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Mentorship program developing future journalists

Hoover students pose with their USD mentors.

Amanda Leutmixay and four of her fellow Hoover High students sit around a conference table on the campus of the University of San Diego discussing what they are going to write about for their upcoming story. Amanda is flanked by her mentor, college senior Kelsey Grey, who will be graduating with a degree in Communications this December and four other USD Communications majors who are serving as mentors to the Hoover students.

Amanda shares that she was inspired through watching a documentary in English class to become a vegetarian and eat organic foods. She describes how she had to drive all the way to Whole Foods in Hillcrest to find a store with a large selection of organic foods, only to be discouraged by high prices. She says she thinks healthy foods should be available at affordable prices near her home in City Heights. She decides this is the topic she wants to write about for her upcoming story in the City Heights Life/La Vida, a monthly publication produced by Price Philanthropies (formerly Price Family Charitable Fund).

Kelsey talks her through possible story angles, with the rest of the group chiming in, before settling on writing a first person account of what it’s like to try and find organic produce in City Heights.

Amanda, similar to classmates Joseline Vasquez, Kim Nguyen, Raelynn Bichitty, and Judith Uriostegui, has an interest in writing. Amanda, Joseline and Raelynn want to be journalists, Kim an author, and Judith an engineer (who likes writing). Together they applied for and were accepted into the USD Journalism Mentorship Program, jointly operated by Price Philanthropies and the University of San Diego.

For three months these Hoover students traveled to the USD campus every other Wednesday to work with their mentors and USD Associate Communication Studies Professor Dr. Esteban del Rio on improving their writing and storytelling skills. Each student was required to write two stories for City Heights Life.

The goals of the USD Journalism Mentorship Program are to develop future journalists from City Heights, inspire Hoover students to attend college, and provide content for the City Heights Life. USD hopes to increase applications from low income communities and provide quality learning opportunities for its students.

On the final day of the program, several participants became emotional as they shared how the program had impacted them. Kelsey said, “Being a part of this program and being around the young women from Hoover reinvigorated my passion for journalism.” She went on to say that as a transplant to San Diego she had never realized there was more to the city than downtown and the beach, but the Hoover students helped her realize “there is a rich and diverse community surrounding this city that is just waiting to be explored.”

The exploration of City Heights as viewed through the eyes of the participants will be shared in the City Heights Life through the summer.

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