By Eddie Hughes | Photos by Cary Edmondson
Read full story at magazine.fresnostate.edu/looking-forward
Sometimes trial by fire is the best way to learn when starting a new job. For Gina Avalos, the idiom was a bit too literal. She spent her first day on the job as a multimedia journalist for KSBY TV helping to cover breaking news as a raging fire disrupted the scenic ocean views along California’s Central Coast.
Avalos graduated from Fresno State in May with a degree in media, communications and journalism. The final two months of her college experience were flipped upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, as her classes shifted to virtual instruction. “The spring semester did not go at all how I planned,” Avalos says. “It was definitely challenging, but I pushed through.”
That’s what Avalos was raised to do. She grew up in Huron, a town of about 7,300 people less than an hour’s drive from Fresno. She was raised by her mother Griselda Lizarraga, a farmworker, in a single-parent household, and she says she also maintained a good relationship with her father. Avalos is the only one of six siblings so far to earn a college degree.
“Coming from where I come from, although people have the opportunity, a lot of people don’t take it,” Avalos says of her decision to go to college.
Avalos once spent a summer working in the tomato fields as a junior at Coalinga High School, and learned how grueling the days could be. “As I was growing up, I would see my mom come home super tired from working long hours in the heat,” Avalos says. “It’s not a job I wanted to do for the rest of my life, although I respect it a lot.”
She remembers the joy she discovered taking a journalism class as a high school elective. Then she attended West Hills College and briefly considered transferring to the University of Miami before learning about Fresno State’s media, communications and journalism program, and opting to stay closer to home.
The value of a Fresno State education was too good to pass up. One of the most affordable universities in the nation, Fresno State was ranked No. 23 by Washington Monthly in the Best Bang for the Buck: West category for how well it helps non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at an affordable price.
She was determined to take full advantage of her opportunity at Fresno State, saying “yes” to every conference, workshop and on-the-job opportunity she got during college — absorbing the teaching of faculty who spent decades in TV news, working on the Fresno State Focus student newscast and working as a student assistant producing content for the University’s official social media accounts.
Read more at magazine.fresnostate.edu/looking-forward