Malvern Prep with Justice Bennett
It’s a great feeling to recognize excellent student work – but it’s really thrilling to do it in person.
Three YJI leaders got the chance to do just that last week when they made trophy presentations to Justice Bennett, named the 2016 Student Journalist of the Year, and to the staff and founders of The Contour, a newspaper at The Lawrenceville School. The Contour staff won the 2016 Courage in Journalism award in YJI’s Excellence in Journalism contest.
Justice collected his prize in front of staff members of The Blackfriar Chronicle at Malvern Preparatory School in Pennsylvania, where he is a graduating senior. Other Malvern students who won awards also were recognized in the special ceremony.
Kate Plows, an energetic and encouraging journalism teacher, gathered a couple of dozen young men and Justice’s mom into the newsroom, where the magic happens at Malvern.
After brief introductions, YJI board President Steve Collins and Executive Director Jackie Majerus, presented award certificates and YJI mementos to the students.
Then came the moment that brought us all together: Jennifer Rajotte, a YJI board member and an alum in Philadelphia, handed Justice his heavy crystal trophy. His classmates gave him a standing ovation.
Justice immediately told his fellow students that they shared in the honor, that they had done it together. We left Malvern with a warm feeling about all of them – and several glorious handmade ceramic YJI mugs from Ms. Plows, whose skills are apparently endless.
Then Collins and Majerus headed on to Lawrenceville, New Jersey and a beautiful school that looks like a small New England college.
Students from The Lawrenceville School who founded and ranThe Contour won this year’s award for Courage in Journalism. YJI recognized them for their efforts to bulldoze through the obstacles that stand in the way of every new idea and for making their internationally-focused newspaper come to life. They used their voices to inform their community as well as the greater world about events in faraway lands that are all too easily ignored.
In Lawrenceville’s beautiful rotunda, the two YJI co-founders happily presented a crystal trophy to the three managing editors who started the publication: Allison Huang, Scott Newman and Haruka Noishiki.
Their parents honored them – and us – by traveling to Lawrenceville to be there. So did Headmaster Steve Murray, a warmhearted and kind man. Not only did he change his schedule to be there for his students, but he was the first to post about their prize on Instagram.
Proud Lawrenceville staff, including Erik Chaput, The Contour’sfaculty advisor, joined in to support the students.
Afterward, Allison, Scott and two other Contour editors, Bradford Lin and Gianluca Minardi, took their YJI visitors on a fun, interesting tour of Lawrenceville. Engaging hosts, there were rightfully proud of their school and eager to show it off.
Presenting trophies and getting to know students and staff at both Malvern Prep and The Lawrenceville School left such a great impression that YJI’s leaders are eager to return – and to make more visits at other schools, too.
Typically, YJI sends its trophies via the U.S. mail, but this time, with two winners not far apart nor far away, a road trip seemed in order. As much as YJI leaders would have loved to keep driving and deliver the other three trophies in person, sadly, it wasn’t practical. The U.S. Postal Service, however, made those deliveries just fine.
In Kingsport, Tennessee, teacher David Flanary won the Journalism Educator of the Year award. In Houston, Texas, Eli Winter won the Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary and in Anchorage, Alaska, Francisco Martinez won the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News.
Part of YJI’s mission is to promote and defend a free youth press, and the annual Excellence in Journalism contest does just that, by recognizing terrific work by students around the world, whether they’re reporting for YJI or another publication.
While those trophies in Alaska, Texas and Tennessee couldn’t be delivered in person, there’s no doubt that the dedicated students and teachers there just as awesome as those who welcomed YJI to their schools last week. Here’s hoping the future offers a chance for YJI to one day make those journeys, too.
Francisco Martinez of the Alaskan Teen Media Insti