National Mentor Month: NAHJ Atlanta

In celebration of National Mentoring Month, we would like to highlight one of the outstanding mentorship programs offered to our students. 

National Association of Hispanic Journalists Atlanta partners with faculty members and staff from the state’s top journalism schools to select several students and pair them with experienced journalists for a semester.

A mentor/mentee pairing before the NAHJ Atlanta Mentorship Program went virtual due to COVID-19. (Courtesy: Elwyn Lopez)


Senior journalism major Liset Cruz started with the program in October and was paired with Emily Sides, a reporter with Law360. 

Cruz says by connecting with someone like Sides who shares a similar cultural background it “allows for a more open connection and honesty about hardships.”

“I think meeting Latinas within the journalism industry is one of the most important things to me,” Cruz said. “As a first generation college student and first generation Mexican-American, I’ve had a lot of difficulty navigating both college and the workforce. We’ve discussed [Sides’s] career and what moves she’s made and why she made them. It gives me a picture of what my career could look like.”

These conversations involved everything from the journalism student to journalism professional pipeline to past experiences and salaries to resumes, cover letters and application essays.

ABC News Correspondent Elwyn Lopez started the mentorship program alongside CNN’s Lynn Marie Franco after the two realized the importance of having a mentor in the industry.

From Madrid, Spain, Elwyn Lopez is a correspondent for ABC News. (Courtesy: Elwyn Lopez)

You can learn skills in journalism school, tools on the job but having someone who has done it all to look up to is invaluable,” Lopez said. “Still – to this day – we largely see a lack of diversity in our country’s newsrooms. Inevitably, that disparity impacts our coverage. In order to cover our communities accurately and fairly with the added context and perspective needed, we have to reflect them.”

The best way to reflect that, Lopez says, is by “supporting and lifting each other up from the classrooms and into the assignment desks, control rooms, field and anchor chairs.”

When reflecting on their time together, Cruz says that making a “new friend” has been her favorite part of the experience. 

“Now I have someone I can text to chat about anything. I can ask advice without feeling awkward and I have someone who relates to my experiences,” Cruz said.

This is exactly what Lopez had hoped for. 

“Personally, it fills me with orgullo, [Spanish for] a deep sense of pride, to be in this position to make the program accessible to students with the help of journalism schools across Georgia,” she said. “To see the next generation of journalists connect with those already in the field and witness that connection grow into professional support beyond our mentorship program – and even job opportunities –  is better than I could’ve ever hoped for.”


Editor’s Note: This feature was written by Sam Perez, a 2021 Yarbrough Fellow in the Grady College Department of Communication and a current participant in the NAHJ-Atlanta Mentorship Program.

Hispanic Heritage Month Student Spotlight: Isavictoria Martinez and Andrea Gutierrez

Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of spotlights highlighting our alumni — and now students — in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

For our final Hispanic Heritage Month Profile, we are featuring two Grady College students who are involved in the college’s chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Isavictoria Martinez is a senior Entertainment and Media Studies major and the former NAHJ president. Andrea Gutierrez is a junior journalism major and the current NAHJ president. Our first profile of Hispanic Heritage Month, Ashley Soriano, founded the chapter and served as its first president.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Isavictoria Martinez (IM): Hispanic Heritage Month, to me, means a time of celebration of culture, history, representation and transparency for the Latinx/Hispanic community. My heart is always filled with joy and pride when I hear about fellow accomplished Puerto Ricans in media. As a minority, I’ve always felt that our history is being white-washed. Diverse voices are needed now more than ever. We deserve recognition for our contributions and even recognition of our struggles within society. I want this time for people to be able to celebrate themselves or go out of their way to explore these different cultures whether it be the music, food or dances. However, it is also equally important to research and talk about the struggles of our people and how we can mend any disconnect. Para mi gente, nunca olviden de donde vienen y tengan orgullo de quienes son. ¡Viva Puerto Rico! 

Andrea Gutierrez (AG): For me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to reflect on the challenges that Hispanic Americans face throughout the year as well as celebrate the progress that has been made in advancing civil rights and opportunities for the Latino community more generally. I believe I’m speaking for a lot of people, including myself, when I say that advocating for Hispanic Americans should be a year-round affair, but I do agree that highlighting a month in the year helps a lot to call attention.

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.
NAHJ club members Isavictoria Martinez, Alex Rios (AB ’19) and Ashley Soriano (AB ’19) pose for a photo at a conference in San Antonio, Texas in September 2019.

IM: Something I struggle with, and still struggle with, in my professional career would be the imposter syndrome. I’m constantly analyzing myself, comparing myself to others in similar circumstances and critiquing my work as never being good enough. It doesn’t help your doubts either when you’re part of an extreme minority within your intended industry. I think something that ultimately has helped my complex would be my time in Grady and participation in NAHJ. Grady has taught me that my voice is pertinent to shaping future conversations, that it’s okay to make mistakes and to value my time here with fellow students. NAHJ has given me a safe space where I can talk to people with similar ambitions and struggles — the organization also contributes to that idea of representation. I can now, anxiously, look forward to making mistakes because it means that I’m growing and expanding my experiences. I believe that those experiences will result in my best work.

How did you become involved with NAHJ, and what has being president of the club meant to you?

AG: Well, I first joined the club in Fall 2019, when I was a first-year on campus, but I honestly never even expected how much I would enjoy being a part of NAHJ. I’m just so incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities and moments I’ve experienced with this club. Being club president in my third year means the world to me, as I get to plan some amazing events later on this year for our newer members and get to know everyone a lot better, especially now that in-person classes have resumed.

