Maria Vasquez says she was kind of a homebody while growing up in Casa Grande, spending time with family and staying out of mischief.
Then she came to work for Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc. and PinalCentral.
Well, it is not like we introduced her to the seedy side of life in Casa Grande. Quite the opposite.
“Something I hated, as most kids growing up here think there’s nothing to do. Now maybe this is the old age talking, but as I’ve grown older I see that there’s always something going on,” she said. “Honestly speaking, I’ve been out in the city more in this past year working with the paper than all the time I’ve lived here. I’ve learned to appreciate the variety of events the community has to offer from tree climbing championships to theatre presentations.”
Maria has the type of community pedigree you like to have working at a community newspaper. She grew up bilingual, attending Palo Verde Elementary School and graduating from Casa Grande Union High School. From, there she attended Central Arizona College, working on the school newspaper. She then went to ASU, where she graduated from the Cronkite School of Journalism in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications with an emphasis on sports reporting.
She began work for us last year as a freelance sports reporter and a temporary spot news reporting, mostly covering weekend events. This month she became a full-time reporter and will be covering Eloy and Arizona City.
She’s not sure when she decided on journalism as a career, but admits she never had a “Plan B” for doing anything else.
“My mom says that ever since I was little I’d watch games on TV, see the reporters, and say that would be me one day,” she said.
Sports has always been her obsession.
“Normally when you talk to 7 or 8-year-olds they can name every member in their favorite band or all the Power Rangers,” she said. “I, on the other hand, was naming players on the D-Backs roster.”
Specialization is no longer the norm in journalism. Even though we have designated sports reporters, we expect them to cover all kinds of news, and take photos and video as well.
In the recent Great Newspaper section, Maria did a feature story on a local BMX track that puts kids in the fast lane toward an active lifestyle. It included some great action shot photos as well as video.
Maria will be covering government meetings and social events in Eloy and Arizona City. But she will also have plenty of opportunity for covering sports. Santa Cruz Valley Union High School has some excellent prep athletic programs. Stories about the winning football team are the second most read among the 10 high schools we cover in Pinal County, according to our analytics.
That’s why the Eloy reporter position is expected to have experience covering sports.
And Maria fits the bill.
While in college, she covered ASU softball for thesundevils.com and other ASU sports and the Phoenix Mercury for the Phoenix Sports Bureau.
Even though she didn’t play the sport in high school, Maria says her favorite game to cover is softball. She got a chance to return to her roots when she was able to cover ASU in its Women’s College World Series regional playoff series in Tempe last month.
She spent two seasons with the team back in college, first as a photographer and then as a media relations intern. She said when you spend 40-plus games around the same people you get to know them on a different level and you experience everything with them first hand.
“So with this year’s team there were four seniors who were freshman when I essentially began my journalism career and just the fact that it all came around full circle for all of us,” she said. “For them it was finally making it past regionals and getting to Oklahoma City, and for me it was getting to cover their final game in Tempe as a real journalist. It was just a really cool experience.”
Maria said she always hoped to have a career she could wake up to and be excited about going to work each day. That’s what journalism is for her.
While in college one of her professors told her about the excitement of being in the locker room with Michael Jordan after he won a third NBA championship.
“He said that if you work hard and aren’t scared to chase after your dreams then journalism is a ticket to see the world from a front row seat; it gives you something that not even the richest person can buy.”
Maria Vasquez can be reached at 423-466-7333 or email@example.com.
Andy Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.