Many of the requirements and much of the language from this document are from the standards for the National Student Journalist of the Year contest sponsored by the Journalism Education Association. Those standards changed with the 2021 contest and KSPA’s contest has changed to essentially match the national standards.



Kansas high school journalists have an opportunity to showcase their talents through the High School Journalist of the Year competition. Students who wish to enter the contest must submit an application form as well as a digital portfolio that will explain to the judges who they are as a student journalist. The deadline for the application and portfolio is 11 p.m. Jan. 31, 2024.


The KSPA contest is judged using this rubric, which is essentially based on the JEA rubric. Please use this as a guide and a checklist when creating your entry.


This list contains so many incredible student journalists from all over the state. Many winners have continued on to award-winning careers in media and journalism. Reviewing the links will also show the quality and organization of student entries that won the contest in the past.

click on arrow for our archive of winners

  • 2024: Overall Winner: Maya Smith, Lawrence High School 
    • Coverage of the 2024 winners
    • 5A/6A: Maya Smith, Lawrence High School 
    • 3A/4A: Daniel Sullivan, Bishop Miege High School
    • 1A/2A: Anna Castillo, Wabaunsee High School 
  • 2023: Overall Winner: Alena Gillespie, Bishop Miege High School
    • Coverage of the 2023 winners
    • 5A/6A: Grace Logan, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School
    • 3A/4A: Alena Gillespie, Bishop Miege High School
  • 2022: Overall Winner: Cuyler Dunn, Lawrence High School
    • Coverage of the 2022 winners
    • 5A/6A: Cuyler Dunn, Lawrence High School
    • 3A/4A: Savannah Athy-Sedbrook, Augusta High School
    • 1A/2A: Emma Alderman, Wabaunsee High School
  • 2021: Overall Winner: Riley Atkinson, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Winner)
  • 2020: Overall Winner: Ben Henschel, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Runner-up)
    • Coverage of the 2020 winners 
    • 5A/6A: Ben Henschel, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 3A/4A: Sophie Osborn, Chanute High School
    • 1A/2A: Abby Riffel, Sterling High School
  • 2019: Overall Winner: Nicole-Marie Konopelko, Pittsburg High School (JEA National Runner-up)
    • Coverage of the 2019 winners
    • 5A/6A: Nicole-Marie Konopelko, Pittsburg High School
    • 3A/4A: No entries
    • 1A/2A: Grace Rowland, Sterling High School
  • 2018: Overall Winner: Daisy Bolin, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • Coverage of the 2018 winners 
    • 5A/6A: Daisy Bolin, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 3A/4A: Natalie Lindsey, Rock Creek Jr/Sr High School
    • 1A/2A: Dylan Babcock, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School
  • 2017: Overall Winner: Celia Hack, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Runner-Up)
    • Coverage of the 2017 winners 
    • 5A/6A: Celia Hack, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 3A/4A: Anniston Weber, Hays High School
    • 1A/2A: Amanda Schmalzried, Canton-Galva High School
  • 2016: Overall Winner: Justin Curto, Mill Valley High School (JEA National Runner-Up)
    • Coverage of 2016 winners 
    • 5A/6A: Justin Curto, Mill Valley High School
    • 3A/4A: Veronica Norez, Sterling High School
    • 1A/2A: Hanna Bott, Linn High School
  • 2015: Overall Winner: Julia Poe, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Winner)
    • Coverage of 2015 winners 
    • 5A/6A: Julia Poe, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 3A/4A: Kasady Smith, Sterling High School
    • 1A/2A: Kylie Rahe, Linn High School
  • 2014: Overall Winner: Annie Schugart, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (JEA National Runner-Up)
  • 2013: Overall Winner: Chad Phillips, Andover High School
  • 2012: Overall Winner: Sarah Darby, Mill Valley High School (JEA National Runner-Up)
  • 2011: Overall Winner: Tanner Maxwell of Goddard High School
    • Coverage of the 2011 Winner
    • Runners-up: Logan Heley of Shawnee Mission East High School
    • Runner-up: Andrew Goble of Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 3A/4A: Riley Mortensen of Bonner Springs High School
    • 3A/4A runner up: Halee Thompson of Phillipsburg High School
  • 2010: Overall Winner: Tim Shedor, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Runner-Up)
    • Coverage of 2010 winners
    • 2nd place: Nikki Wentling, McPherson High School
    • 3rd place: Phoebe Unterman, Shawnee Mission East High School
  • 2009: Stephen Nichols of Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Runner-up)

