YES Prep Public Schools

My name is Andy Yanez and I graduated from YES Prep Southeast Secondary in 2018. I currently attend the University of Houston, where I major in Journalism and Business Administration. 

The experience I have gained from studying journalism has offered me countless memories and unique opportunities. Like most post-secondary students, my college life drastically changed when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early March 2020. I will get to that in a bit. 

In August 2019, I started working for The Daily Cougar, the official student newspaper for the University of Houston (UH). I joined after my first encounter with the editor in chief, with who I happened to share a class.  

I went up to him and told him I was interested. Soon I started writing recaps of soccer and volleyball games, nothing too big, but enough to start. In November 2019 I was assigned to cover the UH men’s basketball team, which is where my story really begins. 

Humble beginnings 

The first time I had to attend media availability was after one of the practices at the Fertitta Center. I asked for Kelvin Sampson, the head coach of the men’s team. I was the only person present to ask questions, and I knew Sampson primarily from his time as an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets before he was hired at UH.

I remember that day. I was nervous because of who he was and because I was the only one there. Eventually, I got to interview him and looking back at it, I’ll never forget that moment with him. I wished him good luck on their season which was about to start, and he wished me luck in my career. That instantly made my day. Sampson’s words have encouraged me since then.

Throughout the year I covered the entire basketball season. I went to every home game and after the games would end, I would go to the press room—where news conferences were held—to interview coaches and players. While covering the men’s team, I was given the opportunity to travel to Memphis in February 2020. I was the only Houston area reporter to cover UH for that game. That day, I got to interview two players and even write a story for the Houston Chronicle as a result of being at the right place at the right time.

A month later, COVID-19 happened, and everything was canceled. So that is how my first year covering the team ended. My trip to Fort Worth to cover the conference tournament, covering a Sweet 16 run or even a Final Four shot...all changed in a matter of hours.

Covering basketball life and the Final Four

In May, I became the lead sports editor for The Daily Cougar. I was responsible for finding valuable stories even when there was nothing going on in the world of sports. However, last summer I still covered multiple events like when the men’s basketball team went to George Floyd’s funeral and a couple of months later when the UH athletics department held a demonstration. In the fall, I got to cover football in the press box.

(Side note: the best part of covering college teams —especially before COVID —was the food you get.)

The biggest change in covering the team this year was all the media availabilities. When I spoke to coaches and players it was through Zoom. Still, I got to go to every home game. Once March came around, if the team got to the Sweet 16, I would get to cover them.

As a reporter, you are supposed to be unbiased. But UH’s second-round NCAA Tournament game versus Rutgers challenged my fandom. UH pulled off the victory and there I was, on my way to Indianapolis.

I flew out and got to cover them for three games. Their Sweet 16 game against Syracuse, their Elite Eight game against Oregon State and their Final Four game against Baylor. The experience was awesome. I was able to visit two different venues, Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University and Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indianapolis Colts play.

The coolest moment was when I got to meet Jim Nantz, who is a broadcasting legend...He told me he had read some of my work, which just left me in awe.

During the games at Lucas Oil Stadium, I was on the actual floor of the venue, sitting in a media section right behind the court. The

coolest moment was when I got to meet Jim Nantz, who is a broadcasting legend. He covers NFL games for CBS and is a UH alum himself. The Friday before the Final Four, I somehow ran into him and I got the chance to introduce myself. He told me he had read some of my work, which just left me in awe. I was stunned. The entire trip was such a unique experience as I got to spend nine days in Indianapolis.

Overall, my journalism journey has been extraordinary. I am set to graduate this May and I am interested to see where my life goes and the opportunities that will arise. As I reflect on covering UH sports for The Daily Cougar, I realize it has given me so many opportunities. It has allowed me to meet professionals and reporters that work for the Houston Chronicle, The Athletic, ESPN and CBS. I have written countless stories on UH players, my favorites being Fabian White who I did a feature on for his rehab through an ACL injury, and when I interviewed Nate Hinton last November shortly after he signed with the Dallas Mavericks.

Reflecting on YES Prep

I want to be able to serve as an example that there is no limit to what you can do, regardless of where you come from.

YES Prep was an interesting time for me. Spending seven years at Southeast has taught me plenty of valuable lessons. It is a place I will never forget because it put me in a position to be able to graduate from college early. Throughout my years at Southeast, alumni always stopped by. It makes me reflect on that encounter with Jim Nantz. He was so humble and welcoming. Knowing he was also a UH alumni who also wrote for The Daily Cougar during his time there, I want to be able to do that for YES Prep students and serve as an example that there is no limit to what you can do, regardless of where you come from. I was once in their shoes, and I can do something as cool as covering a Final Four.

My best advice for students is to control what you can control, find out what you like, figure out what you need to do to get there and then work hard to get it. A lot of times you can be your own biggest obstacle.


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