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NAI students go behind the scenes at Univision

Univision journalists Cecilia Bográn and Alejandro Mendoza, right, chat about their careers with Neighborhood Academic Initiative students. (USC Photo/Teresa Lara)

A bus filled with enthusiastic USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) students arrived at the headquarters of the Spanish-language television network Univision for a day of discovery and career shadowing.

The opportunity to tour the network’s flagship station during summer break was impressive for students who grew up in households where Univision programs ran around the clock.

NAI, an academic enrichment program geared toward students in grades 6 through 12, provides a college preparatory curriculum six days a week on the University Park Campus.

To date, 700 NAI students have graduated, all of whom have completed high school and moved on to a university, including USC, Harvard and West Point.

During the summer, NAI students can retake math or English courses for credit or choose one of 13 elective-style classed on filmmaking, guitar, art and other subjects, many of which are taught by USC professors.

“The enrichment classes can widen their scope of understanding so that they’re learning as well as doing,” said Kim Thomas-Barrios, NAI program director.

At Univision, NAI students and program managers learned about the network’s day-to-day functions, its television and radio programs and on-air talent.

The students met with Primera Edición journalists Cecilia Bográn and Alejandro Mendoza, who spent part of the morning answering questions about their most challenging assignments and what they like most about their jobs.

Bográn, who has made her mark as a news reporter and entertainment correspondent at KMEX-TV, said that retaining objectivity is a key part of her job. She recalled a recent news story that hit close to home when a friend was killed in the same tragic plane crash that claimed the life of Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera.

“That was a difficult week for me,” she said. “I was not working on the day it happened, but I came in the next day and reported [on it].”

Afterward, the network’s reporters, staff members and interns spoke about the importance of multitasking in the fast-paced world of TV news.

Bográn, who began her TV career as an intern, managed to work her way up through diligence and hard work. Even at an entry level, she noted, it’s imperative to make a strong showing because people will take notice.

Mendoza, Bográn’s on-air partner, echoed the importance of perseverance.

“Sometimes, bad situations are really blessings in disguise,” said Mendoza, who started his career as a production assistant and eventually moved over to coverage of international news. “Just keep moving forward and give it all you have.”

The students also took the opportunity to tour the network’s TV news sets.

The sophisticated equipment captured the attention of NAI student Bryan Guzman, a junior at Foshay Learning Center, one of the USC Family of Schools, and an aspiring engineer with an eye toward the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“My parents watch Univision every day, and even if it’s in the background, I grew up watching and listening to these programs,” he said. “It was so interesting to see the equipment, like the large switchboard that controls all of the cameras and lights.”

Jennifer Donis, who has an interest in neurology, found a conversation about civic engagement to be relevant.

“I was inspired by the message to give back, no matter what careers we choose.”

Lizette Zarate, NAI curriculum and instruction specialist, summed up the eventful day: “The NAI trip to Univision was more than an observational. The visit and conversations with Univision talent helped expand the scholars’ horizons.”


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