How does your Hispanic and/or Latin heritage influence your work? 

IM: I think being Boricua definitely attributes to my interests, ambition, and not surprisingly, my impatience. Through my work, I want to feature my experiences and highlight my culture and heritage, whether it be realized with complex Latinx characters or composing a shot through a lens. My storytelling so far has focused on communities pertaining to my interests. I want to constantly create stories about my people and my home. I believe being Puerto Rican gives me a unique perspective on how I view these stories waiting to be told. I’m impatient for opportunities to do more.

AG: My Hispanic heritage helps me stay rooted in my work and professional life and helps me to remember what I really value in life. I grew up in a close-knit Colombian family where I always knew I could count on someone to be there for me, in good and bad times. We’re a very open bunch, and even as a kid my earliest memories of wanting to be a writer of some sort stemmed from listening to the stories of my mom and my aunts, uncles and cousins. As an aspiring journalist, I take a lot of inspiration from the people around me, which includes my family. Journalism is all about telling stories, and my early childhood was blessed with some amazing stories and characters from my family in Colombia. When I work in my classes and with publications, I always try to stay true to my upbringing and remember that every person has a story to tell.

What have been your favorite NAHJ events or activities, and what are you looking forward to this school year with the club?

IM: I believe NAHJ as a whole is such a valuable resource for rising Latinx/Hispanic journalists or those simply interested in entering the world of media and communications. My favorite NAHJ activity would be networking with professional journalists from the national chapter and within our own chapter with fellow students. I’ve luckily had the opportunity to attend two national conferences: The Excellence in Journalism Conference, which took place in San Antonio in 2019, and the NABJ-NAHJ Virtual Convention in 2020. Their activities and workshops were fun and informative to what the future of communications looks like and how we can improve ourselves as journalists. It was wonderful being around the same people who looked like me and held the same interests. My experience was feasible due to joining NAHJ and Grady’s financial contribution to fund both trips for select students. With the UGA chapter, I’m looking forward to introducing fellow students to those opportunities and helping shape their professional journeys.

AG: We do a lot of fun and interesting events and activities at NAHJ, which include hosting guest speakers and collaborations with other journalism organizations on campus. For this year, I’m just looking forward to holding regular in-person meetings with everybody and planning out some new adventures with the club.

Hispanic Heritage Month Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Soriano (AB ’19)

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Please watch for more profiles in the weeks to come.

Ashley Soriano is a multimedia reporter for Fox News based in Las Vegas, Nevada. She graduated from Grady College with a journalism degree in 2019. Previously, Soriano worked in Laredo, Texas, for a year covering immigration and politics for KGNS-TV. On campus, Soriano was a Grady Ambassador, formed a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and was a Yarbrough Fellow in Communications.

How does your Hispanic and/or Latin heritage influence your work? 

I moved to Laredo, Texas for a variety of reasons, but two of them stick out. One, to be around the Hispanic community, because growing up in Georgia, I was not around people who shared similar cultural experiences. So in my adult life I wanted to at least have that a little bit, and I definitely did. It helped me grow, you know, being around people who only speak Spanish but you’re in the United States and seeing people cross over the border, just to come work but they live in Mexico. It really shaped me, even just living there for a year. 

I was doing immigration stories almost every day, and I’m still doing immigration stories, so to be able to understand the culture to an extent, and to live on the border, I feel like you’re able to cover that community a little more thoroughly, and you’re able to connect with them and have them open up with you. I had to get interviews in Spanish in addition to my English interviews every single time I went out. To be able to have that ability to speak to someone in their language is very important, and the story might not have gotten done otherwise.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

I hated Grady Newsource for the first two and a half months, and I almost quit. I tried it out, stuck it through and ended up absolutely loving it. So if it’s challenging to anybody in Grady Newsource or, you know, whatever Grady students are doing and something’s challenging for them, it’s just going to make you a better person, a better journalist. Just stick with it. You hate it now, but you might look back and think that was the greatest decision you’ve ever made. And it absolutely was, joining Grady Newsource.

Soriano poses at the Hoover Dam while on her first assignment for Fox News.
Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career. 

A big challenge is viewer feedback and criticism when it’s not constructive — people are mean. They point out what you’re wearing, if you’re not wearing enough makeup. They don’t even know your work at all, but they ask you, “Oh, are you going to make me look bad?” We constantly have to defend our profession and our work, and I work so hard. I’m so passionate about what I do, I love what I do and I make sure what I do is fair, as fair as it can be. So you just have to develop a thick skin and your work will speak for itself.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

It just means celebrating a culture that is so important to the fabric of American society. We contribute a lot to society, and it just means that we’re getting recognition for that. And coming from a Hispanic background, statistically and historically, minorities go through certain struggles, whether it’s socioeconomic struggles or something else. It just means a lot to be able to bring light to my culture and to feel that shared experience with other people.

What advice would you give to young students of Hispanic origin who will soon enter the workforce?

It’s so extremely cliché, but believe in yourself, and keep working at something. If you are rejected, that’s okay because it’s going to open another door for you. At the time, rejection might seem like the end of the world, but it happens for a reason. When you’re about to give up, something is just going to happen, you’re just going to see why you were rejected so many times and those opportunities are going to come flooding in. So don’t let it get you down, just keep working hard, reach out to as many people as you can and establish connections. Don’t burn bridges. I mean, this industry is all connected. Whoever you meet in college can help you grow after college and years down the line.