The names Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros are displayed on the Annenberg Media Center assignment desk. On today’s Trojan Tales, Jameela Hammond reveals the backstory.
JACKI CISNEROS: I feel like in actuality, I may have put that out there in the universe.
That’s Jacki Cisneros. Her name is on the Annenberg Media Center assignment desk. Back in 2010, I worked with her on the assignment desk at KNBC. We worked the dreaded overnight shift.
DAVID REESE: The desk is where all the information comes into a newsroom.
That’s David Reese, former KNBC assignment desk manager.
REESE: Whether it be from the public, or from the police, or from the wire services or whatever, we are 99% of the time, the first to know something’s going on.
David has remained friends with Jacki since we all worked together at the ranch (our nickname for Channel 4 news). Jacki was a freelancer, so she only got work when the station needed her.
CISNEROS: You’re always thinking about, you know, the next the next week or the next gig… and so there’s some anxiety that goes with that.
REESE: I was not budgeted to have her on the desk, but she needed to eat, so I told her, okay, I’m going to schedule you but I’m going to schedule overnights. So I’m gonna hide you on the desk in plain sight on the overnight shift. You know, Jacki is a good person. And, you know, her husband had lost his job recently.
Adjusting to the overnight shift meant going to bed earlier, which turned into figuring out what she and her husband would have for dinner...
CISNEROS: He didn’t want Kentucky Fried Chicken. And then I was like, “Well, then you’re on your own because I’m going to bed. I’m getting my Kentucky Fried Chicken and then going to bed. I’m tired. I gotta go to sleep.”
Gilbert decided on L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, and while he was there, he bought 10 lottery quick picks. The next morning, Jacki got to work 30 minutes late. Everyone in the newsroom was joking that she’d won the jackpot because the winning numbers came from her hometown.
CISNEROS: I’m the only one that lives in Pico Rivera and I have been around and worked at three TV stations at that point, like every... People knew. I lived in Pico Rivera.
Jacki learned that the winning number came from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue… and it dawned on her that when she woke in the middle of the night that she remembered finding teriyaki sauce and rice from Gilbert’s dinner on the counter.
CISNEROS: So I called him at now, what, 2:45 in the morning and said, “Where’d you get? Where’d you... Where’d you go for dinner?”
She told Gilbert to find the lottery tickets.
CISNEROS: First I tell him the mega number, which was eight. I always remember eight the rest of numbers. I don’t remember so much, but I remember the eight. And he goes, “Okay, I’ve got two of them with eight.” So then I start reading the numbers, and he kept going, “Uh huh. Uh huh.”
Jacki continued to read the numbers to Gilbert as the newsroom watched her in anticipation.
CISNEROS: Finally, I said, all the numbers, and he’s like, “I think we won.”
They won a whopping 266 million dollars! One of the first things they did with their winnings was to establish the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros foundation. Its goal is to increase the education level of Latino students.
CISNEROS: That has been transformational for a whole family. And it’s awesome to see. I’m going to get all teary eyed because it’s really awesome to see. And that will be impactful, but not just them and their siblings, but then their kids.
They also donated to each of their Alma Maters. Jacki went from being in the first Annenberg graduating class to now contributing a $500,000 donation to get their names on the centerpiece of the newsroom — the assignment desk.
CISNEROS: I felt like it was so perfect like this. I went to SC, and I’m gonna be in the middle of it. And that’s, you know, I can only afford this I can only afford to have it named after me because I won as an assignment editor.
Jacki continues her work as president of the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros foundation. As for her husband, he is now former congressman Gil Cisneros of California’s 39th district.
Working with Jacki, she often wished she would win the lotto. This just goes to show that dreams do come true.