May 14, 2009 in Washington Voices

Rogers senior has the write stuff

Award-winner Sarah Reyes plans future in journalism
By The Spokesman-Review
Photos by Dan Pelle photo

Sarah Reyes, a senior at Rogers High School in Spokane, will major in journalism at Washington State University.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Sarah Reyes knows it isn’t popular to admit this, but she really likes Geraldo Rivera. “I used to watch him at my grandma’s house,” she said.

Growing up as a Hispanic child with a keen interest in journalism, she didn’t have many role models to choose from. She’d like to change that by becoming a person Hispanic teens can look up to. And at 18, she’s well on her way.

Reyes, a Rogers High School senior, was recently awarded a Hispanic Heritage Youth Award for journalism. According to the organization’s Web site, “The Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards were founded in 1998 to identify and promote the next generation of Hispanic leaders and role models by celebrating their accomplishments in the classroom and community.” Reyes and her mother recently returned from Los Angeles, where they attended a reception honoring the winners.

The award and accompanying $2,000 scholarship come as no surprise to Reyes’ teachers. AP European History teacher Jamie Oleson said, “Sarah’s a 4.0 student, she played volleyball, and has a great sense of humor. I’m so proud of her – she’s a hard worker.”

National Honor Society adviser Nancy Pemberton agreed. Reyes served as secretary for the group.

“She’s the first person who actually did the minutes and sent them to me without prompting!” Pemberton described Reyes as someone who follows through on her commitments with an attention to detail. “She’s very internally motivated.”

In her scholarship application, Reyes wrote, “I was told at a young age by a family friend that because my mother was single and I was Hispanic, I would be pregnant by age 16 and basically amount to nothing.”

So she set out to prove her detractor wrong. She’s already accomplished her long-held goal of becoming valedictorian and has been accepted at Washington State University, where she’ll pursue a journalism degree.

Reyes said she’s always loved to write. For the past two years she’s been on the staff of the Vox, a student-produced newspaper published by The Spokesman-Review. The experience solidified her career and education plans. She said she sees a real need for Hispanics in print journalism.

“I’ve noticed being on the Vox, there’s not a lot of color in the newsroom,” she said with a laugh.

Vox adviser Erin Daniels-Bangle said of Reyes, “She has it all: Is kind to others, a leader, a scholar … She’s going to go far in life.”

Quick to credit the main source of her support and encouragement, Reyes said, “My mom gave me a great childhood. She raised me to be proud of what I do and proud of myself as a person.”

Those values have stayed with her and kept her focused on fulfilling her dreams.

“I’ve had to accept that I’m different from a lot of my friends,” said Reyes. “I’ve learned to push it aside. I don’t notice my skin color anymore – I’m just Sarah.”

Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at

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