hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 3, 2013

From Haverhill to national TV

Local college student on staff of Ellen DeGeneres show

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Image matters, and is a way of life in the broadcast business.

That’s what 21-year-old Shakala Alvaranga of Haverhill sees, hears and lives every day during her internship with “Ellen’’ — the Ellen DeGeneres TV show in California.

“It’s interesting to think that over 100 people create this show, but it also takes a lot to keep her image as this certain person,’’ Alvaranga said of DeGeneres. “And she is that person — she loves helping people and making people laugh.’’

A woman who built her career on honest responses to some pretty rocky issues, DeGeneres remains true to the image projected by herself and the staff that creates the DeGeneres brand. And that is the part of the internship on which Alvaranga’s work focuses. She works in the show’s web department, where branding, or the marketing and creation of an image, happens.

An Emerson College senior due to graduate in May, Alvaranga set her sights on a broadcast journalism career while at Haverhill High School.

But like many students, she entered Haverhill High uncertain of what career she wanted to pursue.

“My family has been supportive,’’ she said. “My parents work and have provided a wonderful home. My two older brothers found careers they wanted and have done well at. I knew that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but not sure what I’d do.’’

She responded to an ad for the modeling and talent agency John Robert Powers, and that led to some pageants.

“Working those pageants gave me confidence, and I saw how the system worked,” she said.

Parents Leopold and Blondie Alvaranga raised their children in Haverhill’s Acre neighborhood. From there, the Alvaranga children stepped off into their careers. Shakala’s two older brothers became a social worker and an accountant.

Each child made good on the opportunities the school system provided them. Shakala heard about the journalism classes at Haverhill High and enrolled in one. She followed that with a class in broadcast production.

“I already knew by that point that I would work towards a career in broadcast journalism,” she said.

The production course was her way of confirming what she already knew about herself.

And later, broadcasting was why she selected Emerson College. Alvaranga heard about Emerson College’s WEBN-TV, a Boston organization that provided training in live broadcasting.

“One of the main reasons why I decided to attend Emerson College was because of this organization,’’ she said. “I knew the amazing opportunities WEBN offered.’’

The WEBN-TV organization sends Emerson journalists to events, and Alvaranga did two of them — she reported on President Obama’s inauguration and the Academy Awards.

“Under the entertainment department, I was able to go the Oscars and Emmys,’’ she said. “We have an adviser, Marsha Dellaguistina, who guides us through the process and helps us with anything we need. As a reporter, I was able to set up on-camera interviews with Oscar nominees. Usually, there are seven people that attend the event: Two reporters, one host, two camera persons, one executive producer and one associate producer. We write web stories for our website and broadcast through Winthrop cable. We do our own editing and reporting.’’

“The inauguration is pretty much the same, just different environments,’’ she said. “Both events were extremely hectic. You have to learn how to act under pressure.

“It was an amazing experience to see an African American president elected again at the inauguration,’’ she said. “Our generation has changed the world. To be apart of that and see it with your own eyes, it gave me goose bumps. I was working constantly, but when I saw the president making his speech, I took a deep breathe and let it all sink in.’’

Last summer, she interned at NECN as a reporter, and worked on news stories. This year’s internship with the Ellen DeGeneres show has given her a strong awareness of how and what broadcast does and what kind of culture that industry has.

Alvaranga’s experience in the branding of a TV personality — monitoring DeGeneres’ popularity online and measuring viewing audiences’ reactions — has introduced her to the business side of the industry.

How Shakala Alvaranga got there

Took classes in journalism and broadcast production at Haverhill High

Worked on beauty pageants for a modeling and talent agency

While at Emerson College, worked on live broadcasting, covering President Obama’s inauguration and the Academy Awards

Landed her current internship at Ellen DeGeneres TV show