NOTE: Many of the requirements and much of the language from this document is from the standards for the National Student Journalist of the Year contest sponsored by the Journalism Education Association.


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 he or she is as a student journalist. The deadline for the application and portfolio is 11:00 p.m. Jan. 31, 2020.


  • 2020: Overall Winner: Ben Henschel, Shawnee Mission East High School
    • 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
    • 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)
  • 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
    • 2nd place: Paige Cornwell
    • 3rd place: Bernadette Myers
  • 2008: Sarah Meier
    • 2nd place: Elizabeth Nachman
    • 3rd place: William Jenks
  • 2007: Overall Winner: Amanda Allison, Shawnee Mission East High School (JEA National Winner)
  • 2007: Amanda Allison, Shawnee Mission East
    • 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)
  • 2005: Libby Nelson, Shawnee Mission East
    • 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 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.



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:

  • A PORTFOLIO: two options . . .
    • online: This online portfolio of your work could be hosted online as a website (for instance with Weebly, Wix or WordPress)
    • as a pdf: If designed as a document, your portfolio should be exported or saved as a pdf of less than 50 MB. (for instance, a document exported from InDesign)
    • 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 or on assignment reporting
  • 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 upload it as a pdf.
  • SELF-ANALYTICAL ESSAYPlease respond to the prompt from JEA about your work in journalism: Students should write with passion and make an impact on the judges because this essay functions as the applicant’s one-on-one interview with the judges.” Essay should not exceed two pages in length. Please save it as a pdf and upload it using the form above. (While the JEA essay instructions don’t contain a more specific prompt, successful essays often answer this prompt: “Why are you a student journalist? Be sure to explain specific instances of your personal commitment to storytelling and freedom of expression.”)


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. (See this JEA tutorial for more information)
  • 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. (See this JEA tutorial for more information)
  • 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: (See this JEA tutorial for more information) 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. Design
    2. Editing
    3. Entrepreneurship
    4. Law and Ethics
    5. Leadership and Team Building
    6. Multimedia Broadcast
    7. News Gathering
    8. News Literacy
    9. Photojournalism
    10. Web
    11. Writing
  • 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.


The transition to a contest with mandatory digital submission means that some students need more guidance both technically and in terms of organization. These web pages and videos below explain the standards used by the national judging committee. Also, you can find many tips about constructing an excellent portfolio.