In my sixth-grade homeroom class, I remember all the 20-odd students were required to take a personality quiz to find out how we best learned. Some students would learn best with their hands, some with art and pictures, but I was the only writer, driven by words to learn.
As I aged into high school, I hardly would describe myself as a writer since I struggled through the long essays and sentence structure exercises in my English classes. However, it was in college at the University of New Mexico that I discovered it was my destiny.
I entered college in 2016 after graduating from Mayfield High School in Las Cruces earlier that year with the hopes of pursuing broadcast journalism since “that’s where the money is for a pretty face like yours,” as one of my high school teachers would always tell me. I realize now that this is a problematic comment, but that’s not the point.
Although I was already a skilled video editor, I began to fall in love with storytelling through written words. There is just a certain depth people will share that could never be conveyed when a camera stands in the middle of the conversation.
While the university journalism classes taught the basics, the Daily Lobo — the student-run independent newspaper at UNM — helped me find a home in journalism and grow into the writer that I am today. I had the opportunity of working as Daily Lobo managing editor under editor-in-chief Justin Garcia, who I can now call one of my closest friends. Justin and I would often have long, late print night discussions about a myriad of topics ranging from journalism ethics to AP style to the importance of local journalism.
He helped me realize that this is where I am truly meant to be, working in local news.
Since graduating from UNM in May 2020 with a double major in multimedia journalism and political science as well as a minor in history, I received a fellowship from the New Mexico Local News Fund to work with the Silver City Daily Press and began the program last summer.
The Daily Press offered me an invaluable experience working in a full-time reporting position while giving me the guidance I needed to continue to grow as a writer, photographer and storyteller. I hope to find a similar environment in which I can continue to grow and serve the New Mexico community at the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
At the News-Bulletin, I will be covering Los Lunas Schools, the village of Los Lunas, the town of Peralta and the School of Dreams Academy. They also tell me I can write the occasional feature story, which is where my passion truly lies.
In addition to writing features and telling the stories about everyday people in a small community, I also have found an enjoyment in writing news obituaries. As strange as that sounds, listening to stories about people who have passed away through the eyes of their family and friends are some of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a journalist. There is also something special about memorializing an individual through an article and creating a piece that their family can always remember them by.
Through this commitment to tell these stories, I have received two awards from the New Mexico Press Association in news obituary writing — one in 2019 and the other in 2020.
In 2021, I also began to serve on the board of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which serves all of New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
I feel incredibly grateful that my path has brought me back to central New Mexico, where I can report on and tell the stories of the Valencia County community.
I guess the quiz I took in sixth-grade was correct— I really was destined to become a writer.
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.