Ambitious, hard-working, intelligent people aren’t hard to find throughout Emanuel County. From lesser-known citizens to well-known leaders, Swainsboro and other municipalities in the area are fortunate to call these folks, the ones who make a difference, “ours.” Of course, some of “our folks” have moved off and shared themselves with the world in various respects. The “Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle aims to track down and catch up with our hometown people.
This week’s profile features Alexandra Rios, whose interview was conducted by Halei
Okay, start at the beginning. Give a little background about yourself.
Rios: I’m Alexandra Rios. My name was inspired by my mother’s middle name, Alejandra. I was born 49 minutes southeast from Swainsboro in a small town called Claxton. My family is originally from Mexico, but I grew up in Swainsboro. I am the daughter of Alejandra and Zoltan Rios and sister of Christopher, Jessica, Kimberly, and Yasmín. I graduated with honors from Swainsboro High School in 2015.
What came after high school for you?
Rios: After high school, I obtained an associate degree in communication arts from East Georgia State College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.
Why did you choose that path of study for your undergraduate?
Rios: I knew I wanted to be a journalist since I was in middle school. I had an opportunity to visit a news station in Atlanta, which is one of the biggest news hubs in the country. I was inspired by the journalists there, and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to inform our community on things like what’s going on in their backyards, how to save money, the importance of voting, the importance of what is going on in the world, and how that can affect you on a personal level. This was always my dream.
What achievements of note did you amass during college?
Rios: During college, I anchored, produced, and reported for a student-run television station called Grady Newsource. I spent most of my time in that newsroom trying to grasp everything I could because I knew it was up to me to figure out the way into the news industry since I don’t have anyone in my family who is also in this field. While in college, I spent some time in a local newsroom in Albany and traveled abroad to Munich, Germany to study travel journalism. I became (and still am) a member of the National Press Photographer Association (NPPA) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalist (NAHJ).
And what are you doing today exactly?
Rios: Now, I’m a bilingual multimedia journalist and reporter for KNDU/KNDO-TV (NBC Right Now) in Kennewick, Washington. I wake up every morning at 2 a.m. to bring my communities the latest breaking news. I report on numerous topics from crime to community events. During my first year, my morning newscast was nominated for a Northwest Emmy (morning/daytime news market 81+) for our coverage of the biggest wildfire in the Pacific Northwest at the time. During my time here, I was also asked to represent my community as a Latina journalist and talk about my experience with reporting during COVID-19. I was also the alumni speaker for East Georgia State College’s Fall 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony.
The whole premise of “Finding Our Folks” is to somewhat address the geographical distances between some of Emanuel County’s successful children. Talk a little about your leaving Swainsboro for the first time, what it’s like living in your current town, how often you get to return home, and what your priorities are when you make the trip.
Rios: The first time I left Swainsboro to live on my own was to attend the University of Georgia. Until this very day, the hardest part about leaving home is missing my family. I live in Tri-Cities, Washington now pursuing my dreams. I love my job because it doesn’t feel like a job. It’s a lot cooler here than the south. I actually have a pretty funny story about the first time it snowed here; I got my car stuck on the way to work. That still makes me laugh to this day.
The city I live in is quite similar to the size of Augusta. Throughout my time here, I haven’t been home much because it takes almost an entire day to fly over and I don’t get a lot of vacation since journalists work through holidays. I think I have been home maybe twice this past year. However, I have been to Mexico a few times to visit my family there. When I come home, my priority is my family and my loving boyfriend, Priyank, and will always be.
Who were some of the most influential people in your formative years?
Rios: I would have not been the person I am today without my parents. Everything I am is because of them. They left everything behind to pursue the American Dream. They always encourage my siblings and me to pursue education. We are a first-generation family. They encourage us to follow our dreams, to dream big, to always be honest, to always be positive, to always help other people, to say yes to every opportunity, to remember where we come from, and to be proud of being a Mexican.
What advice would you like to extend at this time, given your platform?
Rios: The most important advice I can give is to educate yourself. Don’t just read the headlines and certainly don’t believe everything you read online. Also, don’t be afraid of change. There are only a few ways to grow, and one of those ways is to be in situations that make you uncomfortable. (Other ways are reading and traveling!) I encourage you to go out and explore something that’s new and outside your comfort level. My last piece of advice is to make friends who are completely different than you—friends of different races, different cultures, different social statuses, different native languages. You would probably be surprised by what you learn.
Lastly, surround yourself with positive people who inspire you, see potential in you when you don’t see it yourself, and want you to succeed.
What, in your opinion, is the key to success?
Rios: I think being successful is being better than the person you were yesterday. Work hard, and always be nice to people. Believe in yourself—always. You have to believe in yourself first before anyone else will.
Do you have someone you’d like to nominate for inclusion in the ”Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle? Call Halei Lamb at 478-494-3376, email email@example.com, or stop by 571 South Main Street, Swainsboro.