Winners From Around The World In YJI’s 2014 Excellence In Journalism Contest

Crystal trophies went to the winners of the top four categories in Youth Journalism International's  2014 Excellence in Journalism contest.

WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – Young writers, photographers and artists from nine nations captured awards in the Youth Journalism International 2014 Excellence in Journalism contest.

“It’s inspiring to see so much promise from young journalists around the world,” said YJI’s Executive Director Jackie Majerus. “We’re excited to be able to recognize it with this contest.”

Maureen Langley

Maureen Langley of Bloomington, Indiana, is the 2014 Student Journalist of the Year.

Langley, who will be a senior at the school next fall, said she likes every aspect of journalism – the design, the photography, the editing, writing and interviewing.
“I like to make people sweat when I ask them questions,” Langley said.
Her advisor, Ryan Gunterman, called Langley the best in a long line of top-notch students.
She is never satisfied with simply getting material completed, and lives every day under the philosophy of ‘Good enough is never good or enough,’“ said Gunterman. “She’s not a student journalist. She is a journalist.”
Teacher Michelle Harmon, right, with Brazilian exchange student Beatriz Lanfranchi 

Michelle Harmon, who teaches at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho, is the 2014 Journalism Educator of the Year.

Joy Wilson, who will be a co-editor next fall in Harmon’s program, said Harmon, who has taught journalism at the school for a decade, advocates for students in journalism and in life.
“She’s one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said Wilson. “She knows what she’s doing. It’s an honor to work under her.”
The top award for newswriting, the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News, went to Emily Muñoz of Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, Texas, for an in-depth piece she wrote about rampant cheating in her school.
The highest award in opinion writing, the Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary, went to Nawall Hassan, a student at Jeddah International School in Saudi Arabia. A Boston native, Hassan wrote about the grief she felt when terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon.
The annual contest, now in its fifth year, recognized student writing and reporting, art, photo and multi-media skills
in more than two dozen news, sports and opinion categories.
“As in past years, this year’s judging was not easy,” said Wendy Riling, a Florida photographer who donates her time each year to review entries. “The photos submitted were fresh and insightful.”

In keeping with the nature of Youth Journalism International, an educational non-profit organization with students around the world, a diverse group of nearly two dozen judges from several continents carefully evaluated the hundreds of entries that poured in from around the globe.

Judge Mariechen Puchert of Cape Town, South Africa, said she looked at the content, impact and style in each piece and found it challenging because of the high quality of the work submitted.
“It was a privilege and honor to review the work of so many talented students, said Lynn Abrahamson of Maryland, another judge.
In all, more than 100 awards are going to 74 teens from 12 U.S. states and the countries of Scotland, Vietnam, Egypt, Pakistan, Japan, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
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
non-profit public charity. Its website can be found at
The contest covered work published in
English between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 20132. Those eligible must be 19 or under and not working professionally.
For more information, please contact Jackie Majerus, Youth Journalism International’s executive director, at (860) 523-9632 in Connecticut or write to
A complete list of winners, along with judges’ comments in italics, is below and also posted online at
WINNER: Maureen Langley, Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, IN
Maureen’s work shows that she excels not only as a writer, but a photographer, graphic designer and webmaster. She found a way to make the Boston Marathon bombings resonate with readers faraway in Indiana when she tracked down former students from her school who were in Boston that day and captured their stories. Her photos are stunning, her web design impressive. The personal essays she wrote are thoughtful and probing. She is a terrific example of a promising young journalist who represents the future of the profession. We look forward to seeing what Maureen does next with her considerable talents.
FINALIST: Anisha Datta, Glencoe High School, Hillsboro, Oregon
FINALIST: Sabrina Leung, Carlmont High School, Redwood City, California
FINALIST: Michelle Chavez, University of Maryland
WINNER: Michelle Harmon, Borah High School, Boise, Idaho
Ms. Harmon’s decade of dedication to The Senator, its staff and other students at Borah High School make her an excellent choice for Journalism Educator of the Year. She shows compassion for and trust in her students while holding them to high ethical and performance standards. Year after year, her journalism students tackle tough subjects and produce a school paper of consistently high quality. They also maintain a solid online presence. Her work with her students would be enough to warrant this honor, but Ms. Harmon goes beyond the classroom and is actively involved in the Journalism Education Association, ensuring that she stays on the cutting edge of her profession. This and other outreach in the journalism education world makes her a leader in the field and an incredible source of support not only for her young journalists but for other teachers as well.
FINALIST: Justin Raisner, The Highlander, Carlmont High School, Belmont, CA
Special Recognition: Yannick Florest, Supervising School Aide, Beginning with Children Charter School, Brooklyn NY
WINNER: Emily Muñoz, “Academic Dishonesty,” Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, TX
Emily’s in-depth and hard-hitting story about rampant cheating in her Texas high school pulled no punches. She snagged interviews not only with teachers who had a range of views on academic dishonesty, but with students, including one who admitted to cheating. She didn’t stop at the high school door, but pursued university officials and college students at two Texas universities. Going that extra distance served her high school readers. Her story educated them about how differently cheating is viewed and handled at the college level compared to what they see in their high school. Emily’s story represents the kind of tough journalism espoused by Frank Keegan, for whom this award is named.

