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Justin Curto of Mill Valley High School earns Kansas Student Journalist of the Year

The Kansas Scholastic Press Association congratulates Mill Valley High School senior Justin Curto on winning the overall honor as 2016 Kansas Student Journalist of the Year. Curto works as the editor-in-chief of the Mill Valley News, the school’s online news source.

The overall winner is chosen among the winners of three different enrollment classifications: 1A/2A, 3A/4A and 5A/6A. Hanna Bott of Linn High School earned the 1A/2A distinction. Veronica Norez of Sterling High School won the title for 3A/4A. Curto was named the 5A/6A winner before being named the overall winner. 

Curto celebrated with his family, staff and publications adviser Kathy Habiger during a surprise announcement today at Mill Valley. KSPA executive director Eric Thomas presented the award along with the prize money.

Each winner receives a check for $750. In addition, Curto receives an extra $500 (for a total of $1,250).

Curto’s portfolio also advances to judging by the national Journalism Education Association committee. That committee will name the national winner of the award at the convention in Los Angeles during an awards ceremony April 17. The 2015 Kansas winner Julia Poe was named the national student journalist of the year in the JEA contest.

A panel of judges chose Curto’s work from among a collection of portfolios submitted by KSPA member schools.

Justin Curto: Overall Winner and 5A/6A Student Journalist of the Year

  • School: Mill Valley High School, Shawnee, Kansas
  • Adviser: Kathy Habiger
  • Publication: Mill Valley News
  • Student website: click here

CurtoMugThe judges reviewed Curto’s application and portfolio and provided these compliments:

  • Not just quantity, but good quality with reporting in all aspects.” 
  • “A strong application. The diversity of your experience is a real plus.”
  • Impressive. Very impressive.”
  • Strong reporting. Attractive design. Variety of reporting.”

In his essay of application, Curto wrote:

I can’t imagine any other path than going into journalism after I graduate. My love for Mill Valley News makes me want to study multimedia online journalism, a field where I can constantly learn about new ways to tell stories. After covering music and school district news, I now dream of using the multimedia skills I learn in college to report on — and learn as much as I can about — music or politics for a news website. Though it may be selfish of me, I can’t wait for a lifetime of learning as a journalist. 


His adviser Kathy Habiger wrote in his letter of recommendation:

Justin has always impressed me with his curiosity, his positive persistence and his mature character. Justin wants to learn everything. Whatever topic is being discussed, Justin finds himself totally engaged. He asks questions that show he is making connections to other topics while still respecting insights from other students.

The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Justin Curto on his award-winning accomplishments and wish him good luck in the upcoming competition for national student journalist of the year. 

You can also read coverage of the award presentation from the Mill Valley News, the publication that Justin co-edits.

Veronica Norez: 3A/4A Student Journalist of the Year

  • School: Sterling High School, Sterling, Kansas
  • Adviser: Todd Vogts
  • Publication: The Cub yearbook
  • Student website: Click here

NorezMugNorez’s portfolio inspired these comments from the judges:

  • “Passionate and enthusiastic about the work.”
  • This is a strong portfolio on the reporting side particularly.”
  • This portfolio is a great start for a future journalist.  It is a good building block to potentially add more skills down the road.”
  • “Good professional experience on town paper; variety of talents.”

In her essay of application, Norez wrote:

NorezActionWithout journalism, I don’t know where I’d be. It’s helped me so much throughout my years in high school, whether it was through writing or preparing for deadlines. I can honestly say it was a class I really learned from, and one I truly enjoyed. I hope to become part of a newspaper staff while I attend school next fall, wherever that may be.

Her adviser Todd Vogts wrote in his letter of recommendation:

I have seen her blossom from a novice reporter to a bona fide newshound. If there is a story, she is always willing to pursue it, and then she can come back and design a stellar page, including photos since she never leaves without her camera, in no time. She can truly do it all.

 The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Veronica Norez as the 2016 3A/4A Kansas Student Journalist of the Year.

Hanna Bott: 1A/2A Student Journalist of the Yearbottmug

  • School: Linn High School, Linn, Kansas
  • Adviser: Merlana Kern
  • Publication: yearbook
  • Student website: click here

The judges said of Bott’s portfolio:

  • “Strong school and staff leadership. Some community work. Knowledge of legal issues apparent.”
  • “Awesome website. Functional. Well-designed.”
  • Strong leadership experiences in journalism and other areas of school and community.”
  • Very easy to navigate and clean. Nice layout.”

In her essay of application, Bott wrote the following:

When I began my first semester in the yearbook publications class I was doubting my decision. However, this single decision has become one of the best decisions I have ever made. Because I am a student journalist, I am able to stay involved with many different school activities. Through yearbook journalism, I am also able to use my creative abilities when working with different layouts, photographs, and typography. However, to me the most important aspect of yearbook journalism is being able to help preserve those precious high school memories.

Her adviser Merlana Kern wrote in her letter of recommendation:bottaction

Hanna is self-motivated and highly organized. She keeps our staff up-to-date on upcoming events and makes sure activities are being covered. I am always completely confident that she will get any job done accurately and on time.

The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Hanna Bott as the 2016 1A/2A Kansas Student Journalist of the Year.

Please see our list of previous Kansas Student Journalist of the Year winners. And please let us know if you can help make the listing more complete.

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