Here are the winners of the 2017 YJI youth journalism contest

WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, USA – In a year when journalists have been hailed and harassed with equal fervor, Youth Journalism International can safely assure everyone there’s a great new generation of reporters ready to take the field.

This year’s contest for teen journalists, now in its eighth year, attracted astonishing work from hundreds of students around the globe. Those earning awards represent nine countries on five continents as well as 20 U.S. states.

The top winners include a young man from The Gambia writing about his country’s stunning democratic revolution, a gay teen coming out in Tennessee and a teacher who’s been fighting censorship for almost half a century.

The contest provides “a deep look at some of the best work done by teens across the world. Many are doing stirring, important journalism that’s too often overlooked by harried professionals who would fear less for the future of news if they paid more attention to this extraordinary rising generation,” said Steve Collins, board president and co-founder of Youth Journalism International.

Our judges picked Althea Gevero as the 2017 Student Journalist of the Year for her talent as co-editor of a Las Vegas school paper.

Konnie Krislock, an advisor to the student paper at a California high school, emerged from an impossibly gifted field to claim this year’s Journalism Educator of the Year award.

Others honored with engraved crystal trophies were Lama Jallow from The Gambia, who won the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News; Jeevan Ravindran from the United Kingdom, who claimed the Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary; and Oliva Wright from Tennessee, the Courage in Journalism Award recipient.

“It is always hard to choose the top winners,” said Lynn Abrahamson, a YJI board member from Maryland who has served as a contest judge since 2011.

“I was very pleased with the variety of entries, ranging from political and social commentary to travel and hometown pieces,” said Dr. Mariechen Puchert, a YJI alum of Cape Town, South Africa, one of two dozen judges.

Jackie Majerus, executive director of YJI, said, “Our thoughtful, dedicated judges, with their insightful comments about many of the winning entries, make this a valuable contest for young writers, photographers and artists.”

The non-profit Youth Journalism International has been educating the next generation of news professionals and talented teens since 1994. Formally incorporated in 2007, it is a 501(c)(3) educational public charity. Its website can be found at

The contest covered work published in English between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016 for non-professional student journalists aged 19 and under.

For more information, please contact Jackie Majerus, Youth Journalism International’s executive director, at (860) 655-8188 or write to

A complete list of winners is below and also online at Judges comments are in italics.



WINNER:  Althea Gevero, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada

Many student journalists master the art of telling compelling stories, but it takes a special reporter to be able to recognize the value of spotlighting a person who may otherwise go unnoticed.

Althea Gevero, Youth Journalism International’s 2017 Student Journalist of the Year, is that kind of reporter and editor.

As co-editor of the Southwest Shadow at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Gevero “is all about subtlety,” according to her teacher and journalism advisor, Matthew LaPorte.

As a newsroom leader, LaPorte said, Gevero is quiet, in control and enjoys the trust and respect of her staff.

In addition to writing stories and her regular editing for the school paper, Gevero started an Instagram feed, “Humans of Southwest” modeled on the popular “Humans of New York.” The school’s impressive site not only shows engaging photos of students and staff, but allows for a glimpse of the real person behind the game face so many teenagers wear to high school.


Celia Hack, Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas

Markus Meyer, Belmont Secondary School, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Sarah Se-Jung Oh, Korea International School, South Korea


WINNER:  Konnie Krislock, Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California

For decades, Konnie Krislock has been fighting to ensure her students’ voices are heard.
As the advisor to The Bolt, the excellent student paper at Sage Hill School in Newport Coast, Calif., her fiery passion extends from fighting censorship to her hatred of the Oxford comma.
“Courage is at the core of Konnie’s journalism,” said the paper’s opinions editor, Julia Dupuis. “She shapes her students to raise questions that challenge readers and make them think. Her intense (and sometimes slightly terrifying) focus is on helping young people speak the truth with sincerity and passion.”
So this Queen of the First Amendment, a leader for generations of would-be reporters, was an easy pick as the Journalism Educator of the Year even though she faced remarkably tough competition for the honor.


