Know99 empowers kids
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 13, 2004 12:00 AM
Well-rounded communicator is in the know
Marcos Najera's powerful one-man show Jabón
(Soap) highlights the oral histories of family and friends punished for speaking
Spanish in Arizona schools.
So it's no surprise that his work as know99 Television's creative director helps
empower students, many of them bilingual Latinos struggling to hold onto their
culture, to remain in school.
Najera's day job melds the 31-year-old's three loves: education, journalism and
acting, with a dash of activism thrown into the mix.
"How many people get to combine their passions while helping kids realize that
they have a voice and a say in their future . . . that they can be their
greatest advocates?" the Phoenix native said. "I'm very lucky."
Those who know the Stanford University graduate say luck has little to do with
it because his five-year stint as a TV news reporter and producer and former
career as a public-school teacher make him more than qualified for the job.
Phoenix hired Najera in 2002.
"Know99 really lucked out because where are you going to find someone who was a
teacher, a journalist and an artist to work on such a venture?" said Deborah
Sedillo Dugan, acting executive producer for Phoenix 11, where know99 is
headquartered. "That's a tall order."
Najera, who's single and has no children of his own, has the jovial disposition
and boundless energy required to work with kids, said Gerardo Higginson, senior
assistant to the mayor.
"He's a professional, but he has a lot of patience and can really relate to the
kids, which inspires them to do good work," he said. "He's also a good role
model because he follows through on his ideas to make them a reality."
A typical day finds Najera reviewing resources and submissions for the 24-hour
education station that airs on cable Channel 11. He then works with students who
research, script and film much of the original programming, including AIMS test
preparation tips and advanced math lessons. Najera then helps edit the segments,
before meeting with graphic designers to discuss branding strategies.
Najera, who caught the acting bug as a child playing a chicken in an opera at
Phoenix Symphony Hall, credits Stanford University professor Anna Smith Devere
with inspiring his stage work. That includes his first one-man show, Hip-Hop
Gent (Hip-Hop People).
"To watch this person of color who was a teacher, an artist and a journalist of
sorts because she did political docudramas, really inspired me," Najera said.
"It showed me that you don't have to give up one interest to pursue the other."