LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas High School alumnus and international broadcast journalist Teri Schultz recently visited the school.
She gave a presentation about her life in journalism and how she got there to students from the Gear Up and AVID, college readiness programs.
Schultz has reported on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan. Her presentation included pictures from Kabul, her head covered with a scarf while interviewing local people and children who had lost their parents in the war.
One girl she met in an Afghanistan orphanage taught herself English and was determined to go to school. She told Schultz that as a girl she “will have no opportunities here,” so she was going to “dress like a boy and run away because otherwise I have no choices.”
“So think about that when you think your life is hard,” Schultz said. “Even if you don’t like school, it’s an opportunity for you to find a way to move yourself up in life. There are people sacrificing everything to do that.”
Living in Brussels since 2006, which is the headquarters of NATO, Schultz currently covers NATO and the European Union for National Public Radio and German public broadcasting Deutsche Welle. She has also been a journalism fellow in Russia and Pakistan.
She said being an informed citizen about what is going on in the United States and around the world is important, even in high school.
“News is more important than ever,” Schultz said. “If we all understood how difficult life is for everyone for different reasons, I think we’d all be a lot more sympathetic, a lot more empathetic.”
Her motto is to “seek truth” by listening to other people’s stories.
“I really urge you to seek truth and listen to others — the only way that we know truth is to hear other peoples’ stories and come to our own conclusion,” she said.
Tomasita Oshiro Murphy, the high school’s Gear Up teacher, went to school with Schultz back in the day. Oshiro Murphy helped coordinate Schultz’s visit.
“It’s the first time Los Lunas High School has ever asked me to come for graduation or anything, so this is really a big honor,” Schultz said.
Growing up in Bosque Farms and attending Los Lunas Schools, Schultz was also a 4-H rodeo queen.
Seventh grade was particularly potent for the shy, flaxen-haired horse rider when her teacher, Tess Greenup, made her the editor of the school’s then newspaper, Tiger’s Tale.
“I became a journalist at that moment and I’ve never stopped,” Schultz said. “That’s where I got my start was Los Lunas Middle School.”
During college, Schultz worked to pay her tuition by interning at the Valencia County News-Bulletin’s sister paper in Socorro, El Defensor Chieftain, and as a television correspondent at KOBF in Farmington.
“I mean, New Mexico has given me everything,” she said.
When New Mexico State University gave Schultz an award, they flew her middle school teacher in for the ceremony.
“She gave me my life,” Schultz said, and attributed her early intern opportunities to Greenup’s guidance.
The Albuquerque Journal had summer journalism programs for high school students and Schultz said she attended twice, once in her junior year and again in her senior year.
The News-Bulletin gave Schultz a scholarship to attend the summer program in exchange for some news writing.
“In my senior year, I was writing, I mean very occasionally, like I won the Valencia County 4-H Queen and I had to write an article about myself winning,” Schultz said laughing. “The News-Bulletin got me started, so New Mexico State recruited me as a high school senior to the journalism program.”
After graduating NMSU in 1988, Schultz took a two-month backpacking vacation in Europe. When she came home, she couldn’t find a job, so to pay the bills she took a job as a waitress at an Albuquerque steak house.
“It was terrible; I thought ‘I will never get to be a journalist,’” she said.
She sent cover letters all over Europe and eventually received a job offer in Helsinki, Finland. She was 22 years old.
“I’d never been there. I didn’t know anything and I said ‘I’ll go,’” Schultz said. “I didn’t know enough to be scared so I went. And I would say that’s my message for life, that I don’t ever think I can’t do something.”
While there, she also freelanced for CNN International and got her master’s degree in international relations free of charge from the University of Helsinki because she had learned the Finnish language, which was no easy feat.
“It was a crazy language but it was easier to do that than to pay for a master’s degree, so I did that,” Schultz said. “My point here is whatever way you find to (move forward), you do it.”
Schultz is multilingual and strongly urges students to learn more than one language. She said it will open up more opportunities for employment.
Back in the U.S. in 1997, Schultz worked for ABC, CNN and Reuters Television, as well as the state department for FOX News Channel in Washington, D.C..
Students asked what it was like to be in Europe during the fall of the Berlin Wall and why she risked her life to cover the war in Afghanistan.
“I feel I can’t sit there and talk about how the war is going unless I risk my butt out there to see how the war is going,” she said. “There are kids from my country going and losing their lives over there and you know what? It is not fair for me to sit around and say the war is going well, the war is going forward and sit in my comfortable place in Brussels.”
It is the people Schutlz has met in the war zones that keep her going back, she said.
“These people risk their lives to tell me their story,” Schultz said. “They have nothing, they have no job — I respect them for risking their lives to tell me.”