Making the Most of Dinner

By: Kevin Sanchez

Ever since SEJC, I always think back to the moment that left the biggest impression on me. I was left with goosebumps on my arms and flooded with emotion. It wasn’t a panel or the competition I participated in, not even the fact that I was able to travel to another state. It was the moment journalist Sonia Nazario was able to speak about the work she’s done in her career so far. Being Latino, Nazario was definitely a fresh and encouraging voice to hear from given most of the presenters and those at the convention were white. It helps to hear from someone who looks like you and is out there achieving success for themselves.

From reporting about children in poverty to drug addiction, Nazario gave a spotlight to issues that may have gone underreported otherwise. In doing so, she spoke to us about her struggle in advocacy, but ultimately being able to find it in the stories she decided to cover. In Nazario’s book, Enrique’s Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother, a young boy from Honduras named Enrique left his country in hopes to reunite with his mother. To do so, he had to cross the border. As she spoke, this story touched me the most because I'm Guatemalan and Ecuadorian. I hear stories of people, even family members who put themselves at risk to reach the United States. It’s one of the few things that constantly keeps me motivated to work as hard as I can in school and work. Hearing about someone younger than me having to endure so much more than I will ever have to, to enjoy the rights I am given is, monumental. Nazario spoke on the challenges and situations she’s had to endure to cover Enrique’s story. How she risked her life and was put at the forefront of being assaulted by gang members, but ultimately chased the story since it deserved to receive more attention. With the platform that I build, I hope to give others that same opportunity. 

In addition to the stories Nazario chose to cover, I also grew respect for her ethical side of a journalist. Covering these difficult stories, it’s expected that you will have to put yourselves in uncomfortable positions. The expectation is far different than reality though. Nazario spoke about the difficulty at some points not to interject herself into the story to preserve the validity of the story. She recalled a story she took on about the child of an addict and their conditions. She recalled the amounts of criticisms she’s received for not helping the child even when emotionally she wanted to. However, in doing so, she was able to highlight a key issue in America that was able to be at the center of the debate.

I don’t have many critiques. The biggest, however, is reserved for the audience. Given the bravery of both, I was quite upset that many in the room were ignoring her message and on their phones. Not even just being online, but also holding separate conversations regardless of the topics Nazario brought up.

I had the opportunity to meet Nazario after the banquet. She was just as authentic and sweet as she was speaking. Looking back she writes in my book, "Dear Kevin, A contar historias importantes!" I will aim to do so.