Last summer I went back “home” to San Juan, Puerto Rico for my third convention as a student member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I was probably taking a break between seminars and workshops at the convention center, and found myself roaming the expansive halls by myself.
It was then that I ran into Kevin Olivas, part of NAHJ’s staff. We had met briefly during the previous year’s UNITY Convention in Chicago.
As director of NAHJ’s Parity Project, Kevin’s job is to help promote the inclusion of more Latino journalists in anglophone (English-language) newsrooms around the country. Kevin and his team are also working hard to ensure fair and just news coverage of members of the Latino community, and they are educating the English-language media in the usage of proper terms to describe Hispanic people.
Without the tireless efforts of people like Kevin, people like me might not have a shot at a promising job in the journalism industry!
Backtrack now, if you will, to that summer day last year in the corridors of the convention center. I greeted Kevin, and I was surprised that he remembered me. After all, I’m not yet a “professional” journalist; I’m a student, and my only “claim to fame” within the NAHJ family was a scholarship I won back in 2007.
We got to talking about my goals to become a broadcast journalist, and he stood there with me and rattled off a list of possible contacts for me; people in my area, and even people who have graduated from my alma mater, UCF, and are now professionals in the industry.
What was most humbling to me were his words of encouragement. He wasn’t somebody who was telling me to “be realistic.” He was, in effect, letting me know that pursuing my dream was possible. And I remember that it was obvious he respected me as a fellow journalist, even then, when I didn’t have much to show for my abilities.
Let’s fast-forward a little now. A few short months after that fateful convention, I started my blog. Those early days were very, very frustrating, and often I would say to myself, “What’s the point? No one’s reading this!” But Kevin supported my humble little endeavor from the very beginning. Practically without fail, he would post my daily entries on his Facebook page (usually the morning after I posted, as I typically post very late!). He would also post my entries on NAHJ’s Twitter feed, thus increasing my blog’s visibility.
One day in particular, I remember I was doing my daily– no, hourly!– check of the news feed on my Facebook page. I found that Kevin, when posting the link to my blog, had typed, “NAHJ member and journalist Laura Tellado.”
I remember I cried like a baby that day. I was not a student in his eyes, but a professional journalist– even if I don’t get paid for what I do!
This week, Kevin unveiled the new Web site for the Parity Project. My jaw fell slack when I saw he had posted on there Alsy Acevedo’s interview with me on Orlando Sentinel‘s “Hispanosphere” blog! (Orlando Sentinel is one of the Parity Project’s partners.)
I was completely floored that he had thought to feature that article in the new unveiling of the site. But I really shouldn’t be at all surprised. You see, helping others is Kevin’s nature. He wants to help diverse populations achieve “parity” and equality in the newsroom setting. He wants to help minorities like me, a physically-challenged, Hispanic female, obtain intrinsically and economically rewarding jobs in the media realm. And he’s already done much more than he could ever imagine to help get the word out about spina bifida.
In his bio on NAHJ’s Website, Kevin is quoted as saying, “There is nothing more satisfying than helping others.” In my life, I’ve probably known only a few people who live by that maxim as earnestly as my friend, Kevin Olivas, does. This is why he’ll always be a hero to me.
¡Mil gracias a tí, Kevin!