Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

This site is archival. Please visit the current MIZZOU magazine site for up-to-date content.

Around the Columns

J-student documents immobility challenge

Alex Rozier 

“The Culture that Crawls” tells the stories of people such as Oscar Costillo, who became immobile at age 48 after falling from a coconut tree in Guatemala. He was one of the first in his town to receive a Personal Energy Transportation device.

Tell the story of someone you think the world should meet. That was journalism student Alex Rozier’s first assignment in the YouTube/Pulitzer Center international reporting competition. And he knew exactly whom to pick; what he couldn’t have anticipated is that his video on Amanda McDaniel would lead him to the grand prize.

In spring 2010, Rozier, a senior from Virginia, Minn., entered “Project: Report,” a contest for aspiring journalists. His initial submission showcased the courage of McDaniel, a 16-year-old from Columbia, who joined her high school cheerleading squad at the state Christian schools basketball tournament in Joplin, Mo., despite her struggle with bone cancer.

“She made me realize that the things I worry about are so small,” Rozier says of McDaniel, who died before her graduation.

The piece secured Rozier a spot in the competition’s final round, which required him to produce another story, this one about an issue undercovered by the media. He chose to profile Mel West, a Columbia citizen who started the Personal Energy Transportation (PET) Project. The volunteer-run organization, which now has several national and international affiliates, builds hand-cranked and lever-powered mobility devices for immobile people who must crawl from place to place in their poor countries. Rozier’s video, “The World Mobility Problem,” won the grand prize — $10,000 toward an international reporting project.

In September 2010, Rozier used half of the money to cover the distribution of PET devices in Guatemala. Along with KOMU-TV 8’s Sarah Hill and Scott Schaefer, BJ ’04, Rozier produced a six-part series called “The Culture that Crawls,” which aired on KOMU in Columbia and was featured on YouTube’s homepage.

While gaining international reporting experience, Rozier met immobile people who had been confined to their beds for years and a 22-year-old woman who had never left her house.

“To go to a developing country and see the conditions breaks your heart,” Rozier says. “The people are so incredible, and they don’t quit.”

Rozier hopes for a career as a television feature reporter, but until then, he has $5,000 in prize money left and is searching for the next story to tell the world.