Commentary: How Unpaid Internships Affect the Latino Community

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I grew up in an upper-middle class family in Texas, where I attended the best private Catholic schools from preschool until graduation. When it came to my education–and my dreams–my parents spared no expense. If I needed a new blazer for my debate tournament, they bought me three. If I needed a tutor for calculus, they handled it. When it came time to apply for colleges, they expected the best from me, and they did their part: dishing out cash for SAT tests, application fees, and campus tours. I was never asked to stay close to home or attend an in-state institution to save money. Ultimately, I chose to attend Northwestern University, which boasts what is arguably the best journalism school in the nation–and has a price tag to match.

Was I spoiled? Certainly. Was I lucky? Absolutely. When I entered my freshmen year at Northwestern, I had my sights firmly set on securing a magazine job after graduation, and I was prepared to do anything to make that dream a reality. I knew that snagging a position at a glossy publication like Glamour, Cosmo, or Redbook involved one expensive and controversial rite of passage: the unpaid internship.

Last week, Condé Nast made the decision to end their prestigious internship program, following a series of lawsuits alleging that the company failed to pay their interns minimum wage. As a former Condé Nast intern, I was shocked by the news, but not devastated by it. During my time at the company, I came to a personal conclusion: unpaid internship are the major flaw of the journalism industry. On a more personal level, I also began to see how unpaid internships negatively affect our Latino community, and I’ll explain why.  

But first, I’ll share my personal experience with unpaid internships, and it begins like this: I am extraordinarily privileged. 

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Cristina Arreola, Editorial Assistant

Originally from El Paso, Texas, Cristina Mari Arreola earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to BrooklynNew York. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking...), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or baking her favorite sweets. You can follow her on Twitter at @c_arreola

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