During the past school year, hundreds of high school journalists throughout the country worked hours to complete their portfolios for state Journalist of the Year contests, and the 34 state winners who entered the national competition were recognized April 9 at the closing awards ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle.
When the final results were announced, Meghan Bobrowsky of Davis (California) Senior High School, was named the 2017 National High School Journalist of the Year. Borowsky will receive a $3,000 Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht Scholarship as part of her recognition from the Journalism Education Association.
Six other state winners were named national runners-up. Each will receive an $850 Sister Rita Jeanne Scholarship. They are as follows:
- Emma Stiefel, Century High School, Liberty Township, Ohio (Dean Hume, adviser).
- Celia Hack, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas (C. Dow Tate, adviser).
- Jacob Lintner, Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Missouri (Aaron Manfull, MJE, adviser).
- Isabelle Robles, Iowa City (Iowa) West High School (Sara Whittaker, CJE, adviser).
- Alexandre Silberman, Burlington (Vermont) High School (David Lamberti, adviser).
- Tommy Pero, Malvern (Pennsylvania) Preparatory School (Kate Plows, CJE, adviser).
Named in honor of JEA’s longtime treasurer, the late Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht, FSPA, the scholarships recognize some of the top high school journalists in the country. Portfolios are judged in the month leading up to the JEA/NSPA spring national convention, and scholarship funds are paid directly to the recipients in honor of their work on scholastic media.
The national applications this year were again submitted digitally. The competition attracted dozens of entries in some states and none in others. The 47 members of the scholarship committee were impressed with the depth of experience contained in the state-winning entries.
About the winner
Bobrowsky has been a member of her high school journalism program for three years, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Blue Devil Hub, Davis High School’s online newspaper.
“One of the most well-balanced portfolios I’ve ever had the pleasure to review,” said Awards Committee member Joe Humphrey, MJE and adviser at Hillsborough High School, Tampa, Florida. “I love that she is not afraid to DIG IN and tackle tough subjects and use the law as needed. Holding the government accountable is a worthy endeavor that community papers would be suited to follow. She is clearly a leader not only on their staff, but also in their community.”
In addition to investigative pieces, exhibiting news literacy, and demonstrating fluency in multimedia and leadership, Bobrowsky has an intrinsic desire to help her community through her reporting and storytelling.
“Meghan’s depth and breadth of work are impressive,” said Awards Committee member Jessica Hunziker, CJE and adviser at Castle View High School, Castle Rock, Colorado. “She clearly thinks through the many media she utilizes to produce content and determine the best media for each story she creates. She has a unique style that allows her to convey complex information to a variety of audiences. In particular, Meghan’s work shines when they take a multimedia approach to storytelling.”
Her approach to informing is on display with her column this year, “Eye on Your Dollar.”
Her adviser, Kelly Wilkerson, writes about this story: “I suggested the idea (of this column) to Meghan because I knew she had stellar math skills in addition to reporting skills. Her work has far surpassed what I expected. She has devoted many hours to understanding our school district’s budget, including meeting with a lobbyist for another school district in order to understand the byzantine categories. She has been stymied at every turn by our district administrators, who have tried to give her cherry-picked summaries instead of the raw information she has requested. Meghan perseveres in a polite, yet unyielding way to get the documents she needs. Then, she has used her formidable writing skills to explain complex budget issues to a student audience.”
Emma Stiefel of Ohio gave ideas to one of our judges to apply with her own media staffs. She created her own style guide for her staff to benefit.
“I loved her analytical essay,” said Awards Committee member Erinn Harris, CJE and adviser at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia. “It’s everything that I want my own students to think and feel about journalism. She understands that important stories with humanity and faces and life, are not just a series of quotes that you gather in order to prove some preconceived notion you’ve gathered on your own.”
Through journalism, Emma translates what she learned as a journalist into something that lets her audience share her experiences. She puts faces on statistics and supporting personal stories with facts.
“The depth of her work is incredibly impressive; it seems she is able to cover any topic from those as serious as heroin addiction to those as heartfelt as charitable food donations, to (those) as enjoyable as an art show with the same reporting zeal,” said Awards Committee member Gabrielle Herbst, CJE and adviser at Beverly Hills (California) High School. “Through her work, it is clear that she reports with understanding and empathy in her heart.”
