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Celia Hack of Shawnee Mission East earns 2017 Kansas Student Journalist of the Year

The Kansas Scholastic Press Association congratulates Shawnee Mission East senior Celia Hack on winning the statewide honor of the 2017 Kansas Student Journalist of the Year. Hack leads the Harbinger Online, the school’s online news site, as co-editor-in-chief.

The overall winner is chosen among the winners of three different enrollment classifications: 1A/2A, 3A/4A and 5A/6A. In the other divisions, Hays High School student Anniston Weber was named 3A/4A Student Journalist of the Year, while Canton-Galva student Amanda Schmalzried earned the 1A/2A honor.

In a surprise announcement Thursday, Hack’s fellow publications students, her adviser Dow Tate, her parents and local media gathered in her high school publications room. KSPA executive director Eric Thomas awarded Hack with a plaque and a scholarship check for $1,250 as the overall winner.

Winners from the other divisions received checks for $750 and celebrated with their staffs and schools during this week.

Hack’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 Seattle during an awards ceremony April 9. The 2015 Kansas winner Julia Poe, a Shawnee Mission East graduate who wrote a letter of recommendation for Hack, was named the national student journalist of the year in the JEA contest.

A panel of judges chose Hack’s work from among a collection of 12 portfolios submitted by KSPA member schools. The judges are former high school publications advisers, university instructors and professional journalists.

KSPA also thanks the dozen journalists from around the state who applied for this award. It takes dozens of hours to construct such a portfolio and gather the necessary materials. Simply applying for this award is a huge accomplishment.

Celia Hack: Overall Winner and 5A/6A Student Journalist of the Year

  • School: Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas
  • Adviser: Dow Tate
  • Publication: Harbinger Online
  • Student portfolio website: click here

    Celia Hack

Hack’s application showcases a cutting-edge variety of media covering the toughest subject matters available to student journalists. The judges repeatedly commended Hack on a special project and bold coverage of sexual assault, spurred by a specific assault that occurred at the school.

The judges reviewed Hack’s application and provided these compliments:

  • “First of all, kudos for having the courage to tackle such a sensitive and impactful issue.  This is what journalists do and you already get that. Your passion and fearlessness will take you great places in life.”
  • “Your passion for and commitment to journalism is outstanding. Excellent writing and open self-examination. Shows passion for journalism.”
  • “Strong news judgment apparent; sensitive and persistent coverage. Congratulations on your many journalistic accomplishments so far.”

In her essay of application, Hack wrote about the “Facing the Problem” project on sexual assault that she worked on with fellow members of her staff. One particular interview, with a victim of sexual assault, was intimidating, troubling and motivating for Hack:

“But I needed to face my fears and have those conversations. I need to do that today and every day, for the rest of my life. That’s my goal in life. I need to make it my responsibility to have those hard conversations. After talking to this survivor, and subsequent ones after that, it became clear that not enough people were willing to have them — a sentiment I understand. After all, I was scared to talk to this brave girl, and the same fears will probably return as I continue in my journalism career. […] This goal is lifelong. Even if I achieve it once, there’s a lifetime of work ahead of me as I continue to have difficult conversations and search for the uncomfortable truths.”

Her adviser Dow Tate wrote in his letter of recommendation:

“Celia Hack not only tackled the most difficult and draining story that the Harbinger took on this year, but managed to be the driving force to stabilize the website staff. As assistant editor and now co-editor, Celia’s proved herself a leader through her work, organization and voice.”

2015 national Student Journalist of the Year and former Harbinger classmate Julia Poe, now a student at the University of Southern California, wrote in her letter of recommendation:

“Much can be said about Celia’s skill to create content, both in print and in multimedia, and you will see those skills demonstrated throughout her portfolio. However, her strength lies not in her technical talents, but rather in her determination, her courage and her ability to lead.”

The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Celia Hack on her award-winning application and portfolio. We wish her the best luck in the upcoming competition for national student journalist of the year.

Anniston Weber: 3A/4A Student Journalist of the Year

  • School: Hays High School, Hays, Kansas
  • Adviser: Bill Gasper
  • Publication: The Guidon The Guidon Online
  • Student portfolio website: Click here

    Anniston Weber

Weber’s portfolio showcases advanced multimedia work, smart online packaging and smooth navigation. Judges also noted the unique approach of showing her editing work with before-and-after images of stories she reviewed.

Weber’s portfolio inspired these comments from the judges:

  • You have done a great job making the most out of your high school journalism experience.  Keep pushing the envelope and you will do great things as you move forward.”
  • She is courageous in her coverage and aware of her rights as a student journalist.”
  • “Anniston is a strong leader in various situations and is aware of ethical and legal issues. The portfolio has an attractive presentation. It is easy to navigate, and she included a variety of samples.”

In her essay of application, Weber wrote:

The front page of Anniston Weber’s portfolio.

“Becoming a journalist has taught me that I need to get out of my comfort zone in order to benefit my readers, not just myself. I love learning to look at the world from new perspectives. With every interview I conduct, I find myself renewing my curiosity and hunger for a great story. I want to be the person that ties people together with the events of the world. I want my words to make a difference.”

Her adviser Bill Gasper wrote in his letter of recommendation about Weber’s outstanding work ethic that allowed her to pick up multimedia and other skills quickly:

“But beyond her outstanding work ethic, I’ve watched Anniston evolve into a journalist. She understands the importance of a free press. She understands what’s newsworthy and how to gather information. She understands the need for accuracy and the importance of getting both sides of the story. She understands timeliness and the urgency of posting content immediately She understands the need to follow up. She gets it. Not many students do.”

 The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Anniston Weber as the 2017 3A/4A Kansas Student Journalist of the Year.

Amanda Schmalzried: 1A/2A Student Journalist of the Year

  • School: Canton-Galva High School, Canton, Kansas
  • Adviser: Jessica Bowman
  • Publication: yearbook
  • Student portfolio website: click here

    Amanda Schmalzried

Amanda’s online portfolio showcases a variety of work from photojournalism to design. The judges also cited the leadership skills shown through recommendation letters and Schmalzried’s web portfolio.

Check out the photos from Canton-Galva’s ceremony today to honor Amanda Schmalzried:

The judges said of Schmalzried’s portfolio:

  • “I admire your passion for yearbook and journalism. I can see that you work hard and have a commitment to excellence.”
  • “Thanks for all the hats you wear in your small school. Your passion is evident.”
  • “She has a good variety of skills and it’s evident that she steps up to the plate when necessary.  She seems ready to take that next step into the journalism field.”  

In her essay of application, Schmalzried wrote the following:

“I fell in love with every aspect of journalism and my life has been permanently changed by challenging myself. My creativity has flourished since joining journalism. I am allowed to show my art through graphic design, page layout, theme concept, and writing freedom. One of my dreams was to learn photography. […] Looking back on my high school experience, the only thing I regret is not being in yearbook sooner.”

Her yearbook adviser Jessica Bowman wrote in her recommendation letter:

Candid Photo of Amanda Schmalzried at work on the Canton-Galva yearbook.

“As the editor of the 2017 yearbook staff, Amanda has set a high bar of expectations. She keeps the staff members working progressively toward their staff goals while holding each accountable to quality and consistency standards. At the same time, she assists and guides, taking the time to sit with a writer struggling with a lead or to brainstorm alongside a staff member stumped with a design problem. […] Her approach encourages quality production and yet empowers individuals to improve upon their own skills as student journalists.”

The board and staff of KSPA congratulate Amanda Schmalzried as the 2017 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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