Day 11 – Thank you guys for everything

Steven Barajas wanders around the SJSU campus // Photo by Mosaic Staff Photographer Hannah Chebeleu

Steven Barajas wanders around the SJSU campus // Photo by Mosaic Staff Photographer Hannah Chebeleu

By Steven ‘Steezy’ Barajas, Mosaic Staff Writer

When I first arrived at San Jose State University for orientation I was a bit intimidated. I thought everyone was extremely serious about journalism, to be honest I had never consider journalism before I came into this program. And to tell the truth, I still don’t. I found out that journalism isn’t the field for me, but I did learn valuable lessons from my mentors here. Karl was a big inspiration to me, the whole staff itself was extremely helpful. I couldn’t have asked for a better class to be a part of and I thank YOU ALL!

Anyways, my first day here I was really quiet I tried to hold back and observe everyone to see how everyone acted and to see if I “fit in”. Everyone was so kind to me and welcoming it was a bit surprising because I thought all the kids would be so serious about their work that they wouldn’t ever want to have fun haha. Well, that night we had a bonding time in the lounge and I got to know everyone a lot better and they got to know me like no one else knows me. I felt really connected to everyone even though it had only been a few hours. Shout out to us.

First day in the new room was a little overwhelming but I didn’t want to complain because I love a challenge. If it’s not hard it’s not fun, that’s a small quote I live by day to day, night by night. A hard challenge is a great reward.

Being a photographer was actually pretty tough, balancing everyone’s assignments and being responsible for that shot needed for their story. If you don’t get that shot, well you’re screwed haha. But I feel that all of us photographers handled everything well, I was surrounded by amazing photographers and I was honored to learn something from all of them. All I could really say is, thank you guys for everything. I’m extremely grateful.

Lastly, one of my most memorable experiences was definitely being able to get a Media pass to the Golden State Warriors game 6 watch party, in which they won the NBA Championship against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although I’m a LeBron James fan, it was amazing to be able to witness a championship brought back home to the BAY AREA! Now we just have to wait for the San Francisco 49ers to do it this upcoming football season.

So as I close this blog, I say again, thank you everyone. Nothing would be achievable here if not everyone put in the work that they do. Thanks to everyone especially our drivers, Brian, Creo, Mariana, Rob, Karl and everyone else as well! Thanks to all the editors for making sure the writers were on top of every assignment. Thanks to Joe for being our dorm dad and Leslie for being our dorm mom. Thanks to everyone who I haven’t said, you all count just as much! One last big thanks to Mr. Manly Marcos for keeping this program alive! I will miss you all.

Find stories worth telling, and tell them well

Sophie Ho, Mosaic C/O 2011

By Sophie Ho, Mosaic C/O 2011

When all you know is a suburb for 17 years, it’s natural to become frustrated with what you perceive to be a limited community and a lack of stories — you feel like you’re stuck in a bubble, or at least I did, and any chance to learn about the world outside is beyond exciting. When I was 17, I decided to apply to Mosaic for that reason — burst my bubble, improve my writing and hopefully, learn how to better tell a compelling story.

I was rejected. Talk about a bubble burst.

But a week before the program started, Joe Rodriguez called me and asked if I was still interested. To whoever dropped out of Mosaic at that last moment and gave me their spot in their program, I really can’t thank you enough. Mosaic changed my life.

The story I pitched was a feature on a children’s theater in San Jose for developmentally disabled individuals. During my reporting, the theater director put me in touch with the Heathcote family, a local family in which three of the five children were diagnosed with autism. When I told my editor, Marcos Cabrera, about the family, he stopped me and said he wanted to know their story as well.

I hadn’t really done a profile before, but on paper and in practice it seemed straightforward enough and easy to coordinate. So, on a muggy afternoon, I was dropped off at the Heathcote house, notebook in hand and ready to talk.

I stopped in front of the door, raised my hand to knock and then froze. I thought, suddenly, of the people inside — a mother, her three autistic children and one baby. Over email and the phone to arrange the interview, my sources seemed distant, approachable and intangible. But when I stood five feet away from them, separated by a door that would swing open in seconds, I realized that I was about to interview five strangers at once. I got nervous, and I panicked. My mind stuttered and I blanked on the questions I had thought of the night before.

After a few beats, I exhaled and knocked. The Heathcote family welcomed me into their home and what followed was a story I never thought I would write; about what it was like to raise a family when many of your children had developmental disabilities, and what it meant to grow together as a unit by embracing those challenges.

The reporting and writing weren’t easy — my editors Marcos and Joe pushed me every step of the way, asking me why I thought the stories were important and worth telling. The most important lesson I learned from Mosaic was to be invested in your work and care about the stories you’re telling — believe in the work you’re producing, no matter what the medium or the circumstances. Important stories are everywhere, but you can’t sit around waiting for them to happen to you.

Mosaic hooked me on journalism, and right now, that’s the career I’ve set my sights on. Since leaving Mosaic, I became the top news editor at my college newspaper, managing 30 reporters, writing features, live-tweeting through tear gas and covering protests. I dabbled in radio production, curious to see how audio reporters approached their stories, and ended up writing features and producing interviews. I most recently interned with AJ+, Al Jazeera’s digital news arm, where I made content for their mobile news app and began to see social media as a storytelling tool.

Though I’ve worked in different mediums, the tenets of journalism remain the same across them all — find stories worth telling, and tell them well. Know why the story is important, because if you don’t, who will? I imagine my mentors — Marcos, Joe and Elliot — sitting at a table around me and saying to me, don’t panic.Trust your instincts. Why are you writing this? Why do you think this story is important? Why tell it at all?

As you’re about to embark on this two week journey with your fellow students, think critically about the work you’re producing. Recognize that you have a voice — sometimes that’s easy to forget in high school, or to never know if you haven’t had the opportunity yet to exercise it.

Welcome to Mosaic.