Tiana Chavez and Lisa-Charisse Blanco

Arizona State University seniors Tiana Chavez (left) and Lisa-Charisse Blanco will be taking their cameras and notepads to London this summer as the two will take part in covering the 2012 Olympic Summer games for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism . May 3, 2012. Darryl Webb/AFN

Two Ahwatukee Foothills girls who grew up with a passion for sports are getting the chance of a lifetime to cover the 2012 Olympics in London for Arizona State University.

ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications arranged for 19 ASU students to study abroad this summer and work covering the 2012 Olympics. The students, who specialize in photography, print and broadcast journalism, will be charged with finding Arizona athletes and recording their stories for the Cronkite News Service and other local media outlets who are not able to send a reporter of their own, including the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

Interested students had to submit a resume, samples of their work and a cover letter before going through an interview and reference checks. Two of the 19 students chosen grew up in Ahwatukee.

“I was shocked when I got the email that I was selected,” said Tiana Chavez, who works part time at Nello’s and has been studying broadcast journalism at ASU. “I told my coworkers and we were jumping around in the bathroom at Nello’s. One of my coworkers just started crying. It was so exciting.”

Lisa Blanco, the second Ahwatukee Foothills resident chosen for the trip, said when she tells most people her plans for the summer they don’t believe her.

“I just graduated and people keep asking what’s next and they don’t believe ‘Oh, I’m going to the Olympics,’” she said. “It just doesn’t feel real yet. I never thought I’d do something like this.”

Both girls say they grew up with a passion for watching and playing sports and it’s something they want to do for a living. Blanco was recently offered a position at Fox Sports Arizona, which is allowing her to take time off this summer. Chavez is a senior, but she has postponed graduation one semester to give herself time to take advantage of the different internship opportunities and classes the Cronkite school offers.

“Sports is different from news,” Chavez said. “You have an event to show up to and players to interview. You don’t have to go looking for the story. I grew up playing sports, doing track, badminton and softball... When I was younger and played softball I always dreamed about going to the Olympics to play softball. Somehow I always knew I’d get there, I just didn’t know how.”

The program is being offered as a study abroad program so while the girls will get school credit for their work, the program costs more than $3,000 and doesn’t cover plane tickets or food. The girls say while they’ve been working hard and saving their money, they do plan to do some extra travel before the program begins, and planning in the extra tuition cost has been difficult. The deadline to apply for travel abroad scholarships through ASU was in January, but they didn’t find out they were accepted into the program until February. Still, both have found an amazing amount of support from those who have heard about their trip and they know the experience will be worth the cost.

“It’s great that Cronkite can offer something like this where students can get this kind of opportunity,” Blanco said. “I’ve talked to so many different professionals and they can’t even believe it. They don’t even get these opportunities. We’re kind of living in this amazing fantasy world with Cronkite. It’s just great that they offer stuff like this to give us real-life experience. We’re going to be tested there. We’re going to have those days where we’re running around in circles in a place we don’t know so it’s definitely going to test us and make us stronger as journalists, and as people in general.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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