    • 2nd place: Paige Cornwell
    • 3rd place: Bernadette Myers
  • 2008: Sarah Meier (JEA National Runner-up)

    • 2nd place: Elizabeth Nachman
    • 3rd place: William Jenks
  • 2007: Overall Winner: Amanda Allison, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Winner)
    • 2nd place: Hillary Mullin, Mill Valley High School
    • 3rd place: Ben Weiss, Shawnee Mission Northwest
  • 2006: Allison Quick
    • 2nd place (tie): Joel Aschbrenner & Lauren Keith
  • 2005: Overall Winner: Libby Nelson, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Winner)
    • 2nd place: Andrew Asteford
    • 3rd place: Lacey Rickert
  • 2004: Rebecca Cremer, Shawnee Mission Northwest
    • 2nd place: Annie Hundley, Holton High
    • 3rd place: Travis Siebert, Colby High
  • 2003: Kaila Williams, Emporia High
    • 2nd place: Mina Markham, Wichita Southeast High
    • 3rd place: Tiffany Shogren, Satanta High
  • 2002: Lauren Cox, Shawnee Mission Northwest
    • 2nd place: Samantha Thompson, Shawnee Mission Northwest
    • 3rd place: Rachel Krier, McPherson High
  • 2000: Evan North, Shawnee Mission Northwest
    • 2nd place: Jeanel Drake, Shawnee Mission North
    • 3rd place: Erin Lane, Liberal High School & Kate Shirk, Shawnee Mission South
  • 1999: Lauren Brandenburg, Shawnee Mission Northwest
    • 2nd place: Christina Woods, Wichita East
    • 3rd place: Sarah Warren, Shawnee Mission North
  • 1998: Kelly Allis, Bishop Carroll
    • 2nd place: Rebecca Blocksome, Hays High
    • 3rd place: Brett Goering, Washburn Rural
  • 1997: Samantha Liskow, Shawnee Mission West
    • 2nd place:Travis Lenker, Skyline High
    • 3rd place:Lori O’Toole, Maize High
  • 1996: Hollister Hovey, Shawnee Mission East
    • 2nd place: Kelly Furnas, Topeka West
    • 3rd place: Amy Beets, Lawrence High
  • 1994: Jodie Chester, Phillipsburg High
    • 2nd place: Todd Stewart, Shawnee Mission North
    • 3rd place: Brandy Shearer, Hays High
  • 1993: Nicole Nelson, Manhattan High
    • 2nd place: Heather Stephany, Ellinwood High
    • 3rd place: Connie Engel, Hays High
  • 1992: Kristina Fassett, Leavenworth High School
    • 2nd place: Colleen McCain (Nelson), Salina South
    • 3rd place: Seth King, Shawnee Mission East
  • 1991: Denise Neil, Dodge City High School
    • 2nd place: Traci Carol, Lawrence High School
    • 3rd place: Blaine Roderique, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School
  • 1986: John Milburn, Pittsburg High School



The form will request standard demographic information from you as an applicant. However, it will also require the following files to be uploaded or posted online:

  • AN ONLINE PORTFOLIO: This online portfolio of your work could be hosted online as a website (for instance with Weebly, Wix or WordPress)
    • not accepted: printed and mailed portfolios are no longer accepted
  • AN ACTION SHOT: an image of you at work as a journalist (for instance, a candid image of you working at a publication night, on assignment reporting, etc.)
  • YOUR HIGH SCHOOL TRANSCRIPT: Official high school transcript or a counselor’s statement including journalism classes taken, grades and current GPA. Student should be a high school senior and should have an overall GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Please upload as a pdf (for instance, scan your transcript and save it as a pdf)
  • LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION:please ask three people familiar with your work as a journalist to write letters recommending you for this award (no letter should exceed two pages in length). Should be saved and uploaded as a pdf.
  • RESUME: please export or save your resume and submit it to the online form as a pdf.
  • PERSONAL NARRATIVE ESSAY: To align with the national contest, we will use the same criteria. The applicant should reflect on their scholastic media experience and how it shaped both current success and future goals. The writing should also address challenges that the applicant faced along the way and how these were solved. The writing should exhibit the applicant’s strong and vibrant voice. For submission to the KSPA contest, please limit the personal narrative to 750 words or fewer.


