Kristen Luna, a Pasadena City College student and editor-in-chief of The Courier, has been named the recipient of the Emerging Reporters national scholarship from ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonprofit investigative reporting organization.
A second-year communication arts major, Luna was one of only five students to receive the Emerging Reporters award, which is given annually to minority college students nationwide who demonstrate an aptitude for journalism and have a financial need to continue their education.
Award winners will receive $4,500 per semester to cover their academic expenses. The students will also receive ongoing mentoring from a professional ProPublica reporter, and will visit the organization’s offices in New York for a week.
“Winning the award means everything for me, especially for someone who had struggled to find her way,” said Luna, 30. “This validates the fact that I’m doing what I should be doing in life.”
After graduating from San Gabriel Mission High School, Luna was the first in her Mexican-American family to go to college when she enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. After two years as a visual merchandising major, she decided to drop out.
“I wasn’t real passionate about it,” she said, “and it was expensive.”
Luna put college aside and would spend most of her twenties supporting herself through various customer service jobs, including a stint as a nanny. “I just never really felt I had a calling in life. And the longer I was out of school, I felt it was harder to get back in. I still wanted to go back, though.”
After being laid off two years ago from her job as a nanny, Luna would spend an entire year looking for work. That’s when she decided to go back to school.
Luna enrolled at PCC last year with a dual interest in child development and photography, something she had picked up a few years ago. It wasn’t until after she had enrolled in a beginning journalism course that Luna had found her way.
“After the class, Nathan McIntire [the faculty adviser of The Courier] encouraged me to join the paper,” she said. “He really pushed and supported my writing. I was nervous when I took his class because the last time I really wrote was back in high school. I never though that journalism was something I’d be good at.”
McIntire immediately saw her talent as a scribe. “She quickly emerged as one of our finest writers,” he said.
Luna would then immerse herself into The Courier, from copyeditor and distribution manager first to managing editor last semester.
This fall, Luna assumed the duties of editor-in-chief of the 100-year-old, student-run paper. “The fact that Kristen is now leading the newsroom is a testament to her talent and remarkable determination,” McIntire said.
Luna, who carries a 3.864 GPA, hopes to transfer in the Spring of 2017 to San Francisco State, where she plans on continuing her path to a career in journalism. One day, she hopes to work for National Geographic as a photojournalist.
“I don’t really know how I ended up here,” she said. “But all I can say is never give up. I remember feeling how hard it was to keep hope. But you should never give up the idea that you’ll find what you’re meant to do.”