Reporter Corps

Reporter Corps Collage

Reporter Corps trains young adults in journalistic ethics and practice, multimedia storytelling skills, and how their local government works so that they can report on their own community. The first class ran from October 2012 to April 2013. Participants published stories on Alhambra Source and received training and support from professional journalists and researchers. Reporter Corps is made possible with the support of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the McCormick Foundation.

Meet the Participants:

Reporter Corps 2014

Reporter Corps 2012

REPORTER CORPS — 2014

Valerie Cabral

Valerie CabralMy family emigrated from Mexico City in 1998, when I was 3 years old. A year later my parents sent for me to join them. We first lived in San Gabriel for a couple years and then moved to Alhambra when I was 5.

I am currently attending Whittier College, majoring in Political Science. I am interested in investigating the division between Hispanic and Asian students and the impact a college preparatory program like AVID makes on educational attainment. In my experience at Alhambra High School, there was a stereotype that Hispanics should not be in Advanced Placement classes while Asians should be in AP classes. AVID broke that stereotype, and helped elevate students like me who fell in the middle in terms of class achievement. But in my junior year, the program was cut. Students made an effort to fight for the program and attended City Council meetings to share how AVID had impacted our lives. I am interested in investigating through Reporter Corps the impact of cutting the program had on young people like me, what alternative programs exist, and how I can raise more awareness about the issue.

Through Reporter Corps, I want to polish my skills as a writer and make my education story the best possible, so that Alhambra can see that our community is in need of programs like AVID.

18, Alhambra High School graduate, Whittier College student, Spanish speaker

Kristine Hoang

My family is from South Vietnam, and my parents came to the San Gabriel Valley in 1975 as part of the “Boat People” who escaped the Vietnam War as refugees. My dad settled in Alhambra and worked at a grocery store to pay his way through college at Cal Poly Pomona. He relocated with my mom to West Covina when they got married in 1990, when he finally found a job as an engineer. His determination and hard work inspire me to pursue my dreams and ambitions.

I graduated one year early from the UC Irvine in 2012. I studied history and was also a journalism double major, but dropped it to save money and because my parents thought journalism wasn’t financially stable. I did anything I could to put money on the table after college, working in restaurants, non-profits, and graphic design. I ended up writing again when my college friend asked me if I wanted to contribute to OC Weekly. I did it, loved it, and realized I wanted to keep writing. I am interested in examining how California’s new local funding plans will affect STEM (science, technology, math, engineering) achievement for minority girls. I also want to explore how mentorship programs in local schools influence these students’ ambitions and careers.

With Reporter Corps, I want to challenge myself to improve my skills as a writer and reporter. After the program’s done, I’m planning to continue freelance writing and reporting.

22, Bishop Amat Memorial High School and UC Irvine gradate, Vietnamese and French speaker

Stephanie Lee

My parents met in Taiwan, where my dad lives. My mom was born in Laos, but she left toward the end of the Laotian Civil War, shortly before Vientiane fell to the Pathet Lao in the mid 70s. Her family stayed in Thailand while waiting for arrangements to move to Taiwan. In 1986, she immigrated to the Echo Park area of Los Angeles before eventually settling down in Alhambra with my brother and me. I grew up here, graduating from Alhambra High School. I am a senior at Loyola Marymount University studying Political Science and Chinese.

I think students in this area do not always have the tools they need to successfully apply to college. When I was in high school, I had friends who did not take the SAT or fill out financial aid paperwork because no one told them about what these things were or about the due dates. I’d like to explore what programs are or should be available to high school students that push them to pursue higher education. Another important issue — especially in a community like Alhambra — is whether or not immigrant parents have the knowledge they need to guide their children through the college application process. I had to figure out what FAFSA forms were, for example, and then had to explain them to my parents.

With Reporter Corps, I am excited to work in journalism again after a long break from it. In addition, I hope to be able to not only understand and report some of the challenges that first-generation students face, but also help the effort to mitigate some of these difficulties.

22, Alhambra High School graduate, Loyola Marymount student, Mandarin speaker

Raymond Penaia

My parents emigrated from Samoa as children because their families were seeking better opportunities. I was born in Orange County, grew up in Diamond Bar and West Covina, and attended church in El Monte. A special place for me in the San Gabriel Valley is the Rose Hills cemetery in Whittier. We would go to church on Sundays in El Monte and then head straight to the cemetery for family bonding. Doing so allowed me to appreciate spending time with my family as well as reflect on memories of loved ones who have passed on.

I am interested in the impact of Pacific Islanders being lumped into the Asian American model minority. During my experience in high school, there were not many resources available for me as a Pacific Islander. Other Asian American minorities were not addressed.

As a part of Reporter Corps, I am curious to explore more about these issues. I am excited to learn and grow as a writer and utilize this opportunity to enhance and define my career path and future endeavors.

22, Diamond Ranch High School and USC graduate

Elisa Perez

My grandparents emigrated from Mexico in 1957 and made the San Gabriel Valley their home. I grew up in San Gabriel on the border of Alhambra and attended local Catholic schools that emphasized individualized education. My teachers were my mentors, and my small community was very supportive.

I have always enjoyed telling stories through the written word and visual arts but was apprehensive to pursue a career in such a competitive field. However, my family and mentors instilled in me the belief that if you worked hard enough, you can achieve anything. While in college I wrote and produced several short films, taught a summer film camp to Long Beach high school students, and took a year to study abroad in London.

