Meet the 2024 staff

The Latino Reporter is a news website sponsored by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists that features journalism produced by student members tasked with covering the organization and its annual conference. The Latino Reporter strives to cover the organization and issues relevant to its mission with fairness and accuracy in a live newsroom environment staffed by student journalists and professional mentors. The newsroom exercises editorial independence. Read more about our editorial guidelines here.

Meet our student journalists

Jacob Amaro (he/him/él) wanted to become a doctor, but gave journalism a try in high school. He decided reporting was his true passion and switched his major from pre-medicine to journalism. While a student in the journalism program at Rutgers University-Newark, Amaro interned with, which led to a part-time job as a reporter for’s Mosaic. There he writes stories about New Jersey’s diverse communities. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and is headed to Columbia University’s journalism school, where he’ll pursue a master’s degree. His goal is to work for a newsroom, writing stories that inform and empower readers. He hails from Paterson, New Jersey, and is one of nine children in a loving, supportive home.

— Juan Pablo López 

Jaeel Beato (he/him/él) was born in Salem and raised in Lynn, Massachusetts to Dominican parents. He gravitates toward telling stories that highlight the success — instead of the woes — of underrepresented communities through the camera lens. He is a junior at Emerson College majoring in journalism. Beato aspires to increase engagement within Emerson’s NAHJ chapter as president and enhance his directing skills and reinforce his love for Spanish-language news. He is currently interning with The Boston Globe during the 2024 summer. He likes to hike, play tennis, and dance the night away. He looks at the future with excitement, curiosity and enduring hope.

— Andrés I. Jové Rodríguez

Elizabeth Jazlyn Dieguez (she/her/ella) is a first-generation graduate from San Diego State University. Dieguez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and has a strong interest in the entertainment industry. During her time at San Diego State she exposed herself to different forms of journalism such as print and broadcast and is driven by the ability to tell people’s stories. She served as the vice-president of the Society of Professional Journalists student chapter and the social media editor for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapter at San Diego State. After attending her first NAHJ conference in 2023, she recognized the importance of latino representation in the media industry and found herself wanting to connect with her culture and community. Dieguez hopes to inspire individuals by the work that she does, and believes that increasing inclusion will allow others to feel comfortable trying new things. Outside the newsroom, she enjoys binge-watching shows and spending time with her friends and family.

— Sofia Mireles

Andrés Iván Jové Rodríguez (he/him/él) is a Manatí, Puerto Rico native and a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo with a degree in Tele-Radio Communications with an emphasis in news production and direction. His interest in journalism started from a desire to make political and economic news more accessible and digestible to everyone. Jové Rodríguez is dedicated to shedding light on underserved communities. In his free time, he enjoys running, going to the gym, reading and exploring nature.

He has worked at the Washington Blade in Washington, D.C., and WRAL-TV in North Carolina. During his time at each, Jové Rodríguez extensively expanded his skillset. He has also worked with local outlets like WIPR-TV, El Nuevo Día, and El Vocero in Puerto Rico. Jové Rodríguez embraces uncertainty, looking at it as an opportunity rather than something to fear. He constantly lives in the moment and views mistakes as a path to growth.

Jaeel Beato

Shawntay Lewis (she/her/ella) declara con firmeza: “I want the power”. Lewis, quien aspira convertirse en productora de un noticiario de televisión, anhela tener el poder de determinar cuales son las historias que la gente debe conocer. Su objetivo es enfocarse en el periodismo comunitario y en temas de salud y cultura. De raíces afrolatinas, Lewis es hija de una madre mexicana y un padre afroamericano. Nació en Los Ángeles y vivió allí durante cinco años antes de mudarse a Michigan, donde reside actualmente. Está cursando una licenciatura en Periodismo Televisivo y Literatura en Español en Wayne State University, donde comenzará su último año universitario en agosto. Aunque el inglés es su primer idioma, Lewis ha trabajado arduamente para mejorar su español con el fin de dar mayor visibilidad a su comunidad. “Journalism feels like it is what I am meant to do”, expresa con determinación. 

— Kiara Maldonado Acevedo

Lauren Lifke (she/her/ella) is an incoming senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in both journalism and statistics. Lifke decided to become a journalist after being inspired by the way journalists were able to convey complicated information to the public during the 2020 election. At the UNM paper, The Daily Lobo, she has served as the managing editor and is currently the news editor. She is interested in one day using her statistics and journalism majors through data journalism and investigative journalism. She is also considering a masters degree after she graduates next spring. Currently, Lifke is an intern with the Santa Fe Reporter. She likes to spend her free time listening to music on her daily commute from Albuquerque and enjoys rock climbing.

Kathleen Ortiz

Juan Pablo Lopez (he/him/él) was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. He made the difficult decision of leaving home at 17 to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist.

