Alumni in Focus: John-Carlos Estrada, BA ‘09

A first-gen college student and scholarship recipient, John-Carlos Estrada, BA ‘09, credits GW with finding his passion for broadcast journalism.

May 23, 2023

John-Carlos Estrada headshot

Where did you grow up and how has your background influenced you today?

“I was born and raised in Garland, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. I'm a first generation Mexican-American. I was lucky to grow up around family. My family and I were proud when I got accepted to GW with a full tuition scholarship – the GW Presidential Scholarship. I was the first in my family to attend college and I was able to graduate with just a small amount of student debt. My career as a broadcast journalist was influenced by my family and representation on TV. I strive to provide a voice to the voiceless.”

What is your only-at-GW moment or experience?

“Internships. I learned what I wanted to do because I was able to experience it firsthand. 

“I attended GW because of my interest in politics. During my freshman year, I got an internship in New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar's offices. As a Capitol Hill intern, I gave tours to constituents, answered phone calls, and helped sort correspondence. It was powerful for a first-generation Mexican-American to walk the halls of Congress. 

“But my trajectory took a turn when I accepted an internship at the TODAY Show at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City for the summer. I got the TODAY internship because of a Class Council event called “How Do I Become A…" It was an event that would bring GW alumni to speak to students. After the talk, I approached the TODAY Show producer MaryAnn Zoellner and asked if she knew about internship opportunities. She was able to push my resume to the top of the list. The summer of 2008 in NYC changed my life and snowballed into what I do today: morning news anchor.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of personally or professionally? 

“I'm proud of my coverage during big moments like Hurricane Irma in southwest Florida and the winter storm power outage in Central Texas. In those moments, I see my real-time impact on my community. I've received journalism awards for that coverage, but it's meeting people in the community who thank us for guiding us through that tough time. That's when I know I've done a good job.” 

Was there a standout course, professor, or organization from your time as a student that inspired your career path?

“GW Cheer. As a football player from Texas, I never thought I'd join the cheer squad, but I did my junior and senior year. I loved every moment of the GW Spirit program. Coach Nicole Macchione-Early was a big part of that. She led our cheer team with discipline, support, and respect. In my senior year, I went to Hawaii and California on the travel team to support the basketball team. We also went to NCA Nationals in Daytona, Fl., where we ranked in the top ten teams. I'm still good friends with my cheer alumni.”  

How do you give back to the GW community?

“I'm part of the newly formed GW Austin Alumni Network. In our first year, we hosted three events, including a South by Southwest (SXSW) mixer at my house near downtown Austin. I'm so proud to be part of the committee and bring alumni from Central Texas together.” 

What is a piece of advice you would offer to students seeking to pursue broadcast journalism?

“Never be afraid to shake a hand or say hello. That's how I got my TODAY Show internship and some of the best stories in my news career. 

“I'm working on a story on the first anniversary of the Uvalde tragedy with an Austin connection. The Uvalde Library is working with two Austin-based organizations to archive the items that were received during last year's tragedy. The goal will be to build a memorial for the community. I got the story because I met with community leaders, and it came up in our conversations. It's a story that will be exclusive to our news station.”