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Renton High School’s Arrow newsmagazine to receive national Diversity Award

The Journalism Education Association will honor Renton (Wash.) High School’s Arrow newsmagazine, with its Diversity Award on April 13 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Diego.

PGTV, the broadcast program of Prince George (Va.) High School, earned Honorable Mention.

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.

The Arrow mirrors the diversity of its student body. As of the 2010 census, Renton was the most diverse city in the Puget Sound region. Renton High School’s student body reflects that ethnic, racial and religious diversity where 87 languages are spoken within the district. Students are classified as Asian, Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, white, Native American and Native Alaskan, and many students are biracial or multiracial.

But taking such diversity in the student body for granted is not in the DNA of Arrow editors and staff. Editor Vanessa Abenojar, ably supported by managing editor Ksenia Ivanova, reached out to Renton HS English Language Learner (ELL) teacher Shannon Pena, wanting to find ways the newsmagazine could share stories of students who had only recently arrived in America.

Vanessa spent many hours, over several months, meeting students, winning trust, and gathering stories. She eventually recruited the Arrow staff to interview ELL students, and those interviews appeared in print. But Vanessa made a connection with KUOW, Puget Sound Public Radio, to bring many of Renton’s ELL students to the station and its professional recording studios. RadioActive Youth Media, a radio journalism program for teens, provided voice coaching. Ksenia mastered the resultant sound files and designed the CD cover, and 600 copies of the CD were distributed along with the printed newsmagazine. Vanessa raised money for the CD production.

Alicia Quarles, another editor for the Arrow, said the community loved the audio CD, which contained exclusive accounts from ELL students about coming to a new country to better their lives. The tag line on the cover: “Love yourself for how you sound – because you sound perfect.”

As Alicia said, “We fell in love with the sounds of our student body.”

The Arrow, advised by Derek Smith, also won this award in 2012.

Honorable Mention

Students Jasmine Lackey and Becky Shumar, along with other staff of the Prince George HS (Va.) PGTV NEWS received honorable mention recognition for their multi-faceted reporting on African-American journalist L. Alex Wilson.

The students, advised by Chris Waugaman, discovered Wilson’s story of courage and wanted to investigate further. They did many phone and Skype interviews with first-hand sources, including Wilson’s widow, Emogene Wilson, and several journalists who could shine light on Wilson’s contributions not only to journalism but to the advancement of civil rights in the 1950s.

They published their interviews and a short video, along with short papers and a bibliography, on a website they created: www.wearenewspapermen.org.

Hank Klibanoff, co-author of “The Race Beat,” was a prime source for the PGTV project. He said, “The Prince George students have demonstrated through their work a level of curiosity that is refreshing and without cynicism, a degree of passion that seems to surprise even them, and a sense of commitment to learning the ever-serious and studious L. Alex Wilson.”

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