit Auction, April 22nd at The Tangier in Akron, Spring Garden Waldorf School will honor and award an alumni who has made a difference and brought about positive change in the world. This award, “The Waldorf Difference,” is being given to Akron native and NPR reporter, Christopher Connelly.
Chris was a student at Spring Garden Waldorf during it’s early days when it began in a church basement in East Akron. As the school grew more established, Chris grew with it.
He says, “I thrived on the well-rounded curriculum and I credit that broad Waldorf education for cultivating my curiosity, critical thinking, and reverence for stories – all skill I use every day as a public radio reporter.”
After graduating from Firestone High School with what he calls, “a mediocre GPA,” Chris earned his degree in Cultural and Interdisciplinary Studies from Antioch College in 2007. From there he lived a varied and fascinating life — interning for an LGBT advocacy organization in San Francisco, wrangling snakes and other reptiles for elementary-school animal shows at a nature center outside of Philadelphia, and spending time living and studying feminist theory in Europe.
But it was in the tiny village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, that he fell in love with public radio reporting at WYSO. After briefly working for the oral history project StoryCorps in Brooklyn, New York, he moved to California. As a graduate journalism student at the University of California, Berkeley, he traveled to Kunming, China to report on water pollution, and to the autonomous island of Zanzibar in East Africa to report on a heroin epidemic and a network of sober houses where addicts help each other get clean and change the perception of addiction.
As a recipient of NPR’s Joan B. Kroc Fellowship, Chris spent a year working for the network in a variety of roles, including a stint as a reporter in Phoenix. While reporting for NPR’s national desk, he profiled a lesser-known civil rights leader, followed Baltimore activists using art to fight blight, and reported on the struggles of canine blood banks.
He went on to WYPR in Baltimore, where he covered the statehouse, reported on the state’s opioid crisis and tasted tear gas during the days of protest spurred by the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody. These days, he reports from Texas for the public radio station KERA. He also doubles as the station’s politics and state legislative reporter.
Chris says, “I am incredibly honored to be awarded the Waldorf Difference Award.”