Vista PEAK senior Esmeralda Soto on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Vista PEAK Prep. Soto was selected as one of 20 students across the US to participate in PBS NewsHour’s third annual Student Reporting Labs Academy in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
AURORA | For many people, discovering what they’re passionate about takes years of searching and discovery. And for others, like Vista PEAK Preparatory rising senior Esmeralda Soto, sometimes they discover what they’re passionate about because they didn’t get their first choice in class assignment.
Soto’s passion is journalism, in part because more than two years ago the photography class she wanted to take was full. So instead she enrolled in video production class. And within two weeks of being enrolled, Soto got her first news assignment and taste of being a reporter.
“At first I didn’t think I was going to like it. But then I got my first assignment and that’s how it all started,” Soto said. “I loved it. I was learning things and being able to share information that was true, because we live in a generation where people will share any kind of information and a majority of the time it’s false. And I like doing the checking.”
Soto’s hard work at Vista PEAK led her teacher to recommend she apply for a student journalism camp this year in Washington D.C. produced by Public Broadcasting’s news show “News Hour.” The camp’s stated goal is to build the next generation of journalists, and “build critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, news literacy and communication skills.”
Soto and her fellow classmates at Peak had been working with PBS on various assignments and lesson plans the network would send out to schools. At first Soto said she didn’t want to apply for the several day camp hosted by PBS in Washington D.C. Yet her teacher wasn’t having any of it and encouraged Soto to apply in a round about way.
“I really wanted to do this but I had a spec of doubt and decided not to apply,” Soto said. “My teacher said either apply or get a really bad grade in my class. So I applied.”
The producers at PBS were impressed with Soto’s application and selected her along with 19 other students from across the country to participate in the camp in late July. During the camp, Soto and her compatriots worked on a story for the show on food deserts in and around the nation’s capitol.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to work with (the team) very well. But we were an incredible team which was cool to experience. I’m not the best communicator,” Soto said. “But it was the easiest thing to talk to them. I think it was because everybody had different ideas floating around and we were all able and willing to hear what everyone had to share.”
Soto, 17, isn’t ignorant to the current atmosphere that journalists work in across the country. Cries of fake news and the general disdain many people seem to hold toward reporters are hard to ignore. But Soto doesn’t seem discouraged from a potential career as a reporter despite the rhetoric coming from audiences and elected officials.
“When I hear people talking and criticizing this field, it kind of makes me feel that they don’t want to know the truth,” Soto said. “It’s incredible to me how people do bash on journalist because they are trying to put factual information out there.”
“I really love being able to share the truth and let people know what is going on in their world.”