Andrea Gutierrez being held by her aunt, Mariela. (Courtesy/ Andrea Gutierrez).

As the fall semester rolls into the annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, I took the time to reflect on the work I have done to promote Latinos and Latino voices in both my personal and professional life.

Like many Latino undergraduates across the nation, I am the first person in my immediate family to attend an institute of higher education. As a third-year journalism major at the University of Georgia, I became drawn to the ethos of representing individuals and communities that are not traditionally given spaces in our crowded media environment.

Words like “representation” and “intersectionality” are now commonplace on Twitter threads and article headlines alike, but I began to quickly realize how rare it is for people and institutions to actually put into practice the values of diversity that they preach.

We now know that on-screen representation matters. Films, television and other broadcasting mediums have the power to shape people’s perception of not only others but themselves. Authentic representation can break down barriers, create new role models and even inspire the next generation.

However, those wishing to bridge the diversity gap in a traditionally white, male and Anglo-American space face obstacles that begin as soon as they get their foot through the door. Much has been said about the low figures and percentages of minorities in film and television broadcasting, but the problems of networking and bias run deeper than a hashtag.

I first joined UGA’s chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists back in the fall of 2019, and have since been able to meet and collaborate with a wide variety of Latino professionals in the journalism and media industries. They have inspired me and dozens of other young Latino students here at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

I have also been able to access opportunities about relevant scholarships and internships for underrepresented minorities that I might not have been aware of had I not joined NAHJ.

I decided to become president of UGA’s NAHJ chapter for this upcoming school year, in part out of a desire to actually be involved in the change in the media landscape I so desperately want to see happen.

So much of the current media establishment is dominated by the same groups of powerful individuals from the same backgrounds and life experiences. It becomes a vicious cycle where new, fresh voices in journalism and entertainment are dismissed in favor of the status quo due to either a lack of connections, interest or both.

Being a part of NAHJ has given me a sense of purpose to amplify Latino voices on campus apart from my own, and to be a greater advocate for others. My time with NAHJ has also allowed me to start creating networks of influence early on to help me and my peers achieve so much more in the media world.

So, when I graduate from UGA and go out into my professional career as a journalist, I can begin to advocate for and create the diverse newsrooms and sets that many of my mentors didn’t get to have when they were starting out in the field.

I see it as my responsibility to continue the work of telling the stories of those who have more to say, and listening to those who will come after me, all year long.