Lopez earned a bachelor’s from the University of Central Florida in Journalism and Political Science in 2022, which helped him land his first job as a bilingual news producer for CBS 19 and Telemundo in Cleveland, Ohio. Lopez then applied for a master’s program at Georgetown University. He is currently studying investigative environmental journalism while working as a digital intern for Telemundo 44 in Washington, D.C. His dream is to become a climate reporter.

— Jacob Amaro

Kiara Maldonado Acevedo (she/her/ella) began her college career participating in theater and majoring in business administration. When the pandemic closed the curtain— another one opened. She discovered a passion for journalism. “El periodismo para mi es la herramienta más poderosa, es educación y es voz, a través de él impulsamos un cambio positivo para el mundo,” she said. Maldonado Acevedo is about to enter her senior year studying Tele-Radio Communications with an emphasis in news production at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo. During her time as a student, Kiara has gained experience as a reporter and producer at the Notas del Saco, an editor of A Cuentagotas online publication, and Noticias Punto a Punto as an entertainment reporter. She is empowered by her passion to share information and a future to bring awareness to an understanding of climate change’s impact on people. For her, an experience at the Latino Reporter is special because it confirms that she is on the right path to a fulfilling career that she can share with the world.

— Shawntay Lewis

Briana Mendez-Padilla (she/her/ella) is a Long Beach-based journalist since her earliest days as a high school junior when she joined VoiceWaves, a local youth media program. She quickly discovered she loved listening to people’s stories and is grateful for the trust others place in her.

The recent Cal State Long Beach graduate double-majored in journalism and English. Mendez-Padilla works for CalMatters as an education reporter. During college, she was the former editor-in-chief for ENYE, formerly known as DÍG, En Español, a bilingual magazine that uplifts stories about and for the Latinx community. Mendez-Padilla is an avid reader and writer. Her favorite book is Jane Eyre. She enjoys writing poetry and reading literature in both English and Spanish from local independent bookstores. Between the many roles she excels at, Mendez-Padilla is an eldest daughter, loves live music, visiting coffee shops and thrifting. She hopes to continue covering stories concerning education and public policy.

— Rachell Medez-Padilla

Sofia Mireles-Gonzales (she/her/ella) was raised in Tamaulipas on the Mexico side of the border. She watched immigrant stories unfold before her, which helped fuel her passion for journalism. In 2017, she moved alone to the United States to further her education. She is now fluent in both English and Spanish.

Mireles-Gonzales is entering her fourth year at Michigan State University as a first-generation broadcast journalism student. She gained experience in radio production through her work on WKAR’s “¿Qué Onda Michigan?,” a weekly Spanish news podcast that highlights the Latino experience. She also has experience in social media management through the César Chávez & Dolores Huerta Commemorative Celebration. Mireles-Gonzales has done bilingual reporting on diversity and equity issues at her university. Her goal is to shed light on untold stories, no matter what obstacles come her way.

— Jazlyn Dieguez

Kathleen Ortiz (she/her/ella) is an incoming junior at Rice University double-majoring in social policy analysis and sports management with a concentration in sports law. She is the sports editor for her school’s student newspaper, the Rice Thresher. Ortiz has been interested in journalism since kindergarten. She is especially drawn toward sports journalism and reporting on people beyond just numbers, wins and losses. Her future is open-ended — she can see herself going to law school, becoming a sports journalist or even focusing on politics. Her general interest in law and politics has led her to her current internship at a law firm in downtown Houston. She loves to read and play club soccer. Ortiz is also an avid movie watcher —  she has watched 109 just this year, with her favorites being “Good Will Hunting” and “Primal Fear.”

Lauren Lifke

Rachell Sanchez-Smith (she/her/ella) is a journalism and political science major at the University of Arkansas where she founded the only active NAHJ chapter in the state. She is a producer and reporter for NPR affiliate KUAF, as well as a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette through the Dow Jones News Fund Internship. As a professional chismosa, she is learning German and Japanese so she can chismear in as many languages as possible. In her free time, you’ll find her enjoying time with her family and her beloved cat, Beef. Rachell is determined to keep those in power accountable and continue amplifying underrepresented voices.

— Briana Mendez-Padilla

Meet the mentors

Nicole Acevedo (she/her/ella) is the co-director of the 2024 Student Projects. She joined the Latino Reporter newsroom in 2020 as its Spanish-language news editor.

She is a reporter at NBC News Digital where she produces enterprise stories for NBC Latino and breaking news for From Puerto Rico’s reconstruction process after Hurricane Maria and the island’s financial crisis to politics, pop culture and the coronavirus pandemic, Acevedo’s reporting focuses on issues impacting Latino communities in the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America. In the past, Acevedo has published stories for MSNBCTelemundo 47 and NPR’s Latino USA. Before joining NBC, she was part of the inaugural cohort of students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s first Spanish-language bilingual journalism program. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Acevedo left la isla over a decade ago to attend the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Follow her on X at @Nicolemarie_A.

