You recognize her face from WZZM 13, but do you know the story behind West Michigan's beloved TV anchor Juliet Dragos? The Pittsburgh native chose Grand Rapids specifically because of it's non-stop flight back to her hometown, but in the twenty-one years she has been living and working here, she can say without a doubt that she is in love with West Michigan.
But Juliet's first love is journalism. She began her career as a fourth-grader interviewing kids with a tape recorder.
"That was just what I knew," she says.
Her skill was honed in high school speech and broadcast classes. When she got to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, the journalism seed planted early began to bloom. Like any journalist, Juliet understood the power of networking. She got her foot in the door early by interning with a local NBC affiliate, and she was offered a job before she graduated.
"I did behind the scenes, on-air graphics. That was my first job. Then as you work, you work your way up to being a writer. I did special projects, then I was associate editor," she says.
Juliet put together a rough demo tape to keep in her back pocket, but didn't take the project seriously. She went on to work as a producer in Huntsville, Alabama. Little did she know the tape would land her a position with a station in Illinois. She spent three and a half years behind the scenes in Rock Island.
But Juliet's face was bound for television and she expanded her comfort zone until it included her in front of the cameras. Since she moved to Grand Rapids, she's reported on her share of highs and lows. She remembers emotional stories like September 11 and the tragic loss of local police officer Robert Kozminski.
"I'm able to separate my emotions usually, but that was really hard. I completely lost it," Juliet says.
Although she tries to turn off her emotions while reporting on difficult stories, Juliet says the anchors are encouraged to be themselves. Juliet can't help but let her schoolgirl-like excitement shine through for her favorite part of everyday–the nightly news.
"After all the hard work and stress, I can finally sit down and reap the fruits of all the labors of all the people who worked so hard," Juliet says.
WZZM gives Juliet a voice on and off the airwaves. She uses her public platform to bring awareness to charitable organizations in the area and to promote health and wellbeing in the community.
"My favorite part of the job is being a news anchor and using that to work in the community to help give people a voice," she says.
Juliet works with the local chapters of Race for a Cure, the Special Olympics, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and the American Red Cross. She is the spokesperson for "Friends for Life" through which she encourages women to do self breast exams on a monthly basis. She also advocates for the Grand Rapids Symphony's Youth Education Program.
"It's hard for me to say no," she says. But Juliet fills what little time she has left in her full schedule with events and volunteer opportunities for which she sees the most need.
Whether she is pounding the pavement for local news or speaking on behalf of the Ronald McDonald House, Juliet wears her passion for her chosen community on her sleeve.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys gardening, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo provided by WZZM 13.