ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – There’s no secret ABC News Correspondent John Quiñones can captivate a room. From a young age, he fell in love with storytelling thanks to the encouragement of his English teacher Miss Gutierrez, who was the first to acknowledge his passion for writing.
“Too many of our kids are told they aren’t good enough and so much of that is in your head. Too much of that is what society tells you and you start believing it and you feel less than,” said Quiñones.
She guided him to meet the man who ran the local high school newspaper and he landed his first job. At the time, he didn’t know that job will eventually lead him to anchor and report for ABC news at a national level and achieve success with the show ‘What Would You Do?’
Quiñones shared that if just one person praises a student for their hard work, that can be enough to change the trajectory of their lives.
“That’s why it’s so important the role of teachers in high school and even grammar school. To appreciate the value these students, have and the hope and the potential” Quiñones explained.
Quiñones said he grew up poor living in San Antonio, Texas. He recalled that he only spoke Spanish until the age of six and as a child of migrant farm workers, he often would travel across the nation and follow the harvest. Working in the heat for long hours picking cherries or gathering tomatoes showed him he wanted to get a college education to seek other opportunities.
Although financial situations can prevent many from seeking higher education, Quinones said now there are many funds, scholarships, financial aid, fellowships, and more ways to fund education. It’s how he was able to get his master’s degree in journalism from an Ivy League.
“If there’s any doubt getting that degree can open many doors – when I couldn’t get a job in television I went to Columbia university – it was that master’s degree that allowed me to get my first television job in Chicago the led me to ABC news,” expressed Quiñones.
While getting the degree helped him get into the news industry, he quickly realized it’s harder for Latinos and other marginalized groups to have access to the same opportunities as others.
“There were very few people who look like me or with my kind of Latino last name on the radio or on television, so it was really frustrating for me, and I had to be twice as qualified,” shared Quiñones.
He encourages those who achieved success to open the doors for students or young adults to thrive in the same industry.
“Someone once told me that when you take the elevator of success to the top level, make sure you don’t forget to send the elevator back down. Or better yet, go down with it, so you can reach out and help others go up again with you,” shared Quiñones.
Knowing firsthand the many obstacles minorities may have to overcome professionally, Quiñones said to remember you can overcome anything.
“If I could make it, they can too. Me, a kid who used to shine shoes, was a migrant farm worker and didn’t speak English when I was six years old. If I can make it to network television then they can too,” said Quiñones.
Quinones visited Abilene and chatted with Abilene Christian University students about his childhood and career experience. He said he enjoys talking to young people because he sees himself in them. Seeing their wide-eyed enthusiasm, he remembers being just like them.