Rafael Carranza (he/him/él) is the 2024 Student Project multimedia lead. He joined the NAHJ Student Projects as a mentor in 2021 and co-led in 2022 and 2023.

He credits the start of his journalism career to NAHJ. He is an alum of the 2006 Student Campus, the 2009 Latino Reporter and was an NAHJ Scholar. Carranza works at The Arizona Republic and the USA Today Network, where he covers immigration and issues along the U.S.-Mexico border. He contributed to the 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning project “The Wall,” and earned a Rocky Mountain Emmy for his contributions. He previously worked as a correspondent covering the Pope and the Vatican in Rome, and before that as a television reporter in south Texas. When he’s not reporting, you are likely to find him out hiking the mountains and canyons of the desert Southwest. Follow him on X at @RafaelCarranza.

Jason Gonzales (he/him/él) joined the NAHJ Student Project as a mentor in 2014 and serves as the English-language editor. He is a four-time co-director and an alumnus of the 2010 Latino Reporter class in Denver.

He is a higher education and legislative matters reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, a nonprofit newsroom that covers education across the country. Previously, he covered K-12 and higher education for The Tennessean in Nashville and Brunswick County for the Wilmington Star News. He is an award-winning journalist. In 2023, his work on Colorado’s opportunities and challenges in higher education was a finalist for the Education Writers Association Eddie Prize. Jason is a 2018 Education Writers Association Reporting Fellow and 2020 Institute for Citizens and Scholars Higher Education Media fellow. He is a Colorado native and resident of the Denver area. Jason graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder. You can find him on X at @ByJasonGonzales.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez (he/him/él) has been visuals lead for the Latino Reporter for 15 years, occasionally filling in as director.

He is an award-winning photo and multimedia journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle. He began his career in newspapers at the ripe age of 10, at his hometown paper, The Martinez News Gazette, where they were silly enough to give him a key to the building. His love of journalism developed there, choosing it as a career. In his 23 years at the Chronicle, he’s covered national and international assignments. Most notably he’s covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worked extensively in Latin America, covering elections, natural disasters, economic policy and immigration — even crossing through desert in Northern Mexico with immigrants through smugglers’ camps. Other notable work includes short documentaries on a doctor providing care in the Ngorngoro Crater of Tanzania, and on a group working to eliminate child slavery in Nepal. A San Francisco Bay Area native, he spends his off time rebuilding a craftsman home he bought 12 years ago, designing and building things by hand, and putting previous skills as a sous chef to good use. Follow him on X at @CAGisMe.

Marissa J. Lang (she/her/ella) is the 2024 co-director of the Latino Reporter and a 2009 alumna.

She began mentoring in 2017, and spent two years as co-director as the Latino Reporter convened virtually to cover the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Lang is a local enterprise reporter for the The Washington Post, where she writes narrative and accountability stories about the D.C. region, housing, gentrification and the changing face of American cities. She previously covered protests, social unrest and the rise of domestic extremism for The Post, culminating in her coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, for which she was honored as part of The Post’s 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Lang moved to the nation’s capital in 2018 from the Bay Area, where she covered the tech industry’s impact on the region and its culture for the San Francisco Chronicle. She previously wrote about city government for the Sacramento Bee, criminal and social justice for the Salt Lake Tribune and all-things-Florida for the Tampa Bay Times. A proud native of New York City, Lang is a notorious pizza snob, doting dog mom and unrepentant sinvergüenza. Follow her on X — and Mastodon and Threads — at @Marissa_Jae.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (he/him/él) is the Latino Reporter’s lead audio editor. He has been a mentor since 2022.

He is a national correspondent with NPR covering immigration. In 2023, Martínez-Beltrán contributed as a political analyst to NPR’s historic bilingual coverage of the State of the Union address in both English and Spanish. Prior to moving to Austin in 2022, Martínez-Beltrán worked for the nonprofit news outlet Bridge Michigan, where he reported extensively on the state’s inaugural redistricting commission, campaign finance and state government. Martínez-Beltrán has won multiple state, regional, and national accolades. Martínez-Beltrán is a proud native of Puerto Rico, longtime NAHJ member and a graduate of Michigan State University. Follow him on X at @SergioMarBel.

Carolina Astrain (she/her/ella) is the Latino Reporter’s broadcast editor. She joined the NAHJ Student Project in 2024 as a mentor and is an alumna of the 2009 Latino Reporter class in Puerto Rico.

Astrain is a morning news anchor and reporter for KAVU-TV in Victoria, Texas. Previously, she covered K-12 and higher education for The Victoria Advocate in Victoria, Texas. She is an award-winning journalist. In 2016, her work on highlighting the achievement gap in the Victoria Independent School District led to more attention and resources in early education. She is a Houston native. Carolina graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism. You can find her on Twitter @carolinastrain.