By Pamela Avila
One of Melanie Gonzalez’s most memorable WriteGirl memories was of a journalism workshop she attended as a mentee. It was the first time she had met a journalist, so she spent the workshop “grilling her [mentor] about her job.”
The former WriteGirl mentee now gives back as a WriteGirl mentor while she continues to pursue her passion for writing and journalism. Just last week, Melanie accepted an offer from USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism to get her Masters in Journalism. She is one of three recipients of the Annenberg Leadership Scholarship that will provide her with full tuition to obtain her master’s degree.
For Melanie, writing isn’t simply a form of creative expression, but a form of empowerment for women of all ages. “It’s important to have a creative outlet and to be able to use it as a form to shed light on important issues in the community,” Melanie says.
Itching to tell stories and string words together since she can recall, Melanie has always loved writing. In the 6th grade, Melanie created her own zine about fashion and her favorite bands. As her mind wandered off in class in junior high, she continued to experiment with her writing, keeping a journal of poetry and short stories.
After WriteGirl, Melanie graduated from San Francisco State University where she studied Latin American Literature, but still practiced journalism as an intern for a bilingual newspaper in San Francisco’s Mission District, El Tecolote. Her studies in Latin American Literature prompted her to study abroad for a semester in Chile. As her wanderlust heightened, so did her passion for writing.
Backpacking through Central and South America, Melanie kept journals of the people she met, foods she ate, dreams she dreamt, and “all the crazy stories that happen while traveling.” During her travels, Melanie also realized “there were a lot of stories that people in the U.S. aren’t getting.”
Her interest in Latin America also led her to travel to Cuba last year and write a story on the LGBT community, which she’s currently pitching out to different publications.
Being out of college for quite a few years, Melanie understands that “today’s journalists need more digital skills” to keep up with the changing industry. As she pursues her master’s in journalism this summer at USC, Melanie will learn to expand her skills with the production of different content across different mediums such as broadcast, online and print.
Having had previous teaching experience in other countries, Melanie wasn’t nervous about transitioning from mentee to mentor at WriteGirl, and teaching younger girls what she knows of writing.
From WriteGirl mentee, to mentor, journalist and now graduate student, her mentor’s words from that first journalism workshop have come a long way. She hopes that as a mentor she gets across “that they should always keep writing,” and trusts that with a paper and a pen more girls can voice opinions that “most of the mainstream media is afraid to say or doesn’t pay attention to.”
For more on Melanie, check out her blog at https://librosbeforepito.wordpress.com