JEA honors Ahlf with Aspiring Young Journalist Award

JEA honors Ahlf with Aspiring Young Journalist Award

At a work day after school, Tayla Ahlf, an eighth grader at Derby (Kansas) North Middle School finishes writing captions on her yearbook spread. Staff members met on the half day March 8 to add their final touches to the yearbook.

The Journalism Education Association has named Tayla Ahlf of Derby (Kansas) North Middle School, the 2019 Aspiring Young Journalist Award honoree. JEA presents this award to junior high/middle school students to acknowledge and reward their work, and to encourage them to continue their journalistic studies in high school.

Marchella Mazzoni of Winslow Township Middle School in Atco, New Jersey, was selected as runner-up.

Ahlf served for two years as a staff member and editor for her school’s yearbook at Derby North Middle School. Her adviser, Laura Hayden, wrote, ”Tayla’s greatest strength is her leadership. Being on the quiet side, Tayla’s not one to get in front of the staff, but we all see her dedication and quiet leadership. She thinks like a journalist, sees needs and takes care of them.

Ahlf has earned the respect of her peers as she is always putting others before herself. Griffith observed her in action, “Tayla is inclusive, helping the staff that aren’t with the ‘in’ crowd. She goes above and beyond using her class time well, putting in generous outside school time, and showing up early most mornings. Tayla looks out of for the staff, bringing breakfast items occasionally to treat them. On her own, she gets the staff computers out on the tables ready for others to work.”

Judge Susan Gregory, MJE, of Conestoga High School, Berwyn, Pennsylvania, chose Tayla for her “obvious understanding of journalistic principles and storytelling. For someone as young as she is, Tayla shows that she understands how pictures and words work together to bring a story to life.”

Contest coordinator Rebecca Pollard, MJE, said Ahlf connected to her audience as a storyteller and demonstrated photography and design fundamentals through her examples.

Runner-up Marchella Mazzoni served as a reporter, editor and copy editor for The Soaring Eagle newspaper at Winslow Township Middle School. Her adviser, Heather Hay, wrote about her reporter experience, “She quickly picked up the format of hard news, often taking on multiple stories per issue to practice her skills. When others were still nervous about interviewing and on-site reporting, Marchella shined, often volunteering for more intimidating interviews others balked at including district administration.”

In her role as copy editor she guided those who were not as experienced, helping them to edit copy so it was fit to print.

Judge Dennis Leizear, CJE, of Padua Academy, Wilmington, Delaware, said her leads were creative and she included a variety of voice in her profile.

“I was most impressed with her fundamentals in her student-of-the-month story,” Pollard said. “She had a solid grasp of the lead-quote-transition format. She showed the judges published work examples with three different types of writing.”

The award winners were recognized April 27 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim, California.

Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, by promoting professionalism, by encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and by fostering an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

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