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Miami Dade College Student Hellen Rivas Selected to Attend Prestigious Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Conference in Washington DC


Hellen Rivas was selected as the Florida representative to the prestigious Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference.

Miami, July 18, 2013 - Hellen Rivas developed a knack for journalism at age nine when her family hosted a local radio program. Since then, the 17-year-old student in Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Dual Enrollment Program has continued to pursue her passion, and most recently was selected as the Florida representative to the prestigious Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in Washington DC.

The annual conference, held at the famous Newseum, targets rising high-school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism. Chosen from hundreds of applicants, the young media aspirants receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington DC and a college scholarship. Among the exciting activities, the students attend a taping of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” tour the USA Today headquarters and participate in a courtroom simulation. Representing each of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C students also learn about the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy and the vital role and responsibilities of the free press.

 “The conference will be a beautiful experience, and I mostly hope to gain a lot more hands on experience,” said Rivas, a high-school senior from Hialeah who entered MDC’s Dual Enrollment program in 2010. Dual enrollment allows high-school students to earn credits toward a high-school diploma as well as a two-year associate degree.

A mass communications and journalism major at MDC, Rivas serves as managing editor for the award-winning literary magazine at the Hialeah Campus, Café Cultura, and as vice president of the Hialeah Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Since 2012 Rivas has hosted segments on “La Voz de Los Jovenes” for the AM radio program America Al Dia and in 2010 was named by the Univision Network as one of the Top Four teenage reporters of Miami Dade County. In addition to her journalism endeavors, Rivas is an accomplished violinist and singer who has appeared in television and radio commercials for both English and Spanish stations. This month, Rivas also received the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing 278 hours of community service during the 2012-2013 academic year.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Ms. Rivas grow at the Hialeah Campus. She is a born leader – bright, talented and with a strong work ethic and dedication to serving others. She is a role model for all and we are so proud of her achievements," said Dr. Ana Maria Bradley-Hess, academic dean at the Hialeah Campus.

The Free Spirit and Journalism conference was started in 1999 by Al Neuharth, the late founder of USA Today who passed away in April. Given Rivas’ musical talents, she was selected to a sing a tribute to Neuharth at the conference’s closing ceremony.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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