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Mill Valley student wins national JEA award

Kansas’ Journalist of the Year has proven herself one of the nation’s top scholastic journalists.

Sarah Darby, a senior at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, earned $2,000 by being named a runner-up in the Journalism Education Association’s Journalist of the Year competition. Last month, Kansas named Darby its 2012 High School Journalist of the Year, for which she will receive $1,250 at the KSPA State Contest on May 5.

Darby received the news in person April 15 from JEA at the organization’s national convention in Seattle, during the JEA awards ceremony. She sat with her Mill Valley adviser, Kathy Habiger.

So how did that drama feel for Darby?

“I was focusing on not having a heart attack,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking at all because it was just awesome.”

Darby won the Kansas competition because the stories she wrote and produced helped make her school a better place. According to judges, Darby’s portfolio stories shined a light on issues that carried great weight at Mill Valley and in the community.

“I treat every story with a passion,” Darby said. “Every piece in (the portfolio) I had given 100 percent effort to. The main thing I wanted the judges to know was how much I enjoyed all the things I’ve done in journalism, from investigative stories, design, leadership opportunities to website development. I think my passion for all those things stood out to the judges.”

In her two years as a leader for the JagWire, Darby helped build Mill Valley’s JagWire News Online from a sleepy website to one of the nation’s best. JagWire News Online earned Pacemaker finalist designation from the JEA.

Darby said competing in the Kansas Journalist of the Year competition was a positive experience for her, and would have been had she earned no money for it.

“Just seeing all of that work compiled together was a huge confidence booster for me.” she said. “Journalists don’t do this work to get recognition, and applying for this can give you a different recognition than journalists don’t normally get. Plus I get to have this portfolio for the rest of my life to look back and show others.”

In all, 37 state journalists of the year entered their portfolios in the JEA national competition.

The JOY Committee evaluated the submissions on Thursday evening and selected seven students as scholarship winners.

Kelsey Bell of Frances Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo., was named the 2012 National Journalist of the Year and will receive a check from JEA for $5,000.

The other five runners-up are:
Aiste Zalepuga, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Bradenton, Fla.
Christian Rumscheidt, Cypress Falls High School, Houston, Texas
Beatriz Costa-Lima, Munster High School, Munster, Ind.
Christophe Haubersin, Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, Calif.
Carlo Nasisse, Clarke Central High School, Athens, Ga.

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