Using storytelling to empower and educate

Reynolds School alumna shares her experience reporting on the western region.

Rocío Hernández has worked for The Associated Press and KUER, NPR Utah, covering immigration, education and diversity.

Woman speaks into a microphone indoors.

For Reynolds School of Journalism alumna Rocío Hernández, it all started in high school.

“There was a DREAM Act rally held at my high school, and I did a broadcast story for my school’s morning announcements about what the DREAM Act would do and why it was so important,” she said. “That’s when I knew I want to do more stories like that that empower and educate my community.”

That desire drove her to the Reynolds School where she graduated in 2016. She participated in the Next Generation Radio Boot Camp, wrote for the Nevada Sagebrush and interned at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KUNR Public Radio. She also worked as a news associate for The Associated Press’s West Region desk.

“In that role, I did news briefs for about 14 states on the West Coast and Mountain West, including Alaska and Hawaii,” she said. “And that was a really interesting experience because I learned so much about the different issues happening in each those states. It really made me a smarter person, and I feel like I’ve been to all those states now.”

Working for The Associated Press was not without its challenges, but Hernández said it ultimately made her a better writer. “It’s a lesson that gets you thinking not just about your local audience but the online audience that can be reading your story from anywhere in the world.” 

Once her temporary position with The Associated Press finished, Hernández moved to public radio, a field she always wanted to be a part of since her Next Generation Radio experience. She currently works for KUER, NPR Utah, where she covers immigration, education and diversity.

Some of the work she was most proud of from her current role included sharing how the Chinese immigrants were recognized for their contributions to the country’s railroads and how an African woman’s son was deported after drug charges related to the opium crisis.

“I love when people open up to you about very personal moments in their lives and the responsibility I have to share those stories with the world in hopes that they touch someone else and make an impact,” Hernández said.

Going to the Reynolds School was the best decision Hernández ever made, she said. “All my professors – Kari, Bob, Todd, Paul – really made sure I had the basic foundations to go out into the real world,” she said. “But more importantly, they are always there to be my mentors and help me make connections that lead to jobs.”

Hernández has a few pieces of advice for students: apply for as many internships as possible, maintain relationships with professors and never doubt yourself when applying for opportunities. 

“That mentality gets you nowhere and really, you never know who is on the other side of your application.”

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