El Leñador Alumni Reflect, Celebrate 10 Years

May, 2023
El Leñador Alumni from left to right: Vanessa Flores, Kevynn Gomez, Manuel Orbegozo

Since its inception in 2013, El Leñador, Cal Poly Humboldt’s bilingual newspaper, has given many Humboldt Latinx students a sense of belonging, understanding, and empowerment.

El Leñador is a monthly bilingual newspaper serving the University’s and the county’s Latinx population, providing coverage in English and Spanish throughout the North Coast. It’s only one of few bilingual college newspapers in California.

The experience of being on the student publication helped launch the careers of three alumni who returned to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Reflecting on what it meant to be a part of the paper, Humboldt alum and international Peruvian-American journalist Manuel Orbegozo (‘15, Journalism) says the publications gave him a chance to connect with his language.

“My mother language is Spanish, and I wanted to learn to write better in Spanish. Luckily, El Leñador allowed me to practice writing in Spanish through a news setting,” Orbegozo says, adding that studying journalism encouraged him to be open-minded and comfortable talking to all kinds of people.

Orbegozo had been working as a photojournalist intern in Peru when he decided to return to school in the U.S. to pursue a Journalism degree. Orbegozo is now a freelance international journalist who covered the humanitarian crisis due to the Russia-Ukraine war for Euro News and Deutsche Welle (DW), a German global media outlet. He has reported on the recent political protests in Peru for the Associated Press and El Tocolote, a bilingual newspaper based in San Francisco.

Kevynn Gomez (‘16, Journalism) has loved journalism since she was 14 when she began working on student publications in high school. She found journalism was a fundamental way to connect writing to real-world issues. After transferring to Humboldt, Gomez joined El Leñador, where she served as a reporter and photographer for the paper in 2015. El Leñador gave her a sense of empowerment.

“I enjoyed writing for El Leñador, and I loved being surrounded by other Latinx students and students of color who cared about journalism as a way to share stories and improve our communities,” Gomez says. “Working on the publication showed me that students of color were a valuable part of this county and this school.”

Being on El Leñador was crucial to Gomez’s time at Humboldt as writing for the publication helped prepare her for the reality that adult life is complex. As a student reporter at the bilingual paper, she was exposed to stories of resilience, hardships, injustice, and historical trauma — stories she continues to see as the digital communications manager for Pacific Environment, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and wildlife of the Pacific Rim.

Coming from a Spanish-speaking family and identifying as a journalist of color, Vanessa Flores (‘20, Journalism) saw how vital the paper was to making stories accessible to Humboldt’s Latinx community.

Flores held many roles on El Leñador as a reporter, Spanish translator, managing editor, and editor-in-chief and says her experience helped prepare her to report stories on a wide range of topics as a journalist. She’s worked as a data researcher for KQED, a public media organization based in San Francisco. She is pursuing a graduate degree in Journalism at UC Berkeley, where she reports on extremism, police misconduct, education, and immigration.

El Leñador’s diversity in stories prepared me to report on many different topics in a way that I was not accustomed to and to report what other journalists are missing through a critical lens,” Flores said.

Flores hopes El Leñador continues to grow and flourish with more and more students becoming a part of the paper and gaining hands-on experience that will help shape their future endeavors.

“I hope students get inspired and motivated from their experience with El Leñador and take that with them wherever they go because it’s truly a wonderful and unique experience you don’t come across often. Being on El Leñador was the best thing I ever did at Humboldt.”

Photo caption (from left to right): El Leñador Alumni Vanessa Flores, Kevynn Gomez, and Manuel Orbegozo.