WINNER: Nawall Hassan, “From Saudi Arabia, Boston Born American Muslim Grieves Marathon
Bombing Victims,” Jeddah International School, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
In her piece, “From Saudi Arabia, Boston Born American Muslim Grieves Marathon Bombing Victims,” Nawall Hassan writes movingly about the cherished memories she has of growing up in her hometown of Boston and the grief she felt after the Boston Marathon bombings. At the time of the bombings, Nawall was living in Saudi Arabia, watching the story unfold from afar. Her poignant work wrestles with her own struggle to come to grips with the attack, deftly balancing her role as part of two distinct countries and cultures as she hopes and prays that the terrorists are not fellow Muslims.
FINALIST: Jennifer Neufeld, “Common Apprehensions,” Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham, New York
FINALIST: Teo Armus-Laski, for Commentary Series, New York, Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York
NEWS – Individual reporting
FIRST PLACE: Rachel Kuhr, Juan Diego Catholic High School, Draper, Utah. “Draper Resident Fights Lifelong Battle with Rare Disease”
Rachel wins for both her sensitive take on a difficult subject and well as her ability to explain complicated diseases in a way anyone could understand.
SECOND PLACE: Wonik Son, Trinity School, NY, but he lives in Fort Lee, NJ for “Who Wore it Best? Not Trinity Students, Apparently”
Wonik did a great job getting a range of opinions about the dress code, including the gender politics angle. 
HONORABLE MENTION: Walter Mulroy, International School of Kenya, Nairobi, “Kenyans bracing for election”
An interesting look at the practical problems, such as getting to school, that happen as part of a politically turbulent place.
NEWS – Team reporting (multiple byline)
FIRST PLACE: Mary Majerus-Collins, Celeste Kurz, Erez Bittan, Kiernan Majerus-Collins,  Hall High School and Conard High School, West Hartford, CT, for “Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu Believes in Young People
SECOND PLACE: Teo Armus-Laski, Melissa Rodman, Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY, “Alumni Urge School to Investigate Abuse Charges”
ENTERPRISE – (individual byline)
FIRST PLACE: Sophia Slater, The American School in Japan, “Tibet freedom struggleseries
Sophia Slater’s series of interviews with leading Tibetan luminaries shed light on their hope, courage and creativity. She asked good questions and solicited insightful answers.
SECOND PLACE: Anisha Datta, Glencoe High School, Hillsboro, Oregon, “Controlling Contraceptives”
First Place in the Enterprise team reporting category went to this data spread in The Phillipian.

FIRST PLACE: The Phillipian staff, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., for News Data Spread, “State of the Academy