Erin Coggins, Sparkman High School, Harvest, Alabama

Matthew LaPorte, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada

Jessica Bramer, John Marshall High School, Glen Dale, West Virginia


WINNER:  Olivia Wright, Hendersonville, Tennessee

In the wee hours of a Sunday morning last June, Olivia Wright caught the first news of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando and immediately felt “dizzying nausea, numb shock, aching hurt, and undeniable fear.”
As the sun rose, the Nashville teen found her world growing darker.
Wright pictured the victims as “happy, loving, hopeful, beautiful people whose lives had been ripped away by someone who hated them” for being LGBT – someone, in short, like her.
And that day, as she contemplated the attack, she decided that the moment had come for her to step into the light.
Her compelling piece, which carries the ache of keeping her own secrets for so long, also brims with anger and resounds with justice. Coming out is rarely easy. Coming out in public in the midst of a nightmare is even harder.
So this year, we give Wright the Courage in Journalism Award, following three previous winners whose bravery was quite different, showing once again that there are many ways to stand tall against the storm.


WINNER: Lama Jallow, Serrekunda, The Gambia, for stellar coverage leading up to, including and following the election in his country.

From his excited on-the-scene reporting on the jubilant Election Day when voters ousted a longtime dictator to the fearful uncertainty when that entrenched president refused to give up power and instead established armed checkpoints , 19-year-old Lama Jallow of The Gambia delivered a powerful account of life in his country at a pivotal time.

Jallow’s tenacity earned him Youth Journalism International’s highest prize for newswriting, the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News. At a time when the government there was targeting journalists, Jallow served readers around the world important news of a democratic change in his tiny West African nation with riveting photos, video and stories. We’re looking forward to his continued coverage of the change in his country.


WINNER: Jeevan Ravindran, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, for “Bollywood: Woes of Working Women.”

Jeevan Ravindran wins the contest’s top prize for commentary for this piece targeting both sexism and racism in India’s film industry. Ravindran takes filmmakers to task for glamorizing women as “eye candy” who “simper in the background and cling to the arm of the hero” rather than filling any role of substance.

“But what is perhaps the most demeaning realization of all is that these girls don’t even speak,” Ravindran wrote. “In a manner that would shock the Western world, actresses are cast mostly on the basis of their looks and partly their acting skills, with voice and language ability being almost completely insignificant. This is particularly the case in the South Indian film industry, where North Indian girls, considered more attractive due to their lighter skin, are often chosen over native actresses. These actresses then mouth their dialogues whilst a native speaker records the actual words, and no-one knows any different.” 



FIRST PLACE:  Jack Rourke of Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada, for “Editorial Cartoon.”

SECOND PLACE: Lynn Fong of Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California, “The People Have Spoken.”

HONORABLE MENTION: Gabriel Abille of Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, for “Anniversary of the Berlin Wall.”


FIRST PLACE:  Ellie Booton, of Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Me and Doris, Doris and Me.”
Booton possess a strong sense of language and place. Her winning entry stood out for its remarkable amount of sincerity, clarity, and wisdom. In “Me and Doris, Doris and Me,” she explores how the small moments and background players in our lives have the ability to transform us even after they’re gone.

SECOND PLACE: Cassie Valdez, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada, for “A Fading Identity: My Weakening Cultural Bond Is Inevitable.”

In her entry, Valdez writes with grace and candor about the difficulty of reconciling the multiple parts of her identity. Her voice and commentary is an important one, as a young person, as a woman, and as a Filipino-American growing up in the United States today. We hope that, through her work, she will continue to contribute to this important conversation.


Tiana Larsen of Thomas Jefferson High School, Council Bluffs, Iowa, for “I Will Never Forget My Skin Color.”

Gracie Kost of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Drop the False Fronts.”

Morgan Biles of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Dear E. Coli.”


FIRST PLACE: The Harbinger, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “It’s Time to Fight Climate Change.”

This easily could have become a preachy piece about students needing to do more about climate change, something you could read in any newspaper. Instead, using a little bit of humor and fun, the piece offers real tips that other students can relate to and adopt as real steps to do their part for the environment. An overall good read.

SECOND PLACE:  The Blackfriar Chronicle, Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern, Pennsylvania, for “We endorse discussion this election season.”

Using a clear voice, the writer takes a strong stance in urging the school community to come together in truth, unity and love. The unifying call to action is one all students can appreciate and adopt.

HONORABLE MENTION: Southwest Shadow, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada for “Mandatory AP testing for GPA bump sets a poor precedent for students.”

Good use of a real student facing a choice in the number of AP classes and insight on what new testing means, strong reporting of the facts makes it easy to understand the impact and why students should care.


