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We are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of one of our NLGJA members, Armando Montano. Armando was a 22-year-old news intern for the Associated Press. It’s reported by AP that he was found dead early Saturday, June 30 in Mexico City.

Our thoughts go out to his family. He was a talented individual with a passion for journalism. Armando was to attend this year’s UNITY Student Project, and a member of both NLGJA and NAHJ. Our community has lost a great, young talent.

The following was written by UNITY Student Project NAHJ Lead, David Plazas.

tilde to Montaño

When I woke up Sunday morning I did my usual routine of getting my phone off the nightstand and checking for emails, tweets and Facebook updates.

A friend had posted “RIP Mando Montaño,” and I became alarmed, got out of bed and checked out Mando’s Facebook page.
Friends had filled the page with heartfelt remembrances that go on and on. There are videos posted of him dancing and talking about his passions. Among those passions, I discovered, were cheeseburgers, travel and George Michael.

His friends loved him, and those who worked with him admired his talent, potential and enthusiasm for life and journalism.
Count me among the latter group.

I regret that I did not know Mando very well personally. He and I met briefly at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Denver in 2010, and I took a picture of him and three other students during the night of the gala for my album.

We became friends on Facebook and I followed his personal adventures, including his 2010 fall semester study abroad in Argentina. I read the articles he wrote as a New York Times intern covering the 2012 Iowa presidential caucus and his stories on food and culture in diverse web publications.

Last September he posted a nice birthday message on my wall, and I responded: “Mando: I appreciate it. Great to hear from you. I’m so proud of you. Continue your success and continue keeping in touch please. It’s great to hear about your progress.”

So I was delighted to see his name when I was going through the nearly 100 NAHJ applications for the 2012 UNITY convention student projects.

He was part of Grinnell College’s Class of 2012 and planned to spend the next year studying for his master’s at the University of Barcelona. His experiences, scholarships and work samples were impressive.

As the NAHJ lead on the project, it was my responsibility to go through every application and coordinate the process of selecting our students.

Mando was among the eight chosen, for their talent, skills and potential.

When I called him to tell him the news, he was so excited – I could virtually hear his smile throughout the entire conversation.

On March 13, he posted this on my wall: “Thanks again David! Your phone call made my day!”

Over the next three months I worked with Mando and his fellow students on travel logistics and story ideas in preparation for the UNITY conference in Las Vegas, keeping in touch via phone calls, email and our Facebook page.

He and I spoke about his upcoming Associated Press internship in Mexico City. I shared with him that I had interned in Mexico City for the now-defunct in the fall of 1999, and I told him about my experiences there. He was living in the subdivision where I worked, called Condesa.

Mando was always among the first to respond to my student project communiqués. His last email to me was on June 19, about undocumented immigrant street peddlers in Las Vegas. I wrote him back, saying, “Great idea.” We didn’t communicate after that.
So, when I learned about his death at age 22, I was in shock. According to the AP, his body was found in an elevator shaft near his residence on Saturday. Police are still investigating.

I’m still in shock.

My connection to Mando was one of teacher-to-student, mentor-to-mentee. He had such a future ahead of him, and I was so looking forward to working with him. I felt inspired by his enthusiasm and his positive attitude.

I cannot imagine the grief of his parents, his family and his closest friends.

I too am feeling very sad, and I find it hard not to stop thinking about losing him. I will miss him.

David Plazas
NLGJA & NAHJ member