CLEVELAND -- Debra Adams Simmons grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, was one of fewer than 10 black children that graduated from a small private high school and went on to Syracuse University to pursue her journalism career.
She worked for school papers along the way and says it's ironic that the same company that owned the first paper she worked for owned the Plain Dealer, it's like her career has come full circle
Her career took her to places like Detroit, Virginia, back home to Connecticut and New York before landing in Northeast Ohio as managing editor at the Akron Beacon Journal and finally to the Plain Dealer where she now is the first black, female editor.
"I think that there is a challenge every day in doing this job but I think that sort of the basic journalistic principles that have shaped my career over the last 25 years are really the driver for any decisions I make," says Adams Simmons
Debra says her mentor's along the way have helped shape her career. Her first mentor was Bob McGruder who became the first black reporter to work at the PD when he graduated from Kent State in 1963.
"Forty-seven years later I've become the 1st black woman to be the editor at the 1st paper Bob worked at...I think that 47 years speaks to sort of the challenge that both women and people of color face within terms of rising in the industry."
Her message to young people this Black History month, to identify mentors that can help along the way.
Debra's working hard at her vision for the paper, it's story tellers and the community they serve.
"I think that we can best tell the story of the strengths of our businesses or the success of our schools or the effectiveness of our elected leadership and so every day I'm hoping to inspire our staff to be able to tell those stories."