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Connecting with Latino Youth

Connecting with Latino YouthAs a senior executive vice president at Telemundo, Tufts graduate Antoinette Zel is committed to providing young Latinos with positive role models on the small screen and in real life.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.08.07] Antoinette Zel doesn’t take for granted the many great opportunities in her life. “I feel like I am one of the lucky ones who was able to grab the brass ring,”Zel, who was born in New York City shortly after her parents fled Cuba, recently told Broadcasting and Cable magazine. Through her work as senior executive vice president of network strategy for Telemundo, one of the major providers of Spanish-language TV programming in the United States, she hopes to open doors for other young Latinos.

“I was given tremendous opportunities in my academic career and in my professional life,”Zel, 42, told the magazine. “You have to give back.”

Zel, who earned a degree in English from Tufts University in 1986 before attending law school, joined the NBC Universal-owned network in 2004 after resigning as president of MTV Latin America. She was quickly charged with revamping mun2, a bilingual Telemundo cable network that targets Latino youth. In an interview conducted shortly after Zel joined Telemundo, she told Broadcasting and Cable that she left MTV with the belief that she “could really impact social change for a Hispanic audience.”

According to the magazine, mun2’s audience is small—it has about 11 million subscribers—but growing under Zel’s leadership. Its programming, which now includes award-winning documentaries such as For My Country? Latinos in the Military, has also evolved “to better reflect the issues concerning young Latinos,”Broadcasting and Cable reported.

While mun2 represents Telemundo’s commitment to Latino youth, its hiring practices also reflect the network’s desire to impact this segment of its viewers.

“We have well over 100 employees, many of them young Latinos who are getting opportunities in this business and who speak back to the audience. It’s been one of our big success stories, and Antoinette has led that,”Telemundo President Don Browne told Broadcasting and Cable.

As part of her job, Zel also drives Telemundo’s marketing and promotion efforts and oversees its new media business, including a recent partnership with Yahoo! When she’s not at work, the mother of three sits on the board of directors of the Imagen Foundation, a group that encourages the positive portrayal of Hispanics in the entertainment media. She is also involved with the Cuban American National Council.

But Zel’s greatest commitment is to setting a good example for young Latinos.

“Much of her motivation comes from inspiring America’s 43 million Hispanics, particularly young Latinos, to dream of a future that includes getting an education, building a career and having an impact on this country’s future,”Broadcast and Cable reported. She told the magazine, “That is what motivates me every day on the professional side.”

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