The story begins in Cuba. A woman, exiled for speaking out against the communist revolution, received a “void” stamp on her passport, forbidding her to return home. Her granddaughter, Jessica Mayorga ’07, would discover a passion for storytelling during a youth journalism program trip to Cuba at the age of 15. “I talked to young people who were part of the José Martí Pioneer Organization—it was like the Boy Scouts but with communist indoctrination,” Mayorga recalls.
That experience shaped Mayorga’s future. “I realized stories are a powerful tool,” she says. “I was able to reveal what life was like in a place where the message was manipulated by the government. I could bring freedom to untold stories.”
With that goal, Mayorga enrolled in journalism school at the University of Maryland. She landed a full-time summer job at Univision after just one day as an intern; she later accomplished the same feat at a DC-area Spanish-language radio station.
But that’s not where her story ends. She pivoted from an on- air career to one behind the scenes, and she has racked up an impressive list of industry expertise: broadcast journalism, local government, education policy, and now the waste and recycling industry.
Along the way, Mayorga completed a master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education before enrolling at Walden. “When I looked at Walden, I knew it would be a great support for me to expand my career,” she says.
She credits her Walden MBA with giving her the ability to switch from her first career as a broadcast journalist to working as a media relations expert in education policy to her current role as senior director of communications and marketing for the National Waste & Recycling Association in Washington, DC.
“The more you learn, the more opportunities you will have,” she says. “That’s what’s great about journalism and communications—you can apply those skills to just about every environment. Walden taught me that every discipline has some facet of communication.”
The opportunity to work with people from all walks of life in an online learning environment also provided a leg up, she says. “Using my existing communication skills, my MBA program felt like a true professional setting where I was working with colleagues at a new level. I found it to be more engaging than a traditional classroom.”
Mayorga’s impact goes well beyond her impressive resume. Her son, Jax, is deaf, blind, and has cerebral palsy, and Mayorga uses her management skills as the PTA president for his school, a unique community serving 100 students with special needs. “I keep these exceptional students in my thoughts as I make decisions,” she says.
Next up for Mayorga? She can’t say exactly, but she’d love to increase her advocacy on behalf of children with special needs. One thing is for sure: The openness that’s defined her career so far is here to stay.
“I’m always eager to take on new opportunities,” she says. “I try to decide what’s best for me and for my son, what’s best for my family and my community.”
Jessica Mayorga. Photo credit: Matt Spangler