Let’s Get Talking

August 10, 2010

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A few months ago, the Oprah Winfrey network (OWN) and reality-TV producer Mark Burnett launched a national video campaign asking everyday people to share what they’d do with their own talk show. Entries poured in from around the world – including one from Kornelius Bascombe (’11), who has been named one of five “Your OWN Show” online finalists.

In their initial applications and video submissions, contestants were asked to simply “share their passion.” Those who have met the affable NC State junior – “Korn,” as his friends know him – know passion is something he’s got in great abundance. Now, Bascombe said, the key is to build upon that passion in ways that can bring change in the lives those around him.

“I really want to use college-age youth, reaching out to empower high school and even some middle-school kids,” said Bascombe, a criminology major at NC State. “Growing up [in east Raleigh] I had a mentor, and when life got hard, I sought him out and asked questions because my Dad wasn’t around.”

Bascombe’s parents played no active role in his life during high school, leaving him and three siblings in the care of his grandmother, Addie Collette. In October of his senior year at Enloe High School, with Collette already in the hospital, the family’s home burned to the ground.

With his mentor, Haze Lancaster, by his side, Bascombe was able to raise more than $50,000 to help get his family into a new home. It’s a memory that continues to drive him to reach out to students in similar situations.

“There are other kids like me,” Bascombe said, “and they need a mentor, too.”

Even at a young age, Bascombe had a knack for caring for those around him, but it wasn’t until he arrived on NC State’s campus that he realized how he could use his ability to connect with people to bring about positive change in his community.

“NC State has played a major role in helping me discover who I am and what I want to do,” he said. “My work with the Union Activities Board and Black Students Board has helped shape me, and there have been amazing people along the way.

Bascombe credits Toni Thorpe, program coordinator for the African American Cultural Center, as someone who’s not only helped Bascombe plot his own course through NC State, but a mentor who has impacted the lives of his classmates as well.

“She’s like a mom to me and a lot of other students, on campus,” he said. “Having someone believe in you is a big motivator.”

That’s the mindset behind his potential OWN talk show, using is own personal gifts to reach out to those around him.

“I’m able to connect with people on a different level,” Bascombe said in his audition video. “We’re going to operate off of three principles – embrace, enhance and empower – to get people talking.

“We’re going to talk about what keeps people out of trouble, but at the same time, what empowers them to go forward.”

Early indications show Oprah’s fans like what they hear – Bascombe garnered more than 5.8 million votes during the contest, placing fourth overall. At least one of the online finalists is guaranteed to join contestants selected from on-site casting on the reality competition.

In July, Bascombe flew to Los Angeles to spend a week with show organizers and, if he is selected for the televised show, he’ll spend a few weeks back on the West Coast for additional production over the next few months.

But please don’t ask how he did – Bascombe is, alas, sworn to secrecy. However, his ambitions of making a difference don’t begin and end with “Your OWN Show” – no matter the outcome, Bascombe, an avid Twitter user, has already set his sights on increasing communication between his classmates and those around them.

“I’m hoping to start a show – maybe online to start – talking to NC State students about life, what they struggle with, and what’s going on,” Bascombe said. “Eventually, we’ll grow that and include students at other local universities.

“Let’s get people talking.”

And if there is anything an extrovert with an infectious personality can do – and get you to do – it’s talk.

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Editor’s Note: Kornelius’ story came to us through the “Share Your Story” link at http://www.ncsu.edu. We know that NC State students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners are a talented bunch and are accomplishing amazing things on campus and around the world. So, send us your story ideas, photographs, links, or even short videos you’ve created, and we’ll consider them as we develop future stories for our Web site. Click here to get started!