Horatio Alger Success Stories
A Personal Biography of Isaac D. Pacheco
“Good evening. This is World News Tonight. I’m Peter Jennings.” I listened intently as the hallmark introduction for ABC’s nightly newscast crackled from a small set of hi-fi speakers in my family’s living room on a lazy summer evening in 1987. The words were usually delivered in a deep baritone by Jennings, a tall, handsome, dark-haired Canadian who garnered international acclaim by bringing the news to the American public as one of television’s “Big Three” newsmen throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, the words on this particular day did not belong to Jennings, they belonged to me.
After countless nights of religiously gathering around a wood-paneled, cabinet television with my parents and siblings, I had memorized Jenning’s precise, rolling pronunciations and was curious to see if I could replicate the newsman’s swagger. I recorded my own version of World News Tonight on the family cassette deck, replete with music and newsroom sound effects courtesy of a Casio keyboard and my dad’s trusty IBM Selectric II. My voice beamed with youthful earnestness as I spun intricate accounts of fictional world events and mimicked the famed journalist’s trademark phrases.
My parents and siblings lavished me with glowing reviews of my performance, likely out of fear that I would make them listen to additional recordings if they gave me poor feedback. Much to their chagrin, this incident sparked my curiosity into a flame of ambition, and I doubled my efforts to make my recordings as realistic as possible.
From those humble beginnings, the course of my career—and perhaps my life—began to take shape. My childhood ambition has grown into a larger dream to see the world and share with others the stories of people I encountered along the way. This evolution has led me to pursue a career in journalism, and my current studies at George Mason University put me one step further toward realizing that dream.
The road to completing my degree has been a circuitous one, weaving around many unexpected obstacles. After high school, I attended Northern Kentucky University for one year before the tragic events of 9/11 steered me toward service in the Armed Forces. The unparalleled terrorist attacks on our nation spurred me to action, and I soon found myself in a military recruiting office weighing my options. I asked for a military occupational specialty (read: job, not soldier) where I would be able to continue pursuing my passion for journalism. The military was happy to oblige, and two months later, I was on my way to boot camp as a “public affairs” Marine.
After completing four years of service as a combat correspondent in the United States Marine Corps and receiving the Joint Service Achievement Medal for outstanding service in a combat zone, I returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio to continue my education. After I returned from Iraq my Gunnery Sergeant told me about the Horatio Alger Association Military Scholarship program. I applied online and was honored to be selected. As I was just starting to settle back into the doldrums of Midwest life, the editor of Leatherneck Magazine called me from his office in Quantico, Virginia. He had kept up with the stories I filed for the Marines, and he wanted to offer me a staff writer position at the publication. I jumped at the opportunity and immediately relocated to the Washington, DC region where I was soon cranking out stories for the Marine Corps’ official magazine and attending George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia on my Horatio Alger scholarship. From there I worked my way up the proverbial ladder and eventually earned a promotion to associate editor of Leatherneck.
Last year, the directors of America’s third largest veterans service organization, AMVETS, hired me to serve as editor for their national publications. I now manage production for all AMVETS’ printing operations and Web site development projects. My largest responsibility is editing the organization’s flagship publication, American Veteran magazine.
I hope to use my undergraduate degree in communications to prepare for graduate studies in International Communications at Georgetown University next fall. After completing my Master’s Degree, I would like to continue working in news media, but in an international capacity. I hope to work for a foreign branch of the Associated Press or some other news organization in need of a well-traveled, former Marine with years of journalism experience and a Master’s degree under his belt. Much like my childhood hero Peter Jennings did, I might return stateside and work as a television news anchor after serving several years as an overseas correspondent.
For me, the future remains an open book. By finishing my communications degree, I will complete one chapter in that book and begin another. I’m finally able to write my own story, and hopefully, I will continue telling the stories of others for years to come. The Horatio Alger Association Military Scholarship program has provided me with the key to unlock my potential. Through the generosity of the Association’s members I have been given an opportunity to reach my educational goals. I don’t think financial issues should ever hold anyone back from achieving their dreams. I’m glad to see that there is an organization out there striving to make those dreams a reality.