Maria Camila Bernal was in middle school when people first challenged her dream of being a journalist.
She didn’t speak or write English well enough to deliver the news on television, and classmates told her she could not be a broadcast journalist because of her accent, she said.
But Bernal ignored them. She designed her school yearbook and presented the morning announcements on TV for the Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School in Florida.
The Colombian native left the city of Medellín and moved to South Florida with her family when she was 9.
To learn English, the family would read through a yellow-covered Spanish-to-English dictionary every night. Bernal and her brother would pore over their homework for hours trying to translate the material.
The nights of reading the dictionary paid off for Bernal in terms of her speaking ability, but she was uncertain about her writing — a concern that was magnified by her initial experience in the South Florida News Service, a program that helps students publish stories in the major newspapers in the area, she said.
Bernal pitched story after story, but, for a semester, her editor rejected all of her ideas, she said.
“I would cry and get out of meetings depressed, but it just motivated to keep pitching,” she said. “I doubted my love of journalism for two seconds, but the rejection just pushed me to fall more in love with it and fight harder for it.”
Since then, Bernal has interned at The Miami Herald and Telemundo, covering national, Mexican and Venezuelan elections, a murdered Canadian couple and the massacre at Sandy Hook.
In March, Bernal began a new job at NBC 6 South Florida working as a Web producer, she said.
Bernal, 22, graduated in May from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
“It just proves you can be successful, even if no one believes in your dream,” she said. “My dream job isn’t a particular place or medium. I just want to be at a place where I can tell good stories the rest of my life and feel proud of it.”