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Don Bott to be honored with the JEA Diversity Award

POSTED Jan. 11, 2009

JEA will honor Don Bott, adviser to the Stagg Line at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Stockton, Calif. with the Diversity Award on April 19 at the spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Phoenix.

JEA’s Diversity Award honors a scholastic journalism teacher, student media adviser or scholastic journalism group demonstrating a commitment to cultural awareness and encouraging a multicultural approach with its student media staff, media production and/or community. The honoree must be in the forefront in promoting diversity in the scholastic media arena and must have taken steps to break down walls of misunderstanding and ignorance.

Joining the staff at Stagg High School in 1986, Don Bott first established a literary magazine.

“Don Bott … represents an instructor who doesn’t grapple with the challenge of diversity. Instead he seems to embrace the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless as he did with the literary magazine showcasing autobiographical narratives of Southeast Asian students. He said this experience changed his life. That change continues to ripple throughout the rest of his career. His passion for diversity is evident through both his words and actions,” said Javonna Bass of McKinney Boyd High School in McKinney, Texas.

Bott added the school newspaper to his responsibilities in 1992. Since then, his staffs have won four Pacemaker Awards, attended summer workshops and journalism national conventions, and won the 2001 JEA Impact Award for special coverage of students from other countries.

“Bott’s award-winning journalism magnet program at Stagg High School takes students from all over the city. Some are English Learners. Many have families that are stuggling financially. Some are from different “hoods” and have to learn how to work together. Bott’s acceptance of all these students and his belief in “access for all” is a cornerstone for his program. This dedication shows in the many awards the Stagg Line has received; clearly, any and all students CAN be a part of great journalism. Bott sees it every year,” said Rachel West of the Institute of Business Management and Law.

Bott received the National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year for 2002. In his acceptance speech, Bott said, “I knew then, just as I had known 10 and 20 years before, and just as I know now, that journalism is for all students—the students on either side of the tracks, the students of every imaginable skin color, the students coming to school speaking a language other than English, the students who stagger around campus burdened of a label—‘special education,’ ‘at risk,’ ‘disadvantaged.’”

Beyond his own staff and school, Bott has reached out to journalism advisers and programs with other schools in his district and with other schools nationally.

“He has made his stand in the Stockton Unified School District and northern California mentoring other advisers, helping them launch successful programs and demonstrating that the power of journalism can boost students’ skills and make a difference in their academic performance even in so-called ‘underperforming’ schools,” said Linda Shockley of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund.

“. . .Don doesn’t limit his efforts to his school. . .He works with new advisers from similar schools to help them build up their programs. He speaks at conferences, workshops and conventions. He took the leadership of JEA Northern California to help influence more schools on a larger scale. Every summer he works with teachers form high-minority, high-poverty schools at the ASNE Institute, passing on his skills and knowledge to another generation of advisers,” said Steve O’Donoghue, director of the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative.

Honorable Mention was awarded to Annandale (Va.) High School’s Annandale Antenna yearbook The staff, advised by Niki Holmes, prides itself in exemplifying the diversity of the school. Students at Annandale are sons and daughters of diplomats, refugees from the Horn or Africa and Central America, and other students from across the globe.

“Diversity isn’t a catchphrase or quota to fill—it is the staff’s mantra that imbues all of their coverage decisions,” said Alan Weintraut, film and journalism instructor at Annandale High School.

JUDGES: Javonna Bass, Joe Nations, Vanessa Shelton, Stan Zoller, Diana Mitsu Klos and Norma Kneese

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