María Elena Salinas was brought up by Cecilia Alvear
Cecilia was not the first person I met at NAHJ, nor was she the one that brought me into the organization. However she is one who inspired me throughout my career as a journalist. When I met her she was NBC bureau chief for Latin America. She was very much dedicated and committed to that position, not just for the sake of good journalism but also to make sure that stories that were regularly not covered by mainstream media were given the importance and exposure they deserved. As President of NAHJ she went above and beyond the call of duty to elevate the organization and make media outlets take notice and commit to hiring more Latinos. Even as when she left the position she never stopped fighting for young Latinos’s future and for stories in Latin America. Not even cancer stopped her from her commitment to journalism and to the community. Cecilia’s remarkable career and selfless commitment to promoting Latinos in the media deserve to be recognized and celebrated.
Nick Valencia was brought up by Rebecca Aguilar
When I first joined NAHJ, I was a little lost in my career. I was in my mid-20s and still really hadn’t broken through on CNN. I knew I wanted to be a correspondent, but with all the naysayers, I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be there. And then I met Rebecca Aguilar. I remember talking to her over the phone one day and telling her my story. She instantly became my champion. My family is run by matriarchs, so it goes without saying I’m used to being around strong women who call me out when I need it. Rebecca is no different. She became that voice for me in the industry when I needed it the most. She projected confidence and the spirit of a leader. She had also gone through obstacles that could have ended her drive, but she was resilient. These are the kind of qualities I wanted in a mentor, and she had them. If you know her, then you also know she is no nonsense. She told me to focus my ambitions and she really helped me believe in myself. I still talk to her as often as I can, especially when I need a kick in the butt to remind me, Sí se puede.
Yunuen Bonaparte was brought up by Inez González
I’ve received mentorship and support from many NAHJ members, however, Inez González was the one that opened the first doors that led me to where I am now. She was the one that held my hand and explain how things worked at my alma mater, California State University Fullerton (CSUF), and in the journalism/entertainment industry. As a transfer student, I felt lost in what it looked like an immense campus during the first weeks of the fall semester. Most of the faces I encountered in my classes did not look like me. I found myself crying in the corners of the tall buildings, wondering what was I doing there and whether I belonged. Soon after I met one my current best friends. He introduced me to Inez as the person that would change my life–and he did not exaggerate. I knew Inez was going to be a huge part of my academic and career success since our first meeting. She was straightforward and sensitive about my situation. She knew exactly the struggle a first generation, female, undocumented student had to face. Yet, she never let me limit myself to what I could accomplish. Ever since, I’ve counted with her complete support. She believes in me even when I don’t. She pushes me to reach higher. As the director of the Latino Communicators Initiative, Inez created a strong community within the CSUF Latino students and alumnus. She inspires us to help each other be successful. As a freelance photojournalist, I am able to make a living by turning to my network, which Inez helped me cultivate and grow. Inez has helped numerous CSUF alumnus and continues to help students, just like me. I feel confident to say that there are #MoreLatinosInNews and in media because of her.
Liliana Maria Percy Ruíz was brought up by Maria Hinojosa
I was 23 and less than a year out of college when I met Maria. I had just had a summer internship at NPR and had been hired to record her for a tape sync for a Spanish-language news radio show. I had never met her, but had been watching her on PBS and listening to her on NPR for years and I was very nervous to be recording her at her offices at PBS. She was gracious and kind from the moment that I met her. After the interview was done and I was packing up my gear, she started to ask me about myself: Where was I from? What did I want to do in radio? What was my dream job? What stories did I want to tell that weren’t being told? After answering all of her questions, and pitching her a few story ideas for LUSA, she told me, “You were meant to be on the radio. You’re going to be on the radio. Don’t give up.” For a 23-year-old who had only been “working” in radio for less than 6 months to hear that was mind-blowing, and transformative. I held on to Maria’s words for years to come whenever I doubted myself, or my contributions in our industry and I am eternally grateful that she saw that spark in me and shared it and her kindness.
Marco Revuelta was brought up by Ray Ruiz
Ruiz isn’t a reporter, or a professional writer, and he’s certainly not a professor — yet five days out of the week, you can catch him mentoring the voice of tomorrow inside the halls of the University of Houston. Ruiz’s organization, El Gato Media Network, has been teaching students what it takes to break in and succeed in a highly competitive field for more than five years. It is through his organization that I first went out and covered a breaking news story while in college. This kind of experience not only set me apart from my classmates in my broadcast classes, but also gave me the confidence to push for my dream. His mentoring led me to go outside schools walls and interview a “Palatero” and his daily struggles to be safe, cover immigration rallies in Houston, and even cover the inauguration of Mayor Sylvester Brown in Houston. But above all this, he thought me the power of a story. After writing an article over the low turn out of Hispanics at museums in Houston, my “real” person in my article was offered a free membership to the museum for a whole year. It was Ruiz who first introduced me to NAHJ my junior year in college, encouraging me to apply for their scholarships and students projects. It is thanks to his organization that I was able to create content that helped me be selected for the NABJ/NAHJ 2016 student projects. And on top of that, it is through EGMN that I was able to land my first TV job in Laredo TX. Ruiz’s countless hours spent with me my last two years in college instilled knowledge in me that I was not learning from any of my professors. I’ve often questioned myself what’s his story behind mentoring all these kids without receiving any monetary compensation. It’s an answer I will never know, but what I do know is that he made a difference in my life.
Ray has also served as a mentor for NAHJ Student Projects.
Arelis Hernández was brought up by Monica Rhor
While I was an intern at the Associated Press, there were many things on my mind. I had just graduated from college, my job prospects were slim and the internship would be my last chance to make an impression. The pressure was on in the summer of 2009 — as was the heat in Houston. But luckily for me, there was an NAHJ member who willingly bore my burdens, lent a hug and a hand and guided me when I needed it most. Since then, she has helped me make every major decision in my career and has come in clutch during the most trying moments I have faced as a journalist. She once talked me through a story in which I nearly collapsed from the emotional weight of the narrative. It turned out to be among the strongest pieces of writing I’ve ever done. Monica Rhor is no stranger to these kinds of accolades or the love of her students and colleagues. I am but one of many student-turned-professionals she has nurtured but I am also a repeat recipient of her grace, her wisdom and her love. She is the embodiment of what I think NAHJ is really about: familia — providing a space where world-weary journalists can plug in, find community and feel rejuvenated to tackle the serious issues and stories that await us in our organizations. Monica not only gives advice to students, she walks the journey with them to navigate the pitfalls that await. Monica not only teaches, she demonstrates. Monica not only recognizes achievements, she celebrates with you and ventures to tell the whole world all about it. When I envision the kind of journalist, writer and person I want to be, I see her — in all her free-spirited fierceness, gentle compassions and commitment to the art of storytelling. Monica became a mother in 2015 to two beautiful little girls but I like to believe that she practiced all her mothering know-how on those of us who considered her to be family years before. Monica Rhor brought me up quite literally by setting the example, redefining and broadening the definition of a mentor and helping me plant my feet on the ground that sweltering summer eight years ago. I have never not needed her since.
Monica Rhor has directed the student projects for NAHJ for several years.