Artists, writers, cameramen, directors, actors, costume designers and more, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is saturated with talent for the spectacular in production.
There is no shortage of stars in the making and wanting to share their stories with the world.
Sergio Mendoza, a TV photographer/editor and graduate of legacy institution University of Texas Pan American, is nominated for five 2017 Lone Star Emmys and won two in 2016, Outstanding Regional News Story-Spot News for “Ángeles Del Desierto” and General Assignment Report for “De Cara Al Peligro.”
Mendoza graduated from UTPA in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts, the focus being on theatre, television and film.
Both award-winning stories aired on KTLM or Telemundo 40, based in McAllen.
“De Cara Al Peligro” was a report on Edcouch-Elsa High School taking precautions and training for an active shooter, and “Ángeles Del Desierto” centered on the nonprofit search-and-rescue group of the same name located in San Diego, Calif.
Their goal is to find people/immigrants who go missing between the U.S. and Mexican borderlands.
Alongside search and rescue, the group also stations itself in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, where it helps those deported back to Mexico with any assistance they may need.
Reporting on the organization with its founder, Rafael Larraenza Hernandez, Mendoza and reporter, Jorge Vinãls, discovered the body of a missing person’s case that was given to Hernandez.
On air, viewers can see the U.S. Border Patrol take away the body of the identified immigrant, while Hernandez calls the family to notify them of their loss.
Mendoza describes the experience as difficult and trying, due to his own heritage and seeing particularly what conditions immigrants go through when trying to obtain the American Dream and its promise of freedom.
“Going through all of that, for me it was kind of, you know, difficult,” he said. “I come from parents who are immigrants, who came over here. For me, it was kind of shocking–what they go through.”
Winning the Emmy for this story is a personal accomplishment for Mendoza.
“It’s a huge honor, especially since, you know, knowing I’m making my family proud … and also, you know, nationally, I got to represent the Rio Grande Valley,” he said.
Other than being an esteemed recognition for Mendoza and his team, the award also highlights the real stories of immigration that can be heard and seen in the Valley.
“It’s not all about statistics or numbers, but also to show people what they go through … and that sometimes, you know, they lose their life just trying to come over here to the United States, to come live a better life,” he said.
He is one of many legacy and UTRGV graduates around the world pursuing careers in the arts and entertainment industries.
Jennifer Saxton, head of theatre production and costume lab manager, said the university has a solid record of students who work in the arts nationally and internationally.
Saxton possesses a map of the world in her costume shop pinned with the locations of current and previous students working their dream jobs.
“One hundred percent of the theatre/television/film/design track alumni are working in their fields or are currently in an MFA program,” she said. “Many of our TV/film students are successful on a national scale.”
Mendoza is nominated for five 2017 Lone Star Emmys for his work in photography/editing. Four are for KTLM: Investigative Report Series, Specialty Segment, Business Consumer/Series, General Assignment Report and one at his new position at KTMD-TV Channel 47 in Houston, for Education Single Story/Series.
His advice for students?
“Work to your goal. Be patient, mainly, be patient. It takes some time to get where you want. Just be patient and don’t lose hope. Keep working for what you want,” he said, with encouragement in his voice.