FIRST PLACE: Tyler Pizzico of Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern, Pennsylvania, for “Preparing for college and beyond.”

Covered valuable information students need to know. This could have been shorter, condensed into some key parts, but this is really minor. Overall very clear.

SECOND PLACE: Sarah Se-jung Oh, Korea International School, South Korea, for “Applied learning goes global.”

Great profile of a visiting teacher and on applied learning. Well written. Any comments from the students themselves might have been nice. She could have added more about applied learning in general, but a minor complaint.


Michael Harrington, Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern, Pennsylvania, for “Student substance abuse requires proactive approach.”

Extremely important topic. Diversity of quotes. Good ending. Minor grammar mistake or two.

Garret Reich of Glenwood, Iowa, for “Prizewinning photojournalists tell how work can stand out.”

Good event report. Again, very interesting to cover the career trajectories of these photo journalists. But this interpretation wasn’t as strong as it could have been.


FIRST PLACE: Meagan Stapp, Michaela Kelley, Reeya Patel, Evelyn Sanchez, Ryan Eggers and Luna Stinson of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Election 2016.”

The team did an election overview of the election, from the local to the national races.


FIRST PLACE: Daisy Bolin of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “The Buzz about Honey.”

SECOND PLACE: Ellie Booton of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “This is Not a Story about a Blind Girl.”


Christina Acevedo of Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California, for “Quiet Voices.”

Rylee Elliot of John Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Kingsport and Sevier Middle have a haunted history.”

Althea Gevero of Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, for “Can’t stand the heat, don’t stay in the … music festival?”

Erin Kelly of Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Missouri, for “Nabeel Syed: Conquering Islamophobia.”

Jackelyn Romo of Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, for “All Inked Up.”

Alexandre Silberman of Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont, for “Time for Change? After a hectic fall, BHS administrators are working to redesign the schedule.”

Yashi Wang of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “ACCESS DENIED: East Parent Participates in Dakota Access Pipeline.”


FIRST PLACE:  Virginia Bolin and Morgan Biles of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “A life well lived.”

A simple, well written story, but powerful. It tenderly touches a very sensitive subject without cheap sentimentality. It’s particularly interesting for a young journalist to devote herself to such a complex subject with so much maturity. Congratulations.

SECOND PLACE: Adele Baughman and Katie Judd of Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood Missouri, for “The affected.”

Great work, well researched and written.


FIRST PLACE: Leen Othman of Damascus, Syria, for “Discovering Mystical and Natural Wonders in the Caucuses Mountains of Russia”

The piece had a good lead and an equally good conclusion. The author expertly weaves the outside world into her personal experience, and achieves a good balance of subjective experience and factual information, leaving the reader enriched.

SECOND PLACE: Yogin Patel of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois, for “Social Commentary: Freshman Again.”

The author does a good job of relating his personal experience to a wider audience, and in a tone which engages the reader. Well-written!


Morgan Biles of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Locked Lips.”

Lovely to read, the author shares a very personal experience and avoids the easy clichéd conclusion.

Garret Reich of Glenwood, Iowa, for “Teen Draws Inspiration, Hope from Michelle Obama’s Speech on Sexual Assault.”

A good example of “the personal is political,” this makes for a compelling report on a political event and its implications for the author and audience. 


FIRST PLACE: Camille Herren, Kaylyn Jones and Parker Boothe of Sparkman High School, Harvest, Alabama, for “The unheard voices of slut shaming and sexual bullying.”

This is an impressive body of work, composed of written articles, an interesting video, and infographics. The topic was tough to deal with, yet the authors managed to draw an interesting insight, dealing with facts, opinions and interviews in a smart, thorough and thrilling way.

SECOND PLACE: Andrea Czobor of The University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, for “Deliver on deadline: Pros get it done.”

Twitter can become a very powerful medium for journalists: this piece by Czobor is the perfect example. Made of short interviews in the form of video Q&A, this entry gives interesting news and opinions in a fresh, simple, but effective way, combining videos, short texts and hashtags.


Celia Hack, Ellie Cook, Caroline Heitmann and Morgan Browning of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Facing the problem.”

A very good job on a very serious topic, dealt with a fresh approach.

Arina Filippenko of University of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska, for “Birding in Anchorage.”

A good radio piece, well written and edited, with interesting interviews and a good sound.


