Bathed in the dusky haze of the afternoon sun, the smell of freshly mowed grass hovering as an undeniable harbinger of spring, the University of La Verne baseball and softball teams on April 8 don...
An aspiring television reporter, senior broadcast journalism major Amanda Gomez has demonstrated that she isn’t just another pretty face.
In her years as a high school rodeo queen, Amanda Gomez learned there was more to it than just having a pretty face. It’s a lesson that now serves her well as an aspiring television reporter.
Gomez, 22, a senior Broadcast Journalism major at the University of La Verne, was only 8 when she won her first rodeo queen competition — one in which she was judged on her equestrian talent, horsemanship knowledge and other skills. She has the same big, brown eyes and pleasant smile, and soon she will be judged on her reporting, writing and technical skills as well in the highly competitive TV news field.
“She knows how to manage a lot,” said Mike Laponis, Professor of Communications at La Verne and Gomez’s academic advisor. “She knows how to take care of business. She’s very personable, knowledgeable, hardworking. I think she’s definitely got what it takes to do quite well.”
As with the rodeo competitions of the past, Gomez has already distinguished herself among her peers. She has anchored and produced several shows at La Verne, and was honored with the Esther Davis scholarship recognizing outstanding students in the La Verne Communications Department. She’s also been selected for prestigious internships at ABC World News and Good Morning America.
Gomez conducts her interviews with the polish of an experienced professional rather than that of a student. Some have been captured on demo tapes she has been sending out in hopes of getting a reporting job after she graduates.
“I just really enjoy talking to people and finding out their stories,” she said. “Something about being in that atmosphere and in front of the camera, I just get an adrenalin rush out of it.”
Gomez’s work has inspired some high expectations among Communications Department faculty, some of whom say she could ultimately be one of the best the school has produced.
“I can see Amanda as a reporter/anchor in a large market,” said Shane Rodrigues, broadcast operations manager for Radio-TV. “She has the good work ethic and desire, and her work is of high caliber.”
Despite her academic workload, Gomez has held several officer positions in her sorority, and has stayed involved in a nonprofit group called the Cowgirls Historical Foundation, based in her home state of Arizona. It’s likely that much of that work ethic developed in pursuit of her many rodeo queen titles.
“I’ve always had a passion for horses and love for horses,” she said. “I love the rodeo world just because the people in the sport of rodeo are so friendly. The rodeo queen competition has really helped me in who I am as a person, in developing relationships.”
Gomez was the Arizona High School Rodeo Queen in 2006 and won the coveted Horsemanship Award at the National High School Rodeo Queen competition, where she competed with more than 40 other state high school rodeo queens.
For the last several years, Gomez has been involved in the Tempe-based Cowgirls Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to increasing public awareness, appreciation and preservation of America’s Western heritage and equestrian lifestyle. The group, which has been showcased in the Rose Parade several times, also is devoted to community service.
Though skilled and confident in the saddle now, Gomez says it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. Horses can be intimidating to a young girl, and it’s something she’s had to work through.
“You can’t really be afraid when you are jumping on this animal,” she said. “My biggest thing is just getting over that fear. I can’t be afraid of mistakes or be afraid of failing.”
One more lesson that will serve her well.
As with the rodeo queen game, the competition is fierce in TV news. Sometimes even the brightest and most talented can get thrown for a loop. When that happens, Gomez may remember a rodeo cheer she’s heard for years.
“Cowgirl up, get back on that horse.”