Not many people are able to merge two dissimilar interests into one career path – but for Jona Rivera, stumbling upon Indiana University’s (IU) media law and management track was everything she had been looking for.
“I knew that the Media School at IU was amazing, and after visiting IU a couple of times, I knew that it was the school I wanted to attend. I had always known I wanted to go to law school, or pursue some sort of law as a career, even when I was younger. Keeping that passion in mind, I continued to explore my options throughout high school, and when I knew that I also wanted to incorporate media in my future plans, I went looking for the right major. This program I found combined my desire to get into law practice as well as my love for writing and media,” Rivera said.
Rivera had been interested in media ever since her time on Lake Central High School’s publications programs, working on both the yearbook and magazine. However, right around the beginning of the pandemic, there was a turning point that turned that interest into a possible career.
“After the rise in issues within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities due to COVID-19, I had a lot to say about the topic, and luckily for me, I had the platform to express my thoughts. Being in my high school’s publication’s program allowed me to write an opinion piece about the negativity that had surrounded the AAPI community during the peak of the pandemic. It was published in my school’s yearbook, and it made me proud to know that my work was concrete and available for others to read,” Rivera said.
That experience pushed her into sticking with publications throughout the rest of her high school career, eventually working her way up to be yearbook Editor-in-Chief.
“Being continuously surrounded by people with stories to tell made me realize that media and journalism was what I was meant to do. I was meant to tell these stories, and I hope that no matter what I end up doing in the future, I can continue to do so,” Rivera said.
Much of the reason Rivera felt so passionately about the AAPI crisis following the pandemic was because she herself is a part of that community. Growing up as a first generation Filipino American woman gave her a perspective, whether in life or in media, that many of her counterparts may not have.
“As immigrants from the Philippines, my parents had to build their own lives from scratch. They were able to provide the means for me to get a good education, and I’m very grateful for that. I think that first-gen students are often overlooked, seeing as most first-gen students are people of color. My ability to further my education is something I am privileged to have,” Rivera said.
Rivera has faced countless struggles as both a woman and a person of color. But, her intersectionality has brought a whole new set of hindrances for her to overcome as a media student and practitioner.
“Being a minority is always on my mind when I view myself within the field of my work and studies. In general, being a minority comes with its innate struggles. But in the media world, it comes with a whole other set of struggles. I am always painfully aware of the lack of diversity in the media industry. There are few women, even fewer women of color. Because of these small numbers, I always try to include this issue in my own work. It helps spread awareness, even just a little bit,” Rivera said.
Coming to university helped Rivera push forward towards her career and personal goals. She is pursuing her academic interests while being even more in turn with her cultural identity through various organizations.
“I grew up in a predominantly white school community. I could probably count how many people looked like me on one hand. When I came to college, I was suddenly thrown into a community entirely like me. Not only was there a greater number of people of color, but there was a large Filipino community that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. The first club I joined was the Filipino American Association (FAA). I am looking forward to immersing myself more in my culture, especially now finding other Filipinos to share these experiences with,” Rivera said.
After getting her bachelor’s in Media, Rivera wants to continue her education in grad school. She wants to attend law school in hopes of becoming a corporate lawyer and be the advocate she has always wanted to be.
“My ultimate dream is to work in publishing, so I hope I can use my cultural identity, my media background, as well as my potential law education, to pursue this end goal,” Rivera said.