I was terrified when I walked onto campus my first semester at the University of North Florida.
I transferred after getting my A.A. from Florida State College at Jax and switched from education to a broadcast journalism major when I found out real quick I didn't have the patience to become a high school English teacher. The campus was massive, finding parking made me sweat with anxiety and I wasn't even sure I wanted to be in journalism.
My communications writing instructor was Tracy Collins. Every Friday morning, she taught us how to write news articles and press releases. (Tracy, if you're reading this, stop counting the mistakes!) I loved learning from her. She was so fun. I found out her job outside of class was telling everyone about all the cool things to do and eat around Jax. Basically, my dream job at the time.
Our last assignment of the semester was to write an article about ourselves like it was ten years later. I thought she had lost her damn mind. I barely knew what I was gonna have for dinner and she wanted to know my ten year plan?! It forced me to think (because the class was only an hour long) about what I really wanted to do after graduation.
I recently found that assignment when I was Marie Kondo-ing my office:
A University of North Florida alumnus can now add morning radio show host to her resumé.
Catalina Verástegui, 33, can finally cross off this item on her to-do list of career goals. After spending eight years working at Jacksonville radio station RadioNOW 97.9, Verástegui was offered the opportunity to host a morning show that will replace the current syndicated morning show. It's set to debut in August 2022.
"I'm ecstatic beyond belief," said Verástegui. "This is a major step in my life and I'm ready. It's what I've been working towards for the past decade."
Verástegui received bachelor and master degrees from UNF in communications, specifically studying electronic media. She interned at the radio station during her senior year and was offered a part-time on-air position after graduating. Since then, she has worked various time-slots before settling into the afternoon show for the past two years.
UNF professor Joey Goodsell remembers having confidence in Verástegui during her time as a student. He acted as her mentor and helped hone her skills in radio.
"She's got the personality and talent for the job," Goodsell said. "I knew she'd eventually get here."
This has been an exciting year for Verástegui. The news of her promotion comes only six months after her marriage to Mexican-born actor, Eduardo Verástegui. The couple met in 2019 during an interview on her afternoon show while he was promoting a movie. Catalina jokes that this upgrade in her career must be a "very elaborate wedding present" from her husband.
I didn't know a single person in radio when I wrote the assignment. It would be two years before I started my internship at the station (btw RadioNOW was the old station name). I still don't know which part of my imagination this career came from but it manifested like crazy.
Essentially, this faux article became real. I did intern and I did climb my way up at 97.9 KISS FM to become the first female afternoon host. That's an accomplishment that is never lost on me.
And if you're wondering who the hell Eduardo Verástegui is... he's an actor and I thought he was hot. I wish it was deeper than that but 23-year-old me just really liked his face.
Photo by: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Sony Pictures
I didn't end up meeting and marrying a famous actor but I did recently get engaged to my best friend, Andrew.
Photo by Toni Smailagic/Cre8Jax
The universe is weird. I somehow wrote my radio career into existence from a little writing lab at UNF. So, brb. Gonna go write about my mom winning a million dollars.