Celia Hack of Kansas has forced herself out of her comfort zone to cover the topics everyone would rather not discuss. She found meaning by bringing sexual harassment to light when the school administration was worried it would tarnish their reputation.
“Celia Hack is an all-around journalist,” said Awards Committee member Michelle Harmon, MJE and adviser at Borah High School, Boise, Idaho. “She can write, edit, take photos and video, interview key sources – even for controversial topics – and take the information to printed and online media with a keen sense of design and readability. She’s got the entire package, and she can deliver the entire package.”
Jacob Lintner of Missouri took it upon himself to create an in-depth sports news website, he also leads the way to create play-by-play coverage of school sporting events or school pep rallies. He found a passion for live broadcast.
Honestly, this young man is exactly what we want any of our student journalists to be, a real journalist,” said Awards Committee member Patrick Johnson, and adviser at Antioch Community High School, Antioch, Illinois. “He is an established professional, and he is able to articulate his time and efforts effectively, critically and reflectively. Jacob is proof our profession is truly in good hands.”
Isabelle Robles of Iowa doesn’t turn journalism off when she leaves the newsroom. According to her adviser, Sarah Whittaker, CJE, “it’s clear it keeps her up at night – in a good way – the way when something doesn’t seem stressful or exhausting, but because she is passionate about it.”
One judge commented about a story Robles did on sexual harassment:
“From the piece of mind, to thinking about the kinds of questions to ask the principal in the interview, so as to not lead to possibly prior review, to the respect and duty to the victims in getting their story, it is no wonder that the statement put out by the principal after publications was for teachers to ‘please be better at watching out for harassment,’” said Awards Committee member Adam Dawkins, CJE, and adviser at Regis Jesuit High School, Aurora, Colorado. “What an incredible victory for this young journalist and the publication.”
Alexandre Silberman of Vermont led the charge to move his print newspaper to digital. Last year his school’s publication had a stagnant website and little social media presence. Silberman moved to using Facebook live to give the public access to public meetings and local public events, and his staff now uses all social media accounts regularly.
“If Alexandre represents the next wave of skilled reporters entering the industry, then the future of journalism is in capable hands,” said Awards Committee member Leah Waters, CJE of the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. “Alexandre is the kind of journalist who doesn’t shy away from a challenge, constantly meeting the demands of the 24/7 digital news cycle, and going to great lengths to tell the whole story.”
Tommy Pero of Pennsylvania did not allow prior review to discourage him, but rather used that situation to reinforce standards to work with his administration. His newspaper staff grew from 25 to 35 members under his leadership, despite not having a class period to meet.
“I was particularly pleased to read about how he mentors younger staff members, assisting them with everything from story ideas and writing, to learning the ins and outs of advertising,” said Awards Committee member Leslie Thompson, and adviser at Conifer (Colorado) High School. “He really understands what it means to lead, not just be in charge.”
The full list of state winners entered in the national competition is as follows:
ALABAMA: Brady Talbert, Thompson High School, Alabaster (Brooke Dennis, adviser) http://bradyktalbert.wixsite.com/portfolio/nspa
ARKANSAS: Victoria Radke, Jessieville High School, Jessieville (Erin Radke, adviser) https://victoriaradke.wordpress.com
CALIFORNIA: Meghan Bobrowsky, Davis Senior High School, Davis (Kelly Wilkerson, adviser) http://meghanbobrowsky.com
COLORADO: Esteban Arellano, Standley Lake High School, Westminster (Lynn Schwartz, adviser) https://estebanarellano.com
FLORIDA: Tyler Rispoli, Boone High School, Orlando (Renee Burke, MJE, adviser) http://tylerrispolijournalism.weebly.com