Some of my best friends are teachers, and a concern that they have shared with me is that the overpopulated class sizes do not allow them to give each student the attention they need. Another is that due to budget cuts, after-school programs that aimed to give every child the skills necessary to succeed have been discontinued. For example, community service programs and student tutoring require instructors and resources outside of the classroom. Without these programs, we lose the possibility of giving young people manageable responsibilities through an activity that allows them to see how much of a difference they can make in their own community. Not only would this give them the confidence to know that they can complete a task, but also hopefully inspire them to initiate their own point of action in the future. It is my hope to explore how we can fix the lack of attention and opportunity a student receives due to a lack of means.

23, San Gabriel Mission High School and Cal State Long Beach graduate, Spanish speaker

Arthur Wang

My parents emigrated from the Fujian province in China two decades ago, concerned with the fate of the country after the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. I was born and raised in Monterey Park, witnessing firsthand the interactions between old and new Chinese immigrants, Asians, Hispanics, East Asians, and Southeast Asians. I graduated from Mark Keppel High School in May 2013, and now study sociology at East Los Angeles College, with an interest in Asian American studies and international relations.

Growing up in the highest percentage Asian city in the continental United States has greatly influenced my experiences and thoughts. I am particularly interested in the educational goals of Asian Americans in the area — specifically, the tendency to study STEM majors. Besides that, everything, from how members of similar and divergent ethnic groups interact in and out of the classroom to the way waves of young immigrants are assimilated to a new language and culture by local schools, is intriguing to me.

Reporter Corps provides the perfect opportunity to answer so many of these community questions, and more importantly, ask the ones that few have thought about before.

18, Mark Keppel High School graduate, East Los Angeles College student, Mandarin speaker

REPORTER CORPS — 2012

Alfred Dicioco

I have lived in Alhambra since emigrating from the Philippines at age 15. After graduating from Alhambra High School in 2008, I spent a year at Pasadena City College and then transferred to USC where I studied theater and was active in Asian-American advocacy groups. When I started writing a web series about the 626 area this past summer, I became interested in knowing more about my environment and how it continues to shape who I am. Combined with my love for liberal arts, filmmaking, and endless pursuit of real-life stories, I knew right away that Reporter Corps would be a perfect fit for me. As a member of this program, I look forward to initiating conversations about improving arts education in the district, reaching out to the underrepresented minorities in our community, and exploring the degree of assimilation amongst 1.5 generation immigrants.

21, BA from University of Southern California, speaks Tagalog

View articles written by Alfred Dicioco

Jane Fernandez

I have been a resident of Alhambra for more than 13 years, since I moved with my family from Cuba to join relatives. Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed writing, starting with short stories that branched out to my love for journalism which shaped who I am today — in the sense that I have learned to live differently based on my experiences and encounters with those with whom I interact. As a community member and student journalist, I am excited to be part of Reporter Corps because I get to write about issues that concern me and those who live around me, as well as receive feedback on my writing and learn new skills and techniques for reporting and writing. Some of the issues I’m interested in covering include the ESL program at Alhambra Unified School District, how budget cuts affect educational programs, and the construction development of the city.

22, East Los Angeles College student, speaks Spanish

View articles written by Jane Fernandez

Albert Lu

My parents emigrated from Zhong Shan, China shortly after their wedding, wanting my sister and I to be born and raised in the United States. Their first stop was San Francisco then Los Angeles, and after that Alhambra, where I grew up. I’m excited and anxious to see what is ahead of me in the coming six months. Typically, I am very shy and reserved and often wondered why I am interested in reporting, when I am often afraid to ask the questions. That is one of the reasons why, as a photographer, I let my pictures do the talking. I’m looking forward to gaining new experiences; and I am definitely looking forward to absorbing a much greater knowledge of journalism and reporting. My interest in journalism revolves around my interest in history. A journalist is more than just a watchdog; he or she records significant moments in our time that, in turn, educates future generations.

19, East Los Angeles College student, speaks Cantonese

View articles written by Albert Lu

Monica Luhar

My father was born in Tanzania, Africa, to Indian parents, and made his way to the San Gabriel Valley via London in the 1980s. My mother, who lived in Baroda, India, joined him. I have lived in Rosemead, California, for 23 years, but have always felt a deep connection to the city of Alhambra – a place known for its diversity and array of local businesses, educational programs and rich cultural history. I graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a bachelor’s degree in Literary Journalism in 2011. I am passionate about preserving long-form journalism and finding new ways to enhance community involvement through storytelling and social media. My work has been published in New America Media, India-West, OC Weekly, New University and other online and print media outlets. As a Reporters Corps member, I hope to find Alhambra stories that have long been unreported.

23, BA from UC Irvine, Speaks Gujarati and some Spanish.

View articles written by Monica Luhar


We would like to thank the following journalists for their commitment: Tami Abdollah (KPCC), Ashley Alvarado (KPCC), Kim Bui (KPCC), Cheryl Guerrero (LA Times Community News), Jennifer Hoche (Hollywood Reporter), Jesse Katz (Author, The Opposite Field), Ron Lin (LA Times), Claudia Nunez (La Opinion/ Stanford Knight Fellow), Lauren Whaley (California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting), David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times).


For more information about Reporter Corps, please contact Daniela Gerson: dgerson@usc.edu.