FIRST PLACE: Taylor Honig of Thomas Jefferson High School, Council Bluffs, Iowa, for “Thomas Jefferson hosts Special Olympics Play Day.”

The sound quality and editing was especially good in this feature. The reporter picked concise clips and action-packed B-roll to put together a nice short story on Special Olympics Play Day. This was a good contrast to some of the other entries, which were longer and not as well edited.

SECOND PLACE: Avery Walker of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Amigos.”

While this feature could have been edited down by a few minutes to be more effective, I enjoyed listening to the students talk about their experience traveling to South America. You really got a good sense of what the students learned on their trip.

Alexandre Silberman of Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont, for “Burlington Rallies for Syrian Refugees.”

This feature needed a reporter to explain what was happening, but of all the entries was the piece that connected to something larger than an insular school community. It’s great that a high school student was out at night taking video and capturing images and sounds from an important event.


FIRST PLACE: Zainab Tahir and Taishiry Salazar of Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, New York, for “Election commentary.”


FIRST PLACE: Kristin Thorneloe  and Fathima Shaikh of John Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Little Known Swim Team Unites Sevier and Robinson Middle.”

Great job letting the principals – the coach, and swimmers from each school – tell the story. Could have used a little more reportorial insight to better set up the quotes in an interesting piece. Use of B-roll kept viewer interest.


FIRST PLACE: Alexandre Silberman, Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont, for “Union Votes to Strike, Final Mediation Session Today.”

This entry’s depth of reporting, understanding of a complicated subject and attention to detail was impressive. There are professional education reporters not able to handle tensions between teachers and school boards – to say nothing of a looming strike – this well and even-handedly.

SECOND PLACE: Molly Turner of Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Sevier Middle Teacher Passes Away After Fight with Cancer.”

One of the most difficult things a reporter does is write about death. And whether it’s a murder, a suicide or – as in this entry – a death after a long fight with a terrible disease, it’s important to do it well. The subject was handled with sensitivity and the teacher’s life and importance to her community was illuminated. Writing about the impact of someone’s life on a community is an important part of covering a death – and it can be very difficult to do, even for seasoned reporters. This entry gets it right.

Haemaru Chung, Trinity School, New York, New York, for “NYC Grocers Unite Against Financial Challenges.”

This was a good look at something that is part of the school community without being actually attached to the school. Leaving the halls and classrooms to cover the wider community is something too few school papers – be they middle, high school or college – do well.

Brian Szipszky of Malvern Preparatory, Malvern, Pennsylvania, for “Chorus performance at Melania Trump rally scheduled, cancelled.”
This was a good, even-handed look at the way a divisive election impacted the school community. Not a think piece but an actual news event – the cancelling of a performance to which some were looking forward and which made others uncomfortable. A chorus performance may seem like a small piece of the coverage of so important an election, but finding the unique ways a huge national event touches the community you’re covering is a very important part of being a professional reporter for a local publication.


FIRST PLACE: Emma Ismail and Max Cohn, Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois, for “UChicago Urges Open Discussion: Letter sent to incoming freshman causes trigger warning controversy”
Cohn and Ismail do a good job of introducing their audiences to the practice on some school campuses of issuing trigger warnings. The reporters explain what a trigger warning is early in the piece, so as not to keep their readers guessing, and they examine it from various angles.
We particularly appreciated their inclusion of the idea that trigger warnings could create an “exclusive” environment for some students. Of course, it is debatable whether they are or are not inclusive or exclusive – or whether exclusivity should be grounds to use or not use trigger warnings. The value in exploring exclusivity is that it implores readers to step back and consider how academic policies impact different groups of students.  This is important, given that YJI strives to train aspiring journalists – and citizens – to weigh all perspectives.

SECOND PLACE: Mugdha Gurram of West Hartford, Connecticut and Garret Reich of Glenwood, Iowa, for “‘Spotlight’ editor Marty Baron: careful, hard work makes a great news reporter.”
The story is an interesting and easy read because the student journalists did not get
bogged down in excess details. Rather, they focused on the risks The Boston Globe team faced in reporting a controversial scandal, and how they protected themselves by documenting everything. The visual example of Baron himself visiting a high-ranking church official is a nice detail that illustrates the lengths good journalists go to verify facts, especially at this time when the media is facing great scrutiny.