GEORGIA: Sophie Fernandes, Clarke Central High School, Athens (David Ragsdale, CJE, adviser) http://sfernandes82.wix.com/photojournalist
IDAHO: Amanda Wikoff, Sandpoint High School, Sandpoint (William Love, adviser) https://amandawikoff.wordpress.com/
ILLINOIS: Abigail Murphy, Downers Grove North High School, Downers Grove (Elizabeth Levin, MJE, adviser) http://abbemurphy.weebly.com
INDIANA: Adam McGoff, North Central High School, Indianapolis (Tom Gayda, MJE, adviser) https://adammcgoffnchslive.weebly.com
IOWA: Isabelle Robles, Iowa City West High School, Iowa City (Sara Whittaker, CJE, adviser) http://isabellerobles.wordpress.com/
KANSAS: Celia Hack, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village (C. Dow Tate, adviser) http://celiaandmirandahac.wixsite.com/celiahack
MASSACHUSETTS: Mona Baloch, Newton South High School, Newton (Ashley Chapman and Brian Baron, MJE, advisers) http://monabaloch.weebly.com
MICHIGAN: Leah Graham, Troy High School, Troy (Jayna Rumble, CJE, adviser) https://leahkgraham.wordpress.com/
MINNESOTA: Ethan Brown, St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park (Lori Keekley, MJE, adviser) https://ethanbrownjoy17.wordpress.com/
MISSISSIPPI: Davis McCool, Oxford High School, Oxford (Diala Chaney, adviser) https://www.davismccool.com
MISSOURI: Jacob Lintner, Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles (Aaron Manfull, MJE, adviser) https://jacoblintner.wordpress.com/
MONTANA: Terryn Premo, Charles M. Russell High School, Great Falls (Beth Britton, CJE, adviser) http://www.terrynapremo.wordpress.com
NEBRASKA: Priya P. Kukreja, Millard North High School, Omaha (Sarah Crotzer, adviser) http://priyakukreja.weebly.com
NEVADA: Alexis Drevetzki, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas (Matthew LaPorte, CJE, adviser) https://alexisdrevetzki.wordpress.com/
NEW MEXICO: Emily Ashby, Sandia High School, Albuquerque (Charles Steele, adviser) https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zg24jb4o18rew4b/AABVK5aYL_ZoM9GjJWDLY5O_a?dl=0
NORTH CAROLINA: Mary Pat Thompson, First Flight High School, Kill Devil Hills (Steve Hanf, adviser) https://marypatthompson.wordpress.com/
NORTH DAKOTA: Faith Harron, Century HIgh School, Bismarck (Mary Van, adviser) http://faithharron.weebly.com
OHIO: Emma Stiefel, Lakota East High School, Liberty Township (Dean Hume, adviser) https://emmastiefel.wordpress.com
OREGON: Michaela Barnes, Marshfield High School, Coos Bay (Stephani Howe and Catherine Hampton, adviser) https://issuu.com/chaelabria/docs/national_portfolio
PENNSYLVANIA: Tommy Pero, Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern (Kate Plows, CJE, adviser) https://www.tommypero.com/
RHODE ISLAND: Kathryn Packard, Lincoln High School, Lincoln (Doreen Picozzi, MJE, adviser) http://journalistoftheyear.wixsite.com/kathrynpackard
SOUTH CAROLINA: Sophie Winnick, Wando High School, Mount Pleasant (Phillip Caston, adviser) http://sophiewinnick.weebly.com
TENNESSEE: Tori Mullins, Jefferson County High School, Dandridge (Nola Henderson, adviser) https://torimullinsblog.wordpress.com
TEXAS: Rish Basu, St. Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas (Ray Westbrook, adviser) http://www.rishbasujournalist.com
VERMONT: Alexandre Silberman, Burlington High School, Burlington (David Lamberti, adviser) http://alexandresilberman.weebly.com/
VIRGINIA: Melanie Pincus, McLean High School, McLean (Lindsay Benedict, CJE, adviser) https://melaniepincus.wordpress.com/
WASHINGTON: Stephi Smith, Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace (Vincent DeMiero, adviser) http://stephismithjoy.wordpress.com
WISCONSIN: Hannah O’Leary, Homestead High School, Mequon (Rachel Rauch, CJE, adviser) http://hannaholeary.weebly.com
WYOMING: Jessica Morales, Cody High School, Cody (Erika Quick, CJE, adviser) https://jessicamorales6.wixsite.com/portfolio
The Journalism Education is a national organization of scholastic journalism teachers and school media advisers. Its headquarters is at the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. For more information about the JEA or its National High School Journalist of the Year program, please go to www.jea.org or call 785-532-5532.