María Hernandez



Writing is not easy.

Now, being a writer and an interviewer, that’s a challenge.

When thinking about a topic for my enterprise story, I came up with a big moral dilemma: Would I pick an easy topic that I had already done research on and knew about, or would I pick something completely outside of my comfort zone and learn and write about it?

After narrowing down my topics to about three, I decided I wanted to challenge myself and took the assignment as an opportunity to learn about something so close to home, yet so unexplored.

Undocumented immigrants.

How could I talk about such a sensitive topic that I had no clue on? Who would be brave enough to open up and identify themselves as undocumented? Would that be ethically correct and even safe for me to do?

All I knew is that I wanted to tell a story. The story of someone who could inspire and educate readers about the reality of millions of people in our country. And then, the idea came to me: I wanted to talk about Manuel Valdez, my boss at one of the best restaurants in Salt Lake City. I knew his story was interesting based on the fragments of it that he had told me, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to tell everybody the story of this hard-working man.

When I told Valdez about my idea, he laughed it off. He does not really like to talk about himself or to share his personal stories with anybody. But after lots of convincing and negotiation, he agreed to give me an interview.

That Sunday, I went over to his house, where he was having a BBQ with his family and friends. After eating and chatting, Valdez opened up and we had what became a 7-hour interview. There was so much information, that my hand hurt from all the notes that I took! I did not want to leave any information out, so I made sure to ask many questions and record everything. Throughout the same week, I interviewed my two other sources: Valdez’s son, and Lora, a Lone Star customer. Those interviews were extremely short compared to Valdez’s, but I had the information I needed.

When it came to writing the actual story, the fun started. I had so much information, so many details, perspectives, and anecdotes that I wanted to include. When I finished writing my first draft I was at 1,300 words, without counting one of the interviews. I felt frustrated and overwhelmed by so much information. I felt that the story did not flow and that in my urge to include everything, I was jumping from topic to topic.

So I closed my computer and did not open the story for another three days.

After receiving advice from my classmates and Prof. Mangun, I decided to revise my story. I needed to narrow it down, and almost be cruel. I needed to stick to one topic or at least signal where new information was being introduced.

I tried to organize the story by life events and used headers to signal those events. It helped to make the story flow, and it helped to stay on topic while including different anecdotes and ideas.

After finishing the second draft, I verified some quotes with Valdez that I wanted to document correctly. I realized that my handwriting and note-taking skills are not as sharp as I thought they were. I could not recall half of the things I thought I would. Good issue to identify and to keep in mind for future interviews.

After many revisions and decisions, I finally had my last draft. And I loved the story. It was inspiring, surprising and relatable. It had a clear message and was not over-the-top dramatic. This experience really helped me to highlight several weaknesses and things I need to work on for further interviews. And most importantly, it opened my eyes and informed me about a reality I did not know of. The reality of millions of people who come to America with nothing but their pockets full of dreams.


If as a child, someone would have asked me what I wanted my life to be like in my 20s I would not have come close to what it is today. I have usually been quite scared of taking risks. If life works right now, why change it?

After being my whole life in Colombia, I decided that it was time to leave the nest and look for better opportunities. I was terrified since it was a harsh change and risks were not my forte. However, I packed my bags and decided to follow my heart despite my fears.

Today, I am a junior at the University of Utah, pursuing a bachelor of science in communication, psychology and economics. I have been in the States for about five years, learned a whole new language, and traveled around the world, exploring new cultures and opening my mind. I have worked in customer service for about four years, and have learned a lot about human relations and communication. I have a big passion for volunteering and community service.  I have gained over 400 volunteer hours and plan on gaining more over my career. Last summer, I had the opportunity to complete an internship with Zions Bank. After it, I realized I was passionate about banking and am planning on pursuing a career in this field after graduation, which is expected in Spring 2019. My main life goal is to be able to give back to people. I was very scared of taking a leap of faith, and I want to be there for others who are in that same spot. In order to achieve this, attending law school is one of my long-term goals. My dream job is to have my own company that provides aid to developing countries, creating job opportunities and giving back to the community.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a counseling psychologist and having an office to treat people. It seemed like a safe plan. But life isn’t about a “safe plan.” And taking risks has taken me to places that I never imagined I would go. I am sure young-me would be –though surprised– proud and happy to see who I am today in my 20s.