What started off as a reporter job lead to a passion and love for a subject she thought she wasn’t good at.
Elaina Rusk remembers a time where math used to terrify her – now she’s making history as the first woman to be named chief meteorologist at Channel 23.
“Only 8 percent of chief meteorologists in TV news are women and so for Bakersfield to have two – myself and Alissa Carlson (at Channel 17) – that’s awesome,” Rusk said. “So I love that she and I are both paving the way and more girls can see us doing this and know, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’”
Rusk started off as a reporter for Channel 23 over 10 years ago. She received her degree in journalism news editorial from California State University, Chico. From there, she did seven internships – two with radio, three with newspaper and two with TV.
Despite getting her degree in print journalism, she knew she wanted to do broadcast.
“(My) first couple times on camera I was shaking in my boots,” Rusk said. “I could barely do it without a quiver in my voice.”
Rusk’s road to chief meteorologist was an unexpected but rewarding path. Although she was a reporter for Channel 23, her goal was to be an anchor. Eventually, she was given the opportunity to anchor during the holidays. After a year, she was promoted to midday anchor and, from there, she started to fill in for weather. Eventually, she applied for the morning position and graduated from Mississippi State online with her meteorology degree three years later.
Rusk uses her role in the community to give back and inspire young children to pursue science careers.
“It’s an honor. I have a lot of pride. I have an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be a woman in a STEM career. I love using that to encourage other young girls to pursue a STEM career if they feel an interest in it. Like I said, I let the math scare me and it shouldn’t have,” said Rusk.
Rusk is a big part of the community. She participates in the Media Music Jam every year to help raise money for the Kern County Cancer Fund. She is also the chair of the Scripps Book Campaign where she works with her station to raise money to buy books to support the Kern Literacy Council.
These are just a few of the things she’s involved with.
“I am an incoming board member with the Junior League of Bakersfield,” Rusk said. “This will be my fourth year with the organization, I believe. I love volunteering, especially with this organization, because they concentrate so much on youth and transition of foster children, children staying at the Bakersfield Homeless Center and local women. I get to have an organized place to put all that passion for helping people in the community. I’m also a board member for the Kern County Science Foundation, so I love serving there. Again, using that as a great way to reach young children – both boys and girls – to pursue STEM careers. Outside of that, I am a wife and mom. My family is everything.”
She also makes time to visit schools and help children understand the weather through experiments and books.
However, being a public figure has come with some negative comments directed toward her weather predictions and, at times, even her toward her body.
“Especially because I’m not a skinny girl,” she said. “I never have been, so I get a lot of comments about my body and they don’t bother me much anymore.
“I cried a lot. It was very hard, but thankfully my husband is very strong and he points out how healthy I am. … Why does it matter what anybody else thinks? … He’s like, ‘Your bosses believe in you; they promoted you.’ That’s what he reminds me of when I get discouraged.”
Her support system has helped her through moments of self-doubt.
In the end, she has fought very hard for the work that she does. Her advice is to take what you want.
“If you want something, take it,” she said. “If you want that promotion, work hard for it. Make sure that your boss sees how hard you work, how determined you are. If you’re fundraising and getting this money together is going to help you do this cause that helps someone in our community, don’t take no for an answer.” ￼