By Julia Capitelli
North Shore High School
Representation is paramount to Sophia Herrera.
The issue is so significant for the rising junior at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset that she wants to pursue a career in broadcast sports journalism.
The South Huntington resident already has some journalism experience, beginning when she was 12. Now 16, she has been published in her high school’s Windows Literary Magazine and helped other students write articles for their middle school newspaper, 360 News.
Her particular focus is the lack of women in sports broadcasting. Women “make up the biggest part of the population,” Sophia said, “but we have the smallest voice.”
Sophia also is concerned about the wage gap between men and women in the field. And being Latina, she advocates for a stronger voice for minorities.
Professional soccer star Megan Rapinoe is Sophia’s idol. “She’s kind of a motivation for everything for me,” said Sophia, who has played soccer since age three.
According to Sophia’s mom, Loreley Villanide-Herrera, “eventually [soccer] became a passion.”
Sophia said Rapinoe, in addition to being a two-time World Cup champion and soccer superstar, has brought women’s and LGBTQ issues to light in the sports world. “She’s not afraid to voice her own opinion,” Sophia said. “If anyone’s against her, she really isn’t going to care. She’s going to say it anyway; she’s going to stick to it.”
Rather than pursuing her passion with a network like ESPN, Sophia’s goal is to start her own production company. She understands that would require hard work and lucky breaks. “When I have an aspiration, I work to get there,” she said. “If it’s not immediately, it’s going to happen, whether people like it or not.”
She has support from her mother, who she said works in HIV research in much of the developing world and also does work with “women’s issues, women’s empowerment, working with marginalized communities [and] LGBTQ.”
In addition to her mother, Sophia lives with her father, Robert Herrera, and her 12-year-old brother, Gabriel. Like Villanide-Herrera, Robert Herrera, who is in book publishing, has strong political opinions but keeps an open mind.
Sophia is primarily interested in broadcast media because “I want to be the person that people see and they know they can trust.”
She said she hopes the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists will be an opportunity to “grasp a deeper understanding of journalism itself.”
If Sophia becomes a sports broadcaster, she hopes to do more than give scores and analysis. She wants to have a platform to voice her opinions. “I’m a feminist,” she said. “As someone who has really strong beliefs, I really feel the need to voice them.”
She wants to ensure that underrepresented people have a place in broadcast too. “I feel like people need to have that voice.”