Alumni Highlight: Esmeralda

At the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, the Fulfillment Fund reconnected with alumna Esmeralda Montenegro Owen. This was her third time attending the conference – the first, was in 2004 when she was selected as one of five scholars to have this wonderful experience. “Attending Sun Valley was a transformative experience for me, one that encouraged me and inspired me to be a better journalist, and eventually, to become a published writer,” she shared. “Spending time with this year’s scholars, Cherna and Gary Gitnick, plus other key people at the Fund was such a blessing.”

She graduated from Huntington Park High in 1992 and has been a part of the Fulfillment Fund ever since. Esmeralda attended USC but her immigration status prevented her from completing her studies at that time; but persistence conquers all. During a three-year break from school, she became Miss El Salvador L.A. 1993 pushing her out of her comfort zone and into public service and public speaking. Once she was able to return to school, USC was waiting. She graduated as a broadcast journalist and took her first job as a news reporter with Univision 21 Fresno. Months later, she was with Telemundo 48 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I love telling the story, and I took my power of delivery very seriously,” she shared. “Responsible journalism is fading and my hope is that objectivity and heart come back to being part of classroom curriculum for future journalists.”

Esmeralda ended up in Monterey, CA with Univision 67 as news anchor and producer. For her investigative work in education and in immigration issues, she received various regional and statewide awards, including a nomination to an Emmy. Still, she wanted to create a larger impact. She returned to school in 2009 to earn her masters in public administration at Notre Dame de Namur University. With this new degree, “my doors of opportunity opened so much wider.”

She utilized her experience as a journalist to become a great communicator, public speaker, presenter, marketer, and more. Esmeralda has taught at Gavilan College in Gilroy, was curator of marketing and community engagement at the National Steinbeck Center, was director of communications, marketing, and public relations at Hartnell College, and is currently the executive director for Youth Orchestra Salinas. She is also a published author! Esmeralda released her first book Beautiful: 7 Steps to the Best Version of You early this year. This self-help book inspires readers to be and do your best.

Esmeralda was just accepted into a doctorate program at USC in Organizational Change and Leadership. She is scheduled to start this new venture in January 2020. “The Fulfillment Fund gave me so much and I will forever be in debt. My goal is to make a difference in all the lives I come across and to show them that even through adversity, we can achieve anything we set out minds to do,” she said. You can learn more about Esmeralda and her work at

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