“One of the reasons I am very committed to helping the Hispanic community is because I understand not many people have the good fortune I had,” Thompson says, as she sits in the small, rectangular office space that serves as the executive suite of the telecommunication affiliate. “All of our community outreach work is geared toward giving people some hope about their future.”
Telemundo/WZDC-TV 64, the affiliate’s official name, reaches 600,000 homes in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and is carried by all the major cable networks serving the region. Nationally, Telemundo, the Miami-based television network, claims to reach 85 percent of the Hispanic community in the United States. As an affiliate, WZDC-TV 64 is the exclusive broadcast outlet of the national network’s program, and is owned by ZGS Broadcasting, Inc.
Thompson came to WZDC-TV 64 as a sales representative from a nonprofit international public health organization in 1995. After only two years with the company, Thompson took over the general manager’s position with very little experience in the corporate world of broadcast media. Her broad smile and gracious manner complement the highly motivated personality that drives her to make the best of her opportunities in her adopted country. As she tells the story of leaving her family, the challenges she overcame, and the victories of securing a leadership role in the community today, her fingers clasp and unclasp into a fist unconsciously punctuating her points.
“What I think this country offers to every immigrant who comes is opportunity,” she says. “But it is up to them to take advantage of that opportunity.” Thompson spent eight years working as a nanny for two families in Takoma Park, Maryland, while she pursued her dream of getting a higher education. The families became extensions of her immediate family in Peru, enabling her to balance work time and study when necessary and extending financial help when money became an issue of her continuing.
“I’m not ashamed of telling people I took care of babies and cleaned houses. In fact, I’m very proud of it,” she says, leaning forward over her desk. “I share [my story] with pride and with the hope that people who are in the same shoes can see there is an opportunity, if they persevere.”
Despite two years of English at a local language school in Lima before leaving, Thompson began her academic career at Montgomery College taking noncredit writing classes in English. A female roommate, who worked at IBM at the time, suggested business as an area of study to her. According to Thompson, Montgomery College was where her friend’s suggestion became a reality and a passion for her.
“All the teachers had the attitude that every student who came to them were diamonds in the rough,” she says of her experience at Montgomery College, adding that small classes and flexible class schedules made it possible for her to realize her dream of getting a degree. Thompson is Montgomery College’s commencement speaker this year, an opportunity that makes her feel “deeply, deeply honored.”
In a grayish-blue checked suit jacket, burgundy knee-length skirt, and sensible pumps, Thompson looks every bit the corporate executive she has become. Her flat management style and pride in her staff is apparent as she greets each one of them, while touring visitors around the television station’s ground floor office.
During her tenure, the affiliate has doubled in staff and her responsibilities have grown to include the management of a Spanish language radio station, Viva 900 AM. Among her current development plans for the television station is the creation of a news department and the production of a half-hour local Spanish news program. While the affiliate is contractually obligated to air programs from the national network, Thompson is carving out slots for local programming. “The community needs not only scholastic education, but also education on issues and education on what is available to them,” she says.
In addition to her career, Thompson serves in leadership positions in business and community organizations such as the National Center for Community and Justice and Montgomery County’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as another means of addressing the needs of the Hispanic community. She also willingly accepts the fact that she is a role model for young Hispanic women, noting she is the first Hispanic female general manager of a television station in the local market. As she considers her career and the responsibilities it has imposed, she acknowledges that there are still many challenges ahead, but she willingly accepts her fate.
“I don’t see it as burden; I see it as a blessing,” she muses. “I am definitely thankful for the opportunity to do something and not just to stay where I am.”