by Emma Misiaszek
I first met Kiara Alfonseca at a College at Brockport’s Open House when I was a senior in high school. She was an ambitious sophomore and gave prospective students a tour of the college’s newspaper The Stylus’ office. Her eager ferocity got me excited to become a student journalist. She told us about the roles we could play within the paper, such as copy editor, writer and photographer. But Alfonseca had a different role for herself in mind: editor-in-chief.
Believe it or not, Alfonseca was once just a young girl with big dreams of digging up dirt, or “muckracking,” as Teddy Roosevelt once called investigative journalism. She began her higher education in the journalism and broadcasting department at Brockport, arguably a small unknown school, and one you don’t often see on the resumes of prolific journalists.
How did this student journalist from the small town of Middletown, New York end up a reporter for NBC before she’s even graduated college? The answer is simple: seizing every opportunity offered to her.
Kristina Livingston, current executive editor of The Stylus and one of Alfonseca’s former coworkers describes her as “patient, ambitious and open-minded.” These are all good characteristics for any person working to establish a career. As the old adage goes “patience is a virtue.”
Alfonseca had to work her from the bottom up. She began as a copy editor for the student-run newspaper, then worked her way to news editor, eventually becoming a part of the editorial board as executive editor and eventually proved herself capable of becoming the editor-in-chief.
“The Stylus gave me opportunities to enhance my skills, give me real world opportunities and strengthen my confidence,” Kiara told me. “Having the responsibility on your shoulders to produce great work on a strict deadline, motivated only by a crappy paycheck and our love for journalism makes it a lot more rewarding with a better paycheck and a bigger audience.”
The opportunities and internships then seemed to fall like dominos. Starting locally, she became a reporter intern for WROC TV and then returned downstate for the summer-long CUNY Journalism Fellowship. Coming back to Rochester, Alfonseca became an editorial intern and eventually a freelance contributor for CITY newspaper. Then came her shot at the big leagues.
High off of the success she found in local news, she began research into internships with larger news organizations. She found an opportunity to work with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to finding out the truth for public knowledge.
I remember the day of her skype interview for this internship. An antsy and flustered Kiara paced around The Stylus office, straightening out her jacket and taking deep breaths. Somehow, she pulled it off.
Once she became one of ProPublica’s “Emerging Reporters” she eventually had to return back to the small village of Brockport. Hungry for more action, Alfonseca used the various connections she made through networking to take a chance of landing a spot at NBC’s News Digital Internship.
“Care about people and make them care about you,” is Alfonseca’s advice when it comes to networking, “I am where I am because I have people who seen my work, people I’ve gone out to coffee with, to happy hours with, who I’ve brought back postcards for or checked in with when I didn’t need a reference or a letter of recommendation.”
Thanks to these connections she’s made, in the last semester of her college career, Alfonseca is living in New York City writing stories for nbc.com.
Alfonseca’s journey may seem like an unlikely success story. Steps along her path make her seem like a lucky person who happened to be in the right places at the right times. However, nothing could be further from the truth. All of us, and not just journalism students, have so many opportunities handed to us that we don’t even realize are within our reach. Alfonseca simply took advantage of them.
“…Having passion should help you go the extra mile, or two, or three. Always do more. Always ask for more.” Alfonseca concluded.
Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. Email the editor of that newspaper you want to work for, go to the news station and discuss your interest in learning more, submit that internship application even if you think it’s a long shot. Nobody is guaranteed success. All of us young students are aiming blindly, not knowing where we will end up. But if we don’t take that first step, however small it may be, we’ll be standing in the same spot for the rest of our lives.