Another Youngstown native has reached a significant milestone.
Lydia Esparra, a graduate of Ursuline High School and Ohio State University, is the first Latina news anchor at a Cleveland television station.
I received an email from Rick Clevenger, also a former Youngstown resident, notifying me about her promotion to news anchor at CBS affiliate WOIO Channel 19, which she received this past spring.
Clevenger is a freelance writer and director of communications for Church Street Ministries, a nonprofit outreach organization that assists Cuyahoga County residents in crisis situations.
I spoke with Lydia earlier this week. Back in the day, I played basketball with her older brothers, Porfirio Jr. “Pete” and Reynaldo.
Lydia is one of 10 children of Porfirio Sr. and Eufemia Esparra, who came to Youngstown from Puerto Rico.
She said her family is very close, and growing up, she spent time watching the national and local news with her father, who was a steel worker.
She said she knew when she was entering her teen years that she wanted to be a journalist.
“Growing up in Youngstown produced strong roots and values,” she said, adding she has incorporated those values of sincerity, respect and kindness in her professional career.
Lydia began her television career in the South, with stops in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and also in Columbus and Albany, Ga.
She would become bureau chief for WTVM in Columbus, Ga. She won a federal award for her work in the Georgia State Prisons. She was inducted into the Akron Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004.
She has been in the Cleveland broadcast news market for 15 years. She worked three years at WJW Fox 8 as a general-assignment reporter. She then moved to NBC affiliate WKYC Channel 3 in 2000 as weekend anchor.
In 2008, Lydia received an Emmy award for excellence in her weekend newscasts, which she said is the highlight of her career thus far.
She joined WOIO’s Channel 19 Action News in September 2010 as weekend anchor.
Lydia is also a freelance producer and has worked for “Entertainment Tonight” and NBC’s “Today Show.”
She certainly loves the Cleveland area, but she does carve out time to come back home.
“Youngstown is home. Everyone is so nice. You can enjoy every facet of life in Youngstown. And the food here, from people of all ethnic backgrounds, is awesome,” she said.
She is married to Greg Truhan, whose father for years worked in the line department at the Ohio Edison Co. facility on South Avenue. I also worked with Greg’s older brother, Jack, in OE’s former forestry department during my summer breaks while attending OSU.
In Rick’s email, he pointed out that Esparra does feel that being the first Latina news anchor in a major market comes with a fair amount of stress and scrutiny.
“I think so, even as a woman and a Hispanic, you’re constantly having to improve yourself,” she said. “I’ve always felt I had to work harder. ... You don’t want to fail.”
Lydia has not forgotten about her Puerto Rican heritage or Youngstown. Rick’s email said that this past summer in Cleveland, she hosted the first Torch Run for Church Street Ministries to help raise money and awareness for the nonprofit organization. Last year, she hosted the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana Inc. gala in Youngstown.
Lydia also is an author.
She has written a book called “Heaven is All Around You,” a children’s book that has an important message for young children and families dealing with the death of a parent.
Lydia’s sister, Minerva “Memby” Esparra, died of complications from colon cancer in 2007. She was 42.
The book was inspired by the experience of her discussion with her two young nieces after Memby’s death.
Lydia said she wanted to share her sister’s story to help other people.
“I wrote the book to let children know that people go to heaven [when they die]. I think people need this. If it changes one life, I am happy,” she said.
Lydia will host a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 to benefit the outreach programs and services of Church Street Ministries.
She will sign copies of her book at the Second Mile Shop’s 26th Annual Christmas Sale. The book signing will be at 398 W. Bagley Road, Suite No. 7, in Berea.
Lydia’s newscasts air Saturday nights at 10 p.m. on WUAB Channel 43, and at 11 p.m. on WOIO Channel 19. Sunday evenings, she anchors at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 19, at 10 p.m. on Channel 43, and at 11 p.m. on Channel 19.
Bien hecho (well done), Lydia, y Vaya con Dios.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at email@example.com