Karen Sacta and Beatriz Gomez de Castro of Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, New York, for “Hillcrest and Gentrification: What happens to Hillcrest as Jamaica becomes the “Next Williamsburg?”
Gentrification remains an important topic as living costs rise in American cities, but we’ve never seen this story told from the perspective of a young person whose school environment – social and physical – is disrupted by neighborhood shifts. We encourage these reporters to keep exploring this issue. As students, they bring fresh insight to this issue, and they will break ground and break news.


FIRST PLACE:  Daisy Bolin of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Yay or Neigh?”
Well written, heartfelt opinion about a real world subject and the change of opinion that sometimes occurs with growing up.

SECOND PLACE: Liddy Stallard, Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Breaking Out of her BFFs.”

Another well written and well thought out piece dealing with a real slice of life and how we handle challenges. Very optimistic and positive approach. 


Abigail Walker, Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Burning The Blueprints.”

A touching opinion piece about the pain of growing though personal tragedy and the slow process of healing. Nicely crafted and memorable piece. 

Courtney Biagi of Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, for “Social Media Posts Distort Mental Illness.”

A nicely crafted opinion piece about a timely and sensitive topic. Good introduction, body and conclusion.


FIRST PLACE:  Abby Geisz of Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Missouri, for “When I Grow Up…”

We love the creativity and thought process that went behind this!
SECOND PLACE: Allison Hall of The George Washington University and Duluth, Minnesota, for “A New View Of Veterans Memorials In Washington, D.C. Blizzard”

HONORABLE MENTION: Michaela Kelley of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Touchdown Catch.”


FIRST PLACE: Justin Hern and Amelia Hern of West Hartford, Connecticut, Yoshiyuki Matsumoto of Kyoto, Japan for “Teen Fan Happily Goes Down to ‘The River.”

Using video and still photography, these three captured the excitement of young fans at a Bruce Springsteen concert.


FIRST PLACE: Michaela Kelley of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Spotlight’s On.”

The image lives up to its title. While there is no further info on the context of the image, it seems to deal with isolation and slavery. The chorus in the in the background, in their colorful robes and flickering candles, provide a stark contrast, yet a sense of unity, with the naked man.

SECOND PLACE: Amaya Miller of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Sing a Song.”

This image definitely sang off the page with the excitement and joy to be found in music!

Katherine Grimm of The John Carroll School, Bel Air, Maryland, for “Artist Spotlight: Wilson shines as a triple threat.”

Mary Poppins is a delight, and this is a great feature shot of Ella Wilson leading a favorite children’s story. We love that the cast in the background is listening in and sharing the fun.


Justin Hern, Suffield Academy and West Hartford, Connecticut, for “Bruce Springsteen crowd surfs back to the stage.”

I don’t know that I would have recognized this image as being the Boss, but you can feel the excitement of the crowd.


FIRST PLACE:  Haley Bell of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Varsity Soccer vs Washburn.”

The agony of defeat is crystal clear. Perfect.

SECOND PLACE: Alexandre Silberman of Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont, for “Cuban Youth with baseball gear.”

With Cuba in the news since the early sixties, its ties to Russia undisputable, many people forget this little island nation lies a mere 105 miles from U.S. shores. This photo beautifully illustrates how much more we have in common than previously understood.

Krystal Gallegos of Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California, for “Striking a chord.”

Nice photo front page feature photo.

Justin Hern of Suffield Academy and West Hartford, Connecticut, for “Ohio Gov. John Kasich.”

Great photo illustrating being there.


FIRST PLACE: Morgan Browning of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Goalie.”

Browning’s goalie picture stops a viewer in their tracks. The look on his face, the placement of the ball, and you end up sitting there, wondering if the ball goes in or does the goalie make a save? Excellent job, Morgan.

SECOND PLACE: Shelby Pinkston of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Celebration.”

Pinkston catches the emotion at just the right time.


Haley Bell of Shawnee Mission East in Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Soccer.”

Bell’s soccer action photo is good, but would have been better if cropped in a bit.


FIRST PLACE:  Tessa Hammond of Thomas Jefferson High School, Council Bluffs, Iowa, for “Sky High.”
Very cool eye-catching concept highlighting the “Sky High” gymnast with a bright orange shirt in the black-and-white photo. This illustration is an example of ‘thinking out of the box.’ She caught the cheerleader at his peak, then used her artistic talent to help highlight the cheerleader from his teammates. We’re glad she credited the art as a photo illustration in the publication. Nice work.


