By Elizabeth Cook

By Jennifer Mistrot and Elizabeth Cook

RICHMOND (CBS SF) — As a DACA recipient, María Fernanda Bernal’s passion for social justice is personal. And the young reporter’s beat is her own backyard.

Richmond is a city that is as diverse as the stories Bernal has filed for the Richmond Pulse, a bilingual community-based news source delivering hyperlocal content online and in print. It’s the kind of journalism Bernal sees as activism.

“Richmond is a city that raised me. I grew up here,” she said. “Richmond has been overlooked and we are a news desert, but the Richmond Pulse is so special. Not only are the people that work here from Richmond and live in Richmond, but we also have so much love for the city that we live in.”

It’s a deep love and appreciation Bernal has expressed in her writing about a place she says she sees from all sides.

“It is sometimes a difficult city to live in,” explained Bernal of Richmond. “Because there are so many things to overcome in the city itself.”

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

Richmond has had its share of struggles including poverty, safety and environmental concerns. But it’s also a community rich in culture, economic assets and possibility. Bernal’s own story of rising above – intertwined with the city she loves – reads like this: She came to the United States just shy of her fourth birthday. Her parents were looking to escape the escalating violence of their hometown in Mexico. Everything they loved – family, friends and all things familiar – were left behind.

“We had to learn the economic, social, educational, political and corporate systems,” said Bernal of the family’s decision to leave Mexico. “I did have the pressure of learning all of these things for my family because it was much easier for me to communicate that with them because of the language barrier.”

Bernal learned English quickly and excelled in school. Eventually she graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Public Health. She’s now pursuing a Master’s in Journalism at UC Berkeley. Her reporting job came on the heels of a newly created fellowship offered at the news site, one of just two slots available according to Richmond Pulse founder and Executive Editor Malcolm Marshall.

“She has the number one quality that a good reporter should have, and that is curiosity,” said Marshall.

Bernal’s also driven. So far, she’s contributed around two dozen stories to the Pulse, covering everything from health to fashion, all with an eye towards Richmond, its voice and her words.

“I am a strong believer that silence is violence,” said Bernal. “And so I am screaming as loud as I can through my writing, all the beauty that exists in our community, all the people that live here that exist and that are seen and that should be heard.”

Elizabeth Cook