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.
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.
“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.