When Michelle Fenelon was growing up in Everett, she would often sneak out at night.
However, she wasn’t headed out of the house for mischief.
Rather, she was headed to the television to sneak a peek at a close basketball, football or baseball game that was on after her curfew.
“I was allowed to listen to the radio in my room, but we had a curfew for the TV and couldn’t watch TV at all on school nights,” she recalled. “But if the Red Sox game was tied and David Ortiz was at the plate, I wasn’t staying in my room. I would sneak out of my room and turn on the TV quietly to watch games go down to the wire.”
That was just a snippet of her dedication to sports and sports journalism – a pursuit that has taken her from the Boston Globe to ESPN to NESN to ECTV and now to a full-time communications specialist with the City of Everett. Fenelon, 27, was a former captain of the Everett High basketball team, and has had a love and dedication to sports and sports journalism for many years.
However, it wasn’t always the case.
She said she never really liked sports until one day she was fighting over control of the television with some of her cousins. They were watching an NBA game, and so she sat and watched it. Soon enough, she was hooked.
“It clicked,” she said. “There was something inside of me and I fell in love with sports. I knew then I wanted to be involved in sports media.”
Fenelon was born in Haiti, but came to the United States with her parents, Marcelle and Marcel Fenelon, as a baby. She grew up in Everett and attended the Keverian School and Everett High – graduating in 2010. While at Everett High, she worked on the Crimson Times newspaper, but while she showed promise as a writer, she always knew she wanted to be on television.
As a college student at UMass-Boston, where she was recruited to play basketball, Fenelon said she willed her way into working at the Boston Globe where she was on the girls basketball beat, and the high school lacrosse/soccer beat. Even when her mom wanted her to take a retail job, she refused and told her that she knew she would work for the Globe.
“I did finally get that call,” she said. “I didn’t know much about lacrosse or soccer, but I bought a book that helped me understand the basics…For me, storytelling translates into any sport. I love storytelling.”
After college, Fenelon proceeded to the prestigious Syracuse University Graduate School of Journalism. There, she said she was fully engrossed in one of the most challenging journalism schools in the country.
“It was the real deal,” she said. “It felt like I was working at a real station. My professor was a reporter and treated us like reporters. I think I cried every Wednesday. I once paid more than $100 for a taxi to get a story done by deadline.”
Oddly enough, Fenelon was able to land her dream job not long after graduate school in 2017 when she landed a job at ESPN in Bristol, CT. It was the goal of her life, something she had even written in her Everett High yearbook.
While she loved the work, it was very hard, and it wasn’t exactly what she thought it might be.
“Being able to watch sports and make highlights was great, but it was hard,” she said. “A shift for me was 6 a.m. to midnight, but I was never able to leave until 3 a.m. because there was just so much to do. If you cut a highlight, you’re cutting that highlight not only for the shows that night like SportsCenter, but also for the shows the next day – and everyone wants a different version of it.”
In March 2018, she made one of the most difficult decisions of her young career, and that was to leave ESPN and pursue her dream through a different path. It was a decision that she made with the help of her family and her former basketball coach, Tammy Turner – who she remains very close to even now.
“Everyone was shocked, wondering how I could leave ESPN when I had worked so hard to get there,” she said. “I realize when you have a dream, no one understands the steps you take because it’s not their dream.”
Coming back to Everett, Fenelon was drawn to gain the on camera experience she needed at Everett Community TV (ECTV). After having a meeting with Mayor Carlo DeMaria, she said he believed in her and was willing to give her a shot.
“He was open to it and I couldn’t have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for him,” she said. “I’m thankful to the mayor for believing in my dream.”
In April 2018, she began doing a lot of on-camera spots for ECTV, and started her own sports show, Talk of the Town Sports Edition.
Now, she has gone full time with the Communications Department for the Mayor’s Office, and also does freelance sports work in her free time.
She covers Boston high school sports for Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN) and covers Northeastern University Men’s Basketball for NESN.
She credited Tom Philbin with teaching her how to approach the communications skills – writing press releases and getting the right information out to the public. All of those pursuits have her very busy, but there’s one more thing close to her heart that she also spends a lot of time doing.
That is coaching 8th grade girls’ basketball – something she fits in between her job and her broadcasting career. She said it has become something she has treasured as she builds relationships with the girls just like Coach Turner did with her so many years ago.
“For me, coaching is great – teaching the game,” she said. “However, I like to try to teach the girls through sports and basketball….I have told my story to the girls I coach right now. I always tell them if you want something, you have to create an opportunity, and maybe that means knocking on the right doors.”