Capturing Communities One Photo At A Time

Navarro learned and taught others how to tell stories in different ways


Abraham Navarro’s self portrait in a mirror.

Telling stories with his camera and reporting for the local community, Abraham Navarro did everything he could to help people. Mt. SAC, in turn, helped him develop his passion for journalism, where he could tell stories about people that matter.

It all started when his dad purchased a Nikon camera while he was at Edgewood High School. This was his first camera and he found he had unique and sharp instincts and felt joy taking pictures with it.

He took many introductory photography courses in high school before he got his second camera, a Canon EOS 10D. He was thrilled and began to pursue photography beyond high school in 2017.

“I took lots of photography classes and other general education courses when I started to study in Mt. SAC,” Navarro said. “I love to take photos of the people, and from my photos which tell people’s stories.”

He likes to say he is the person behind the camera and it became a lifelong dream for him to take photos for National Geographic.

Mt. SAC had other plans for him.

While Navarro was not much of a dreamer, he decided to join the Dreamer Program at Mt. SAC as an ally for undocumented students and quickly became a part of the classroom community. His caring nature for other people and other communities impressed Professor Gary Enke, chair of the English, Literature and Journalism Department.

“Abraham is a sincere, kind person,” Enke said. “He has great compassion for other people and always looks out for ways to help others out, even when he is experiencing challenges himself.”

His kindness did not go unnoticed.

Navarro was brought to professor of journalism and student media adviser Toni Albertson’s office in 2018, where he was introduced by Enke. After recognizing his kindness, the pair wanted to help Navarro learn how to share the stories of others with writing to complement his photography skills.

“He had his dream, maybe becoming a photographer for National Geographic,” Albertson said. “He wasn’t thinking [of adding] writing into his photography. So, I really encouraged him to be a better writer.”

Navarro then started taking journalism classes and worked hard at writing feature stories, a departure from his focus on photography.

“I showed up in the newsroom because I wanted to learn how to be a journalist, but soon I found people who were friendly and so I stuck around,” Navarro said. “It was fun and different from school.”

Navarro then began his active participation in SAC.Media and Substance. He wrote stories, took photos, and got involved in various activities. Navarro grew rapidly and became a sophisticated student journalist before taking the position of feature editor.

“When I wrote the news and feature stories, I was more focused on the communities. I like feeling a connection to people, and they are the audience,” Navarro said. “Journalism gives me satisfaction that I’m telling stories. I see myself as a storyteller more than anything, and that’s what is important to me.”

Rising through the ranks quickly, he became the Editor-in-Chief of SAC.Media in June 2020 when former EIC Natalie Lu graduated from Mt. SAC and transferred to UC Berkeley.

Navarro’s kindness, friendliness and open mind won him admiration and significant support from his fellow journalists as he filled the role.

“Abraham worked around the clock. He didn’t have to, but he made himself available to us whenever and wherever. He truly just wanted our best, and he always gave his,” former SAC.Media community news editor Kristen Sanchez said. “His excitement and passion for being a journalist always reminded me why I am doing what I am doing, and I am so thankful for how welcome he made me feel and how high his standards were from his staff.”

Navarro was more than just a journalism student and EIC. He was also an excellent tutor for other classmates.

“I hired him as a tutor for a journalism program to help other new students,” Albertson said. ”Every time, I got very good feedback for his tutoring.”

Journalism major Breanna Picano remembered the times he tutored fondly. Picano was proud of the West Covina council meeting story Abraham helped her work on.

“He helped me shape my story, and he really taught me well on how to write in AP Style,” she said. “Every time, he was great, and he was so nice and open in teaching me.”

Even those who would otherwise not ask for help, were drawn to how positive he is. Former SAC.Media illustrator and student journalist Christy Lin found him very approachable.

“Abraham does something that I think stands out from the average individual,” Lin said. “Even when you do something wrong, Abraham doesn’t make it seem like you did. He never speaks in a degrading or condescending tone to show that he’s better. Instead, it’s like advising a friend or giving a bit of advice.”

Though Mt. SAC had prepared him for a future career in journalism, nothing could prepare him for the death of his grandma, who for him was a “big mom.”

Towards the end of his tenure as EIC, his grandmother Vincenta Garay fell ill. Worrying about his grandma’s critical condition, he decided to stay with her for the last two weeks of her life.

“My grandma was a very special lady. I miss her dearly, and with so little time left in both her life and the rest of the semester.” Navarro said. “She was strong and was always there for us, so we had to be there for her.”

A very powerful woman, Garay raised eight kids by herself before becoming a grandmother to Navarro, 20 other grandkids and 14 great-grandkids. His grandma would even help her children raise their children.

“I was one of the last two babies (with my cousin) whom she took care of, and she couldn’t do it anymore because she was too old,” Navarro said. “She’s been more than a grandma – a big mom.”

Taking after his grandma’s kindness and strength, Navarro kept her memory alive in helping others in the college and community alongside telling their stories.

Navarro, now 21, was born and raised in Baldwin Park before later moving to West Covina. He is a first generation college student in his hardworking family.

“My mom is a very nice woman, generally okay with everyone. My dad, too, as I’ve never seen him having problems with anyone. My parents are good parents, I am very lucky to have them, and they’ve taught me so much.”

Navarro’s kindness and openness have come from his entire family, which have influenced him into the person he is today.

“My father is a hard working man who takes the responsibility to support the family. He can do many kinds of repairs and fixing of home appliances,” he added. “When I was a baby, my mother worked at home, taking care of me. She cooked very tasty food, and when I was in primary school, she watched me doing homework and school assignments.”

His parents both had the opportunity to attend college, where his father took a few courses at Mt. SAC and his mother received a certificate in business management, but they both sacrificed college in order to raise their family.

“They really care about my education,” he added.

Navarro has finished his studies at Mt. SAC and now attends Humboldt State University as a journalism major.

“Humboldt State University is the perfect campus for me and my attraction to nature. I’ve always loved the natural world, and HSU is right up against the redwoods—some of the most beautiful and tallest trees in the world,” Navarro said. “There are forests and hiking trails, the sea is right there, and those places will be my classroom and my home for the two years I’ll be attending. I plan on getting into more wildlife photography or taking photos of hunters.”
Humboldt State will allow Navarro to further his career and his love of nature.

“What I want to do as a journalist is to document how humans are still connected to the natural world despite industrialization and the destruction of our natural world,” he added.

Navarro tells newer journalism students, just starting their careers, that their curiosity will be rewarded in journalism and that while it may be hard, it is a lot more fun.

“I would tell new students to always ask questions, even the dumb ones, because they aren’t dumb! Get curious and do lots and lots of reading for fun,” he added. “Read things you like, so you can get inspired to go out and tell your own stories.”

Always encouraging and striving for the best, Navarro is missed in the newsroom.

“Abraham was always the kind of guy who would never take criticism in a negative way, and he was open to it, always open to learning,” Albertson added. “That’s one of the things I really love about Abraham. He is always listening, always wants to be better, and always wants people to show him how to be better.”

His enthusiasm and positivity shine through his colleague’s remembrance of his tenure at SAC.Media.

“He’s patient, understanding and extremely supportive,” Lin added. “He is genuinely proud and happy for us when we achieve something great, and his ability to look at the little glimmer of hope when moments are tough is something that I admire.”