Making the News: International Student’s Story Serves to Inspire Others

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Aby MolinaAs a recipient of the Association for Women in Communications Tulsa’s Ruth E. Richards Rising Star scholarship, Rogers State University senior Aby Molina is the embodiment of academic and communications excellence.

On track to graduate from RSU in spring 2025, Molina hopes her education – helped in part from the AWC scholarship – and training are the foundation on which she will build her future career as a news reporter.

But as much as Molina is looking forward to telling other people’s stories, her own is one that’s worth telling – a story that began more than 2,000 miles away.

“My mom and I came to America from El Salvador in 2017,” Molina said. “We fled the country when I was 17 because we were threatened by gang members, so we came to the States to seek asylum. We had to leave quickly. All our belongings stayed in El Salvador. It was very difficult for us, and when we came here, it was in November. Our first weeks here were at a house in Tulsa and it was brutal for us because (the house) where we were didn’t have a heater, and it was so cold. We weren’t used to the weather.”

As difficult as coming to a new country was for Molina, her biggest challenge came in the language barrier.

“We had some relatives in Oklahoma, so that helped, but neither my mom nor I spoke any English when we first got here,” she said. “In the beginning, everything was confusing, and I was very frustrated, but I knew if I wanted to go to college, I would have to learn the language. So I made what I called a ‘switch’ – no more Spanish (language) movies, shows or books. All the media I consumed was in English, even if I didn’t understand most of it.”

Molina said audiobooks also helped her grasp her new country’s language.

“Audiobooks were so helpful,” she said. “I enjoy reading, so I listened to audiobooks for hours, and I learned new words every time. I also created content for social media and would mostly post content in English and practice speaking in front of a camera.”

While still learning English, Molina enrolled at McLain High School, from where she graduated in 2018. She also worked on her English by taking ESL classes at Tulsa Community College, where she learned how to write essays and improve her grammar in English.

“After high school, I went to TCC where I majored in mass communication and electronic (digital) broadcasting because I knew I wanted to be a news reporter. I knew that from the time I was 13 years old,” she said. “I worked night shifts at a factory – and still do – to pay for my classes. I did get a few scholarships my last year at TCC, but those didn’t cover my entire tuition.

“I later transferred to RSU because I’d heard very good things about the communications department and it’s close to Tulsa, where I still live, so commuting was something I could do,” she said.

In fall 2023, Molina interned at the CBS affiliate in Tulsa, KOTV News on 6.

“My internship (at News on 6) was a great experience for me,” she said. “I learned so much from the multimedia journalists there and it confirmed for me that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I shadowed the reporters and learned how to tell a story. It was interesting because each reporter has their own way of telling a story. While there, I also learned how to use the equipment, ask questions to people, do my own stand-ups and scripts, and after getting feedback, I would go into the editing room and edit my story.”

Molina’s internship also solidified her desire to pursue news reporting, as she saw the need for more stories to be told about and of interest to her own community.

“My time at News on 6 showed me that we need more bilingual multimedia journalists and stories that impact the Latinx community,” she said. “One example would be the new law HB 4156 (which requires noncitizens convicted of violating its provisions to leave the state). It’s being covered by local news, but we need the perspective from people being affected by the law. I would talk to undocumented people living in Tulsa or other parts of Oklahoma and ask how this is affecting them. I would love to talk to Spanish speakers and have subtitles for English speakers. This can improve a news story in so many ways.”

On track to graduate in the spring 2025 semester, Molina said Rogers State University has been instrumental in helping prepare her for a career in communication.

“I’m majoring in communications, broadcasting and new media,” she said, “and one of the things that helped me prepare for life after college was volunteering for RSU Radio last spring (2024). I had a news segment called ‘News You Can Use,’ where I covered stories about RSU and everything happening on the Hill.

“This (project) will continue in the fall (2024) semester. I also took a podcast production class with (RSU Radio General Manager) Professor Tip Crowley and this really helped me with my story telling,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from my professors here. They have given me opportunities to learn as much as I can.”

Molina has maintained a 4.0 GPA since starting college, while still working nights to support herself and pay for her classes – an investment that will ultimately allow her to follow her dreams.

“It was very difficult when I first came to America. It was hard to be away from my family and friends from El Salvador,” she said. “I felt lonely for so many years because it was hard to make friends. I didn’t speak English when I first came here, and when I went to community college, people just went to their classes and back home. Everyone was in their own world.

“But now, I have my friends, a boyfriend, and a community and university that supports me and believes in me,” she said. “I also got involved in the Association for Women in Communications, where I met some incredible women who share my passion for communication and journalism, and they awarded me a scholarship to help me follow that passion and pay for my education. I’m so thankful for these opportunities.”

AWC’s Ruth E. Richards Rising Star Communicator Scholarship is awarded to college students pursuing a degree in the communications field based on their positive contributions to communications on campus and/or the community, academic achievement and how the scholarship would support their education.

For more information about Rogers State University’s Department of Communications, visit