Amy Burton

February, 2024

Blog, Gracies Leadership Award

Helena Arjona’s Experience at the 2023 Gracies Leadership Award

Funnily enough, I didn’t come into college to be in media, I came into college as a computer science major. As I started my first weeks in college at the University of Kentucky, I found my way into a club for women in STEM. At the time, I felt so lucky to be able to find a club to empower women in my field. There was a problem, though. I HATED computer science. Flash forward a couple of years. Somehow, I found myself doing a complete 180. I was no longer a compsci major but instead a triple major in media, journalism, and writing. I was happy to find my path, but sad to lose the strong community of women.

I applied to the Google New Initiative Fellowship thinking there was no way I would become a fellow. Months later, I am still overwhelmed and in disbelief by the whole new world I have been exposed to through this fellowship. Through the Alliance for Women in Media, I have regained a strong community of women. I am so humbled to be able to share this fellowship with the other amazingly accomplished women I had the pleasure of meeting while attending the Gracies in New York. To be able to meet the honorees has only solidified my sense of belonging in this industry as we continue to accept more women and people of color into the community than ever before. Being able to hear from and network with such strong role models has given me more energy than ever before. A common theme throughout the ceremony was to lift up the next generation. As a member of the upcoming generation, I’m excited for the bright future to come through mentorship opportunities in the industry. 

I am so immensely grateful for all the strong women who have paved the way for me to pursue such huge opportunities, both inside and outside of the industry. Strong women mentors have shaped me and my life, from the women at the Emma Bowen Fellowship, to my female media and journalism professors, and especially to my female journalism bosses and coworkers. I am excited for the next chapters of my life as I am able to cultivate other mentorship relationships through the Alliance for Women in Media.

I would never know the meaning of a strong woman or of a strong mentor if it wasn’t for my mom, whom I would have never dreamed of being here without. I am hopeful every day that I will one day inspire and nurture someone in the same way she has nurtured me.

While we continue to celebrate women in media and how far we’ve come, I hope we also recognize how far we still need to go. Growing up in Kentucky, I didn’t have many women surrounding me who looked like me. To this day, I have still yet to meet a Hispanic woman in journalism. I am so grateful that this shy Hispanic girl from Kentucky is being recognized and I won’t stop fighting until we all have a seat at the table. Our fight isn’t over.

I hope we all fight together to bring a strong community of women in media to every part of the world.

Helena Arjona is a recipient of the 2023 Google News Initiative Student Fellowship. She is a Broadcast Journalism and Multimedia student at the University of Kentucky, and we look forward to seeing how she continues to shape the world of media in the future.