FIRST PLACE: Haley Bell, Morgan Browning and Kaitlyn Stratman of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas for “Varsity boys soccer semifinals vs Dodge City.”
What catches the eye is that this series has a nice collection of different images. From action to fans to emotion, these pictures tell the viewer about game-day.


FIRST PLACE: Maggie Shepard of Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada, for “World champion web designer: Meet Amanda Galvan.”

Well written and organized, this piece engaged the reader from the beginning with a compelling story. Shepard used quotes and links effectively.

SECOND PLACE:  Amanda Lira and Souza Xavier of Brazil, for “Here lies a tribe.”
Well constructed and researched, this piece carries an important message about indigenous people. The writers provided interesting and descriptive details and used quotes effectively to tell the story.


Hana Krogness of Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, for ” Photographer spotlights Boise’s adoptance of refugee groups.”
Well organized story line and good use of details. Captured the essence of the photographer

Grace Westphal of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois, for “Living with Cerebral Palsy.”
Well-developed profile and effective use of quotes. Story communicated the student’s story in a positive and thoughtful manner.


FIRST PLACE:  Demi Nicole Manglona of Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, for “Anticipated Superhero Blockbuster Falls Flat.”
Manglona’s review not only hits the nail on the head that BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN – DAWN OF JUSTICE was a deeply flawed movie, but she adequately susses out why it is a disappointment. Her assessment of character development, pacing issues, and placing the film in the continuum of previous DC outings (as well as contrasting it with the more successful Marvel outings), shows that she put a great deal of thought into the importance of a film uniting two beloved franchises. Blockbuster films are not always smart; Demi’s review was. The only reservation is that a quick summation of the plot may be helpful to the reader, but, let’s face it, with a title like ‘Batman vs. Superman,’ we pretty much know what is coming.

SECOND PLACE:  Jeevan Ravindran of Oxford University, England, for “Review: The Pillowman.”
Ravindran’s insight-filled review of Martin McDonough’s horror-comedy-mystery play was a delight to read. Oftentimes, reviewers neglect to mention the component parts of a production (lighting, set, sound, as well as acting and directing) in favor of “I liked the story” or “I didn’t like the story.” By pointing out the various elements of the collaborative art of theatre, this review gives an encompassing and favorable view of this particular mounting of “The Pillowman.” The one major drawback to the review that kept it from the winner’s circle: SPOILERS. The question of guilt or innocence for the accused, the fates of several characters, and hidden plot points are all revealed, which is the job of the playwright and not the critic. Having seen “The Pillowman” on Broadway, the play thrives on edge-of-your-seat surprise and gallows humor. By giving the reader too much information, some of that excitement is potentially undercut thereby reducing the thrills for the audience.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kellen Dean of Thomas Jefferson High School, Council Bluffs, Iowa, for YouTube Reviews of “The Conjuring” and “Suicide Squad.”
Dean receives an honorable mention not for the quality of his review, but for HOW he reviewed. As newspaper readership sadly dwindles, Kellen takes to a format that has become increasingly more significant: the video review. Even newspapers are making their journalists do double-time with video shorts as well as written pieces. The editing is good, although the piece lacks a proper opening/introduction and some of the clip placements are odd. The content of the reviews are too short, both have no plot description, and, sorry Kellen – Harley Quinn was the best part of ‘Suicide Squad.’


FIRST PLACE: Madeleine Deisen of Walton High School, Marietta, Georgia, for “The Possibility of Now, by Kim Culbertson.”

This review was well written and stood out for its awareness and analysis of YA novels as a genre. A concise, down-to-earth, well supported critique.

SECOND PLACE: Adriana Cayetano of Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada, for “Dirt Dog: a street food themed restaurant.”

The author’s familiarity with Mexican food in Los Angeles added depth and perspective to the review.


Madeleline Hlobik of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “DIY Donuts.”

The scientific flavor of this article was fun and tied in well with the concept behind the restaurant itself.

Sarah Se-Jung Oh of Korea International School, South Korea, for “Top 10 Winter Break Reads.”

The selection of books covered in this article had a great range of genres and topics. The inclusion of interesting quotes from each book was a compelling touch.


