By: Sam Boykin
After bonding during their first semester at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Sarah Cervera and Lily Celeste interned together at KSAT 12, and in June, they will launch their broadcast journalism careers at KRGV Channel 5 in the Rio Grande Valley.
Both San Antonio natives, Cervera and Celeste started at A&M-SA in 2021, each majoring in communications and eager to tell stories about their home city and the challenges and opportunities its residents face. Active in several on-campus journalism organizations, the friends worked closely with Dr. Jenny Moore, a clinical professor of communications and director of student media who helped coordinate their internships at KSAT.
“She’s one of our biggest mentors,” said Celeste. “We look up to her so much.”
Moore launched A&M-SA’s communications internship course about eight years ago. She said the program focuses on career preparation, experiential learning, and getting students comfortable and confident with off-campus settings. Even among the 50 or so students who participate in the program each year, Moore said Cervera and Celeste are both standouts.
“They are not the traditional story. Not everyone is as savvy and talented as they are in terms of landing jobs before they even cross the stage. They’ve grown so much personally and professionally,” Moore said.
The two friends started their KSAT internships in the fall of 2022, working for SA LIVE, the station’s lifestyle variety program.
“A lot of times when people hear about internships, they think you’re just making coffee or filing papers, but that’s not at all what our day-to-day was like,” Cervera said. “We shadowed reporters and producers and learned so much.”
The experience was so satisfying that the two friends successfully applied to be interns the following semester, this time with KSAT’s news department, which allowed them to work on meatier stories.
For example, Celeste helped KSAT’s investigative team with a story about a 2019 incident during which the San Marcos Police Department tasered a deaf man. The police department is now facing a federal civil rights lawsuit over the incident. A news package that Celeste wrote and edited about the confrontation and lawsuit has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.
Cervera was also involved in some high-profile stories, including one about how North East Independent School District campus police officers were discarding confiscated THC products into campus dumpsters and trashcans, potentially exposing students to paraphernalia. NEISD changed its policy regarding discarding such items in response to the investigation.
As part of their internships, both Cervera and Celeste wrote and edited their versions of KSAT stories they worked on to create promotional reels, which helped them land their news reporter jobs at KRGV.
Supporting each other along the way, the two friends were making great strides toward the future, but Cervera’s journey was abruptly disrupted. Her family’s South San Antonio home, where she lived with her mother, grandmother, and sisters, caught fire in December after an electrical shortage, destroying nearly all the family’s belongings. Several months later, in April, Cervera’s grandmother passed away from diverticulitis.
During this time, Cervera said KSAT personnel rallied around her and donated clothes to her and her family, including professional attire she could wear at work.
While Cervera said she and her family are still dealing with the aftermath of a very tough couple of months, including trying to repair and rebuild the home she’s lived in her whole life, she and Celeste are focusing on the future and their burgeoning careers. They’ve already picked out an apartment in the Rio Grande Valley where they’ll live during their time at KRGV.
“It’s been a battle and a struggle, but the fact that I landed my dream job has been a ray of sunshine,” Cervera said.
Like Cervera, Celeste said she can’t wait to start her new job. “I don’t know of any other career where you get the privilege of working with people who every day are trying to change their communities for the better. Ultimately, I want to come back home to San Antonio. I think there’s really important work to be done and important stories to be told here.”
Cervera also wants to eventually return to San Antonio, ideally to work as an anchor at KSAT, a goal that is largely inspired by her grandmother, who she said had to drop out of middle school to help support her family.
“I grew up watching her read the San Antonio Express-News and watching KSAT to help improve her literacy,” she said. “For me, journalism has always been about more than just providing people with information. It’s a way we can improve communities and people’s lives. And I want to be a part of that.”