From FIU Honors to CBS: The Inspiring Journey of a Student-Turned CBS News Associate

David MelendezSpotlight

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, but more so than this, it takes will to carve out your own path–despite the odds. I hold a lot of firsts: the first Latino in my household to attend college, the first journalist, the first to be awarded the Presidential Merit Scholarship, and the first to attend an Ivy League university, all of this in the name of the firsts!

Throughout my life, I knew I was strangely different. I demanded more, it was the spark in my eyes that knew I could conquer whatever I set my mind to do in this world. When I started my panther journey at Florida International University at first like many who start, I didn’t really know what to make of it. I knew I wanted to write for my school paper and join the Honors College program. To tell the stories of others for me seemed to be a special kind of superpower. Journalism became my sense of purpose in sniffing out the stories that really mattered in this world, and I wanted to be the one to tell them. I wanted to leave a mark in this world, a kind of print that would leave a wedge of legacy, maybe that’s why I was so drawn to the printing press.

Little did I know I’d end up finding my closest and dearest friends from the school paper and become the news editor during one of the most trivial times of news history–the pandemic and everything that followed afterward. As the news editor for the school newspaper, a retail worker, a summer intern at the Miami Herald, taking Honors courses, and a full-time student. Needless to say, my schedule was a bit dense.

I remember feeling as if I was in and out of time from my classes, my professors were catching on to me when one late assignment started stacking to the point of no return. I had been on academic probation from my honors classes maybe one too many times, but persistence is key in this life, you just need to find your angle! “It’s all about those connections!” I remember just whispering to my friends in class, for some reason it would soon become my anthem throughout my time as a proud Panther. FIU became my estranged oasis, a home away from home, just like Simba leaving Pride Rock but coming back stronger than ever.

When I joined FIU Honors College, I knew it would help me stand out when applying for graduate school. I had only one school on my radar–Columbia University. I wanted to be a philosophy or history major but the first time I applied back in high school I was denied. I knew from the very beginning when I started at FIU I would need to make my application stand out from the rest if I were to take another shot at attending my dream school.

I attended several career and college fair expos on how to work on tailoring your resume and compiling the work I had done over the stretch of 4 years at FIU. I sent my application to Columbia University’s School of Journalism with the hopes of receiving a letter of acceptance. It was the only school I had applied for – it was all or nothing! I thought to myself fully convinced I had already been accepted into the program–this was my calling to change the world through my coverage. A few months later, I checked my Inbox with a response from the program. I was petrified, to say the least–it took me back to high school where my application had been denied.

Two things happened: I ended up getting into the program and I’d soon be packing my bags to fly out to New York City. After graduating this summer from Columbia University – Graduate School of Journalism, I applied to nearly 100 local and national publications after being laid off from the local newspaper I worked for in Jersey City (The Hudson Reporter), but nothing seemed to budge.

A few weeks later, I find myself walking through the doors of CBS News headquarters in Manhattan, working with the news team as a news associate for the 60 MINUTES Show. All of this is to say that if you truly want something you can make it happen! Stick to your vision and the rest will fall into place.