FIRST PLACE:  Eli Winter of the University of Chicago and Houston, Texas for “Daniel Bachman’s Provocative Self-Titled Release.”

This is another case where we’d never heard of the recording artist – but feel like we can really hear this record. Winter does what music criticism kind of needs to do, but rarely does: He describes what the songs actually sound like, and what kind of emotional impact they might have (without going too deep into his own head). There’s some hyperbolic language here, but I that’s okay – he places this record in the context of the artist’s previous work and the world outside of it, and he comes off as authoritative. Pro-level work on Winter’s part.

SECOND PLACE: Yashi Wang, Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “November Playlist.”

While Wang’s October playlist felt both rushed and repetitive, November stretches out just a little bit more and in turn successfully navigates the challenging blurb form. Most of these blurbs are strong elevator pitches for recommended tracks. Some of the language gets a little vague again toward the end, but it’s generally smart and authoritative stuff.


Markus Mayer of Belmont Secondary School, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for “Sturgill Simpson Sets New Highs with ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

Solid, descriptive work that reflects an understanding of the source material and its context. There’s a little bit of what sounds like hero worship in here, but the writer’s descriptions feel like they have enough objectivity to be critically authoritative.


FIRST PLACE: Jet Semrick of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Bearing the Weight of her Dreams.”
Lead provided a great scene-setter. Good quotes from three different people, and insightful facts about her other coach not quoted. Solid reporting illustrating in-depth knowledge of the subject. Objective – not necessarily a puff (“feature”) piece, but presented a positive story leaving readers with a rooting in the subject.

SECOND PLACE: Daisy Bolin of Shawnee Mission East, Prairie Village, Kansas, for “Triple Threat.”
Clever lede provided the “seasonal” theme throughout. While on-field/court play was covered thoroughly, personality perspective was provided by someone who really knew her subject.

HONORABLE MENTION: Olivia Lamberti of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois, for “Transgendered Athletes.”

Good, tight news item on a politically sensitive topic. Lead with an athlete immediately put a face to the piece. Quotes from related executives provided proper perspective of the situation. Very well done!


FIRST PLACE: Kianni Johnson, Bryana Martinez and Amatullah Wright, Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, New York, for “Being a Student Athlete is Not Easy.”

These students did a nice job of taking a different approach to a sports story.


FIRST PLACE: Sarah Se-Jung Oh of Korea International School, South Korea for “Behind Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Stadium.”

Good overview of a story that transcends the sports world.  She showed us what officials present versus what is reality.

SECOND PLACE: Pat Ferraiolo of Malvern Preparatory, Malvern, Pennsylvania, for “New NCAA Rule Changes Recruiting Process.”

Solid effort to get to the truth of a story.  All sides are reported fairly

HONORABLE MENTION: Isabella Wilkinson of John Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Sports Awards Ceremony Missing from Sevier Middle.”

Thorough examination from a middle school reporter.  She showed all perspectives to a big issue at the school.


FIRST PLACE:  Brooke Kerley of Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, for “Junior Lands Dream of Playing College Soccer.”

Well reported effort to break down the negative jock stereotype.

SECOND PLACE:  Grace Lyles of John Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Genders are still unequal in athletics.”

Tackles an important issue and presents a fair argument in a concise manner.


FIRST PLACE: Sarah Se-Jung Oh of Korea International School, South Korea, for “Goodreads: The Book Lover’s Social Media.”

This article did a great job of explaining not only the features of this website, but also its audience and its uniqueness as a social network. The reader comes away with new insight about reading as a social activity and not just a solitary one.

SECOND PLACE: Ani Nuthalapati of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois, for “Passwords.”
The author’s investigative reporting added a great deal to the relevant and timely nature of this article. The graphical presentation of data also enhanced the drama of the story and summarized it well.


Patrick Galloway of John Sevier Middle School, Kingsport, Tennessee, for “Time to Play a Game: Dropchord.”

Note to student journalists and teachers: We’ll be doing this contest again next year for stories written in English between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017 by students 19 and under. Think about what you can do to win and then do it! There are many categories – and we’re open to creating new ones – and plenty of opportunities to bring your work to our attention.


PS: For more photos, reaction and information, please keep an eye on YJI’s blog and its Facebook page in the coming days. And don’t hesitate to send photos of yourself with your trophy or award certificate if you’re among the winners. We’d love to share them with the world! Send them to and be sure to identify anyone in the picture!






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