The 'Times' of Her Life
When she was 15 years old, Nancy Gonzales, Class of 2026, stood in a New York City museum, eyes fixed on a war-zone photograph of a young girl holding her lifeless brother in her arms.
Then she wept. “That’s when I realized what I wanted to do with my life,” she says.
Now, four years later, Gonzales, 19, is taking significant steps toward her goal of becoming a photojournalist. This fall she was selected for The New York Times Corps, a multi-year talent-pipeline program for college students from groups under-represented in journalism, including students of color and those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Gonzales, a journalism major, was among 20 promising young journalists chosen from hundreds of nationwide applicants for the inaugural program. As part of her application, Gonzales submitted a personal statement as well as samples of her work; she also did an online interview with Times staffers.
“I tend to doubt myself a lot, so I consider this a great accomplishment,” Gonzales says. “I mean, this is The New York Times! I’m hoping this will help improve my skills and make me a better journalist. I want to learn as much as possible.”
Showing, and sharing, the truth
“We looked for people like Nancy, who showed enthusiasm, commitment to the craft of journalism, attention to detail, and who have overcome adversity,” says Times Deputy Director of Career Programs Carla Correa. “Nancy talked about wanting to share the truth in her photographs. That really stood out.”
Gonzales began taking cellphone photos when she was 13, and taught herself how to use a camera one year later. As a student at Roxbury’s John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science, she began working with Artists for Humanity, a Boston-based organization that connects teenagers with job opportunities in art and design.
Portraits of people in real-life settings are among her favorite subjects; so are more abstract compositions. In 2021, Gonzales, who is half Puerto Rican, returned to the island for the first time in 11 years and shot a moving series of photos documenting the lingering impact of both Hurricane Maria and the pandemic, as well as Puerto Rico’s undiminished beauty.
At Suffolk, Gonzales has already gotten involved with The Suffolk Journal, and hopes to contribute as both a writer and photographer. And her Visual Aesthetics course has introduced her to a new visual medium. “We watch different movie clips and I’m learning a lot about the history of cinematography,” she says.
Learning the ropes
Gonzales and other Times Corps members will meet with Times journalists via Zoom several times a year over the course of their undergraduate careers. The program will also include speaker events, training workshops, and other activities, including a paid visit to the Times newsroom during their junior year and the opportunity to apply for a Times fellowship program.
The goal, Correa says, is “to reach students early in their college careers and give them guidance, including what classes and internships they should take.”
Gonzales has already met once with her Times advisor, Photographers’ Chief Becky Lebowitz Hanger. “The best way we can be helpful to students is give them someone who they can ask questions of who has been there before,” says Lebowitz Hanger. “We can provide them with information on how to get from point A to B. We all want to keep learning. In the end, I will learn as much from Nancy as she will from me.”
For Gonzales, photography is not just a potential profession, it’s also a lifeline.
“I feel photography saved my life,” says Gonzales, who speaks openly about her struggles with depression and anxiety. “I can’t describe it in words. It’s just a feeling inside me and something I have to do. You can take everything away from me, but not my camera.”