The Kansas Student Journalist of the Year committee chooses winners in three classifications: 1A/2A, 3A/4A and 5A/6A. Each of those winners receives a check for $750. In addition, the overall winner receives an extra $500 (for a total of $1,250) and becomes the Kansas Student Journalist of the Year. Only one overall winner is named for each year.

The winning portfolio from state Journalist of the Year competition is sent to the national level. The portfolios of all state winners are judged at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention, and national winners are announced at the convention’s concluding awards ceremony. Scholarship funds — $3,000 for the top winner, and $850 each for runners-up (up to six runners-up awards are given) — are released to the student after the winners are announced.


There are two parts to the application:

  • 1) the application form, which includes personal information (contact information, transcript, letters of recommendation, résumé), will be emailed directly to KSPA headquarters staff, and
  • 2) the online portfolio of the student’s work, which judges will access via URL. See below for more details.

1. Candidates should complete the online application. Before completing, read the following:

  • Be prepared to fill out the application at one time, as there is not an option to save one’s work and continue later.
  • Review the essay questions asked, complete those answers somewhere else (i.e. Word Document, Google Doc), export as a PDF and upload the file to the application when completing.
  • Scan your résumé, transcript and letters of recommendation as PDFs to upload when prompted as part of the application process.
  • You will either . . .
    • need a URL (Internet address) for your online portfolio showing your work examples
    • or the portfolio must be exported as a pdf of less than 50 MB so that it can be uploaded as part of the form.

2. Candidates should create an online portfolio for examples of their work:

  • No personal information should be included in your online portfolio.
  • Work examples are part of a presentation where candidates can showcase their progress over time as a student journalist.
  • Applicants can choose any platform they wish to present their work examples.
  • Broadcast/video samples should be no longer than 15 minutes in length.
  • Work examples in the online portfolio should be organized according to the following 11 categories: It is not a requirement that an applicant will have samples from each of the 11 categories. However, well-rounded applicants should showcase the diversity of their talents to the judging committee.
    1. Reporting and Writing
    2. Editing, Leadership and Team Building
    3. Web and Social Media
    4. Design
    5. Broadcast Journalism
    6. Photojournalism
    7. Law, Ethics and News Literacy
    8. Marketing and Audience Engagement
    9. Commitment to Diversity
  • The entry will also be judged on two other criteria 1) Organization and Documentation and 2) the Personal Narrative. The personal narrative does not need to be included in the online portfolio. For more detail, please see the KSPA rubric here.
  • Each work example for the portfolio must be labeled with the applicable category, evidence of usage/publication of example, awards/contests entered and an explanation/reasoning for each example.
    • EXPLANATION/REASONING: includes the applicant’s explanation about the specific assignment. Include any difficulties encountered with the assignment and special circumstances affecting it. Explanation should be 25-50 words in length, easy to read and should explain why this entry is important and was chosen for the portfolio.
  • The applicant’s personality should be evident in the entry. The student should choose a design/concept for the portfolio.



These web pages and videos from JEA below explain the standards used by the national judging committee. Also, you can find many tips about constructing an excellent portfolio. Because we share essentially the same rubric with JEA, these resources should be very helpful.


2019: Nicole-Marie Konopelko

The 2019 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year was Nicole-Marie Konopelko from Pittsburg High School. Konopelko was also named runner-up in the national contest by the Journalism Education Association. While working for KSPA as a student at the University of Kansas, Konopelko crafted this video to help students who planned to apply for the award in the 2021 contest.

2015: Julia Poe

The 2015 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year was Julia Poe of Shawnee Mission East High School. Poe was also named the 2015 National Student Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Education Association. To explain her process of creating a winning portfolio for the state and national competitions, Poe agreed to be interviewed by executive director Eric Thomas.