The scholarship was significant for a variety reasons, not the least of which was that I had stumbled into working at the college newspaper and I wasn’t completely sure what profession I would pursue.
When I got the CCNMA scholarship, it validated that journalism was my future.
It was a confidence boost, and the next year, I landed my first professional internship at The Tennessean, in Nashville. Soon after, I got an internship at the Los Angeles Times, where I was eventually hired.
I was fortunate to win a few more journalism scholarships after my CCNMA award, but it was the latter that first signaled to me that I had found my calling.
It’s essential that student journalists apply both for scholarships and internships. One validates your good work, and any professional journalist who tells you that it is not important is lying. The other gives you the hands-on experience that you need as a reporter, whether in print, TV, radio, digital or something in between.
Winning a CCNMA scholarship was like crossing an important threshold for me. It was a beginning.
Hector Becerra, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times, received a CCNMA Ruben Salazar scholarship in 1996.