I still remember the way I felt. I received a phone call from Roberta, and I assumed it was to ask more questions or to schedule another interview. I was wrong. She called to offer me one of the Generation Justice Journalism Fellowship positions. I was moved to tears. I felt incredibly thankful.
Throughout the entire process, I was unsure of my qualifications. I am a Psychology student, and this fellowship program is geared toward Journalism students. However, the moment I read the fellowship application, I knew this program was for me. I put so much love into my application, as I shared my most intimate feelings around activism, social justice, and media making, and I was happy to know that it resonated.
Now, five months later, it’s incredibly humbling to be able to take myself back to that day. I have learned and grown so much since then. My writing has improved, my speech has improved, and I have gained skills that I may never have attained otherwise. I’ve learned how to record and edit video and audio, I’ve learned the process of writing a solid radio script, I’ve learned how to produce an entire pre-recorded radio show, and I have also learned how to be a guide or leader within positive youth development.
Every day at Generation Justice is an opportunity to learn and grow, but there have also been days that were life changing for me. It’s a Generation Justice tradition to engage in storytelling circles, and when I was introduced to the team, that’s precisely what we did. The first time I introduced myself, I was very guarded and didn’t say much. However, I remember during one of the following storytelling sessions, I opened up more than I ever have, to anyone. I learned very quickly that Generation Justice is a safe space.
Within the first couple of weeks of the fellowship, Christina Rodriguez and I were interviewed and introduced on the weekly GJ radio program. This was probably one of the most terrifying and most liberating experiences of my life. Applying for the fellowship was the beginning of a new chapter for me, but I was still getting comfortable with my story and my voice, so speaking on live radio was a huge step. Pauly Denetclaw, one of the first year fellows, interviewed me, and the interview ended with both of us in tears. Happy tears, of course.
Another transformative moment for me was when a team of GJ members attended the Celebrating Love event at the Rail Yards Market in Downtown Albuquerque. This day was so powerful that I wrote a commentary about it. This is where I was truly able to prove to myself that fear can be conquered. Roberta told me that I would be speaking about Generation Justice to all of the people that packed the market, and I immediately declined. After my team members took me aside to offer me words of encouragement, I realized that I could do absolutely anything if I didn’t let fear get in the way. I’ve been trying to carry that lesson with me ever since. The most amazing aspect of this day was the fact that my GJ family had my back 100%. Even if I went on stage and completely failed, they would have been there to catch me, and that meant more to me than anything else.
Aside from personal feats, I’ve also been able to embrace opportunities that I would not have been presented with otherwise. One example, amongst many, is an interview that I did with Mexican student activist Gio Acosta. This is a conversation that I will never forget. Prior to this interview, the interviewing process was somewhat terrifying to me. My nerves kept me from being fully engaged in the conversation, but this interview was different. I was nervous at first, but then I took a moment to reflect on what this conversation meant to me. I learned so much about his story, but also about mine, and about the common struggles and strengths among all people. I learned that allowing emotions to be expressed within such conversations actually makes them stronger, and this was indeed a very emotional conversation. Gio will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Since the day I got accepted for this fellowship program, the learning process has been continuous. I’ve not only learned about the various professional and ethical aspects of media making and social justice journalism, but I’ve also learned some essential life lessons. First, anyone can conquer fear. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Second, it’s never too late to chase your dream. I’m twenty-six, and my dreams have come true at Generation Justice. Third, and probably most important, embrace your story and be proud of who you are and where you come from. By doing this, you’re not only able to connect with yourself and your people; you’re able to connect with all people.