Perserverance, that's the answer whenever I'm asked how I got to where I am but not just my own..
Working as a reporter in the best city (yes I'm biased because I was born and raised here) in the world was a dream of mine since I was 10 years old.
I grew up in the Bronx to Albanian parents. My parents came to America because it was either starve or live. They raised five children and instilled in me and my siblings that with hard work, anything is possible.
Both of my parents have little education although both are the smartest people I know. They both grew up on farms and their jobs were to help support their family by working the land. Despite their upbringing my parents always pushed my siblings and I to excel in school. My parents were not rich by any means yet insisted on sending all of their children to private school in an effort to give us the best education possible. To this day my mother's advice resonates with me. She always told me, "Give 100% to whatever you do, or don't do it at all."
I received a full academic scholarship from Iona College and graduated summa cum laude through their honors program. During my college years, I worked part time as a sales associate at Lord & Taylors (I can fold clothes like nobody's business) and held an internship every year. My first internship was at Random House publishing followed by Rolling Stone, and then The View with Barbara Walters.
After graduation, I applied to all the big networks and immediately heard back from CBS News. Walking into the broadcast center was a surreal moment, getting up for work at 2am was another. Within four years though I went from production assistant to coordinating producer for The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. As much as I loved working with icons like Dan Rather, Bob Schieffer, and Ed Bradley.. I needed more. I knew it was time to fulfill that dream I had since I was an annoying little girl and followed around a WABC reporter at Orchard Beach. In late 2004, I landed my first on-air job in Greenville, South Carolina.
The transition going from the Bronx to the South was not an easy one but I loved every moment of the four years I lived there. I used the stage name of Lidia St. Mark. Mark, in honor of my 11 year old brother who died after a 10 year battle with leukemia. His will to never give up and his faith in God are qualities I have yet to see in anyone else. I'm determined to make him proud.
I believe the key to being a good journalist is cultivating relationships with everyone you meet.
Through my law enforcement sources, I was the first reporter on the air to confirm two Brooklyn officers were stalked and executed. I also confirmed live on the air the identity of a man who had just shot a firefighter during a hostage situation. His facebook post showed he had a death wish. My sources also helped me break a story while in South Carolina about a cheerleading coach who was pimping out (yes seriously) her cheerleaders to the National Guard. I even had the opportunity to appear as a guest correspondent for CNN's Nancy Grace regarding Tiffany Souers, a college student murdered by a serial rapist.
If you know me, you know I read a lot, probably too much. I live and breathe current events, domestic and foreign. Before heading out the door, I've read every news and entertainment website. I also love reading fiction and non fiction novels and average about a book a week (I spend way too much $$ on Apple ibooks). I go through waves of interests and right now I'm loving: true crime. My other love is music, specifically country. I'm not too shabby of a singer either.
Being the first Albanian-American reporter in the US (it's true I've checked) comes with a responsibility. Albania is a poor country that has been traumatized by invaders and corruption but fortunately it's turning around. I try to be involved in the growing Albanian community as much as I can. I attend Our Lady of Shkodra Church in Hartsdale, NY as well as participate in numerous Albanian cultural events. In 2012, the American American Woman's Organization honored me with the "Woman of the Year" award. I know first hand how lucky I am to be an American but if we don't remember and recognize where we come from; how will we know where we are going?
Since writing this about me section, my greatest accomplishment has occurred and that is I became a mother. My daughter Julia Elisabeth brightens my day just when I think it can't get any gloomier. I hope she'll be proud of her mama someday.