“That memory has always been with me because it’s one of the all-time highlights for me as a journalist,” she said. “To go to Cuba and get to experience that—not a lot of people get to do that.”
Ms. Mejia also studied abroad in Brazil and spent part of her youth in Ecuador 15 years ago as part of Amigos de las Américas, a social work program for teens and college students.
Fate brought Ms. Mejia to Ann Arbor: her long-term partner is doing his graduate studies in architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan. She made the move and was fortunate enough to land a part-time job as a production assistant three years ago at the public radio station, which later turned into a full-time role as a multimedia producer.
“I’m constantly learning and sharpening my skills as I go. Working there has allowed me to bring together all the elements of journalism that I love: radio, video, photography, online content and hosting.” she explained. “It’s really cool. I’m really happy now that I feel like I’m using everything I know.”
Ms. Mejia admitted she feels like her work is on the cutting-edge, to some degree. She recognizes journalism is entering a new multimedia era—and wants to be part of it.
“People go online for a variety of reasons. They may go online to listen to stories, but most of the time they go on to see visuals. They may click on video if it’s good, gets their attention,” she said. “We’ve had videos get 6,000 or 10,000 hits. We had one that was produced by one of our other producers that got 500,000 hits. Those are the things that if we grab a viewer’s attention, then they may keep wanting to come back as their go-to. We want to keep them connected.”
Each assignment is carefully crafted through meetings with her news director, a video producer, and other station staff. But she regularly carries an audio recorder, a video camera, a smartphone, and whatever else is needed to an assignment.
“You have to experiment. You just have to go out there and do it,” she said. “I know what I need to get to do a good video. But you have to give yourself more time. I never thought I would be doing all of this together. I would consider myself part of that new breed, yes. We try to do as many components the best way we can to give people the information.”
Ms. Mejia, like many Latinos in Northwest Ohio, is the first in her family to graduate from college. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in Latin American studies and journalism. She is also fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
Her parents moved to the U.S. from Ecuador. She grew up in Albuquerque with two older brothers. Both of her parents worked fulltime, so she lived many years with her maternal grandparents. Her parents divorced when she was five years old.
“That’s how I learned Spanish, and I’m so grateful I did because it’s been a great asset to speak two languages,” she recalled.
While Ms. Mejia struggled at first to find ways to stay true to her Latino roots, she has found multiple ways to do just that: starting with salsa dancing at an Ann Arbor club.
“That’s something I’ve always loved to do,” she said. “That was always my social thing. I found a huge, great community here in Ann Arbor that loves the music as part of the culture. I found the group Dance Revolution and they made me feel at home.”
Earlier this year Ms. Mejia also joined PALMA-Latino Mentoring Association, a University of Michigan-based, student-run education promotion organization that serves Latino families in the Ann Arbor area. The group meets twice weekly at a local library, where parents take ESL classes while their Latino children receive help with homework. 100 people now are involved in the effort, many of them college students.
“Last semester, I was a tutor for two middle-school students in math,” she explained. “It was great for me to feel like I’m connected with the Latino community. There is a large community in Ann Arbor, but you don’t really see them. I got to know them and their families and at the end of the semester we had a huge party. I’m still connected to the two Hispanic girls I tutored.”
Ms. Mejia admitted “it was a shock” moving to Michigan from New Mexico as far as the weather is concerned. “The summers are amazing,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy the summer here. But it’s so short.”
But she admitted Ann Arbor is not as diverse socioeconomically as Albuquerque and she struggled to find good Mexican food. Besides a good taco stand, Ms. Mejia travels to Detroit to find authentic cuisine.
On the Internet: Michigan Radio, www.michiganradio.org
PALMA (Proyecto Avance, Latino Mentoring Association): Excitement, Enthusiasm, and Service to the Ann Arbor-area Latino Community, http://www.diversity.umich.edu/about/faces_palma.php