Class of 2020: Zach Sweat

Lifelong Gamecock fan perseveres to achieve dream of UofSC degree

When Zach Sweat applied for and was denied admission to the main campus of the University of South Carolina in 2014, he took to heart the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed.”

The Lexington resident and lifelong Gamecock fan enrolled in a technical college, put his nose to the academic grindstone and earned an associate degree. Then he applied again to the only university he had ever wanted to attend. Now, as a graduating senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, his academic success is noteworthy.

“I’ve made the dean’s list every semester here and the president’s list once. I’ve never made below a B at USC and will graduate with honors,” says Sweat, a first-generation college student who notes that his high school grades and standardized test scores “weren’t anything to brag about.”

With his sights set on a career in sports journalism, Sweat appreciates the opportunities that have come his way in the past three years. During his senior semester capstone course this past fall, he was able to shoot video highlights of the first football game of the season.

“I met Deion Sanders in the tunnel before the game, stood on the field between the band members that form the path during the 2001 entrance and got to go to a Will Muschamp press conference,” he recalls. “This would’ve been an awesome experience for any sports fan, but for a guy who grew up watching and cheering for the Gamecocks, this was a dream come true.”

Also awesome, Sweat says, are several of his faculty members, including Carolyn Click, Kevin Hull, Greg Brannon, Rick Peterson and Scott Farrand. And he credits academic adviser Rachel Acosta for being “super helpful” and helping him to map the fastest track to graduation. “She helped my transition from a technical college to a university.”

Sweat’s journalism education has also taken on personal and practical usefulness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems like now more than ever people are sitting down and watching the news, myself included, to see what is coming next from this virus,” he says. “With everything I've learned from the J-school, I know to watch the news, especially at a time like this, with a healthy dose of media literacy. This means always considering sources, doing your own research and essentially not believing everything that comes across the TV, just because it's on TV.”

An enlightened awareness of the news media, academic experiences that drew him close to the world of sports and an encounter with rejection that inspired him to persevere — sounds like a pretty solid resume for this Class of 2020 graduate.

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