What a good-looking, solid and informative graphic spread the “State of the Academy” is! The Phillipian and its staff have every reason to be proud of putting together a well-researched portrait of their school, done with style and simplicity. A very professional effort.
SECOND PLACE: Brittany Kriegstein, Will Duke, Olivia Fine and Cameron Hellerman, Friends
Academy, Locust Valley, NY, “Cheating at Friends Academy: An Expose
HONORABLE MENTION: Kailash Sundaram and Ryan Brigden, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, “Adapting to Diversity Within Diversity: CAMD Meets Needs of Changing Student
PROFILE — Individual
FIRST PLACE: Janine Ko, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., for “Frank Stella Profile
Janine offered an evocative opening quote and built the storyline in a logical way. Overall, it was well written and interesting to read.
SECOND PLACE:  Nandi Blanchard, International School of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, “Nairobi Football Team’s Biggest Loss Was When Terrorists Killed An Exceptional Girl.”
Great use of quotes in this piece, which captures the essence of the student. Key details provided interest and texture.
HONORABLE MENTION:  Daniel Rich, Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, NY, “Alumni
Spotlight: Darren Rovell”
Daniel’s effective use of photos enhanced the story, which was a rich and interesting description of Rovell’s career. Overall, the piece is well constructed and organized.
FEATURES – Individual
FIRST PLACE: Sabrina Leung, Carlmont High School, Belmont, Calif., “Flushing out the gender separation”
Sabrina’s feature on transgender students in public schools is an impressively written and well researched article that calls attention to an often ignored problem in public schools. Her command of language and ability to create an engaging and informative piece of journalism is commendable. 
SECOND PLACE: Leigh Cook, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, “Bus Drivers”
In “Bus Drivers” Leigh brings to light the lives of people who most students see every day but ultimately know very little about. In addition to providing a great deal of insight, Leigh demonstrates a strong command of language and truly engages the reader by bringing them into a world that usually lies out of the public eye. 
HONORABLE MENTION: Keylee Scott, Journalism & Media Academy, Hartford, CT “Light is the New Black”
In her feature, “Light is the New Black” Keylee provides insight into a unique cultural phenomenon, tactfully providing opposing viewpoints and engaging the reader. 
FIRST PLACE: Emily Munoz and Alyssa Newman, Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, TX, “Uprooted”
A shorter piece that packs a punch, “Uprooted” is relevant to its community and audience and addresses the important face of immigrants and refugees in the USA. The interviews give good depth to the article and make for a gripping read. The writing style is well-rounded and allows the subjects to convey their story.
SECOND PLACE:  Simran Arjani, David Heller, Anna Radakrishnan, Ana Song, Joanna Kim, Serena Tharakan, Lexi Lerner, Ji-Sung Kim, Lucia Tu, Joshua Meier, Sarah Joseph, Esther Lee, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, New Jersey, “AcademyScientific Space Issue
A team project on a grand scale, this was executed beautifully, and difficult concepts were relayed to the reader in an understandable and interesting fashion. Definitely the way forward to making science features not only accessible but enjoyable to younger audiences.
HONORABLE MENTION: YJI staff, “Wigwam Takes Shape At Bristol Preserve”
A stellar example of illustrating the importance of local events and local history in journalism. Good writing in a crisp voice that still paints a coherent picture to the reader’s mind.
EDITORIAL (unsigned; award goes to publication)
FIRST PLACE: The Phillipian, “Let’sTalk About Sex,” Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
The maturity in handling the subject, as well as having a solid pulse on the student body and its interests, makes this editorial stand out from the rest. The writing is solid, the argument convincing. Its clear call to action and the supporting argument the team made would be hard for its readers, students, parents and school administrators to disregard. 
SECOND PLACE: The Lawrence, “A Necessary Measure,” The Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
A courageous stance calling for discipline of members of the student body. The writing is clear and concise. The argument is well made and supported. Nice job.
HONORABLE MENTION: Horace Mann Record, “Complexities of competitive reputation,” Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York 
The newspaper team provides a calm voice over a subject that hit close to home. Its last paragraph connects with the reader without being overly emotional.
FIRST PLACE: Michelle Chavez, “Concerns About Under-Reported Rapes at UMD,” University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland  
Michelle did a great job of finding a diverse group of students, health care and university officials to discuss the issue of under-reported rape on campus.
SECOND PLACE: Chloe Chaobal, “Suicide Prevention at West High“, West Anchorage High School, Anchorage, Alaska 
A thorough and thoughtful examination of a serious, important issue.
FIRST PLACE:  Arina Filippenko, Gerygone & Twig,” West Anchorage High School, Anchorage, Alaska
In a long-form radio report, Arina shared the music and the story behind the local band Gerygone & Twig, doing an excellent job of capturing the band’s sound and personality.
SECOND PLACE: Michelle Min, “15 Freshmen Faces,” Sage Hill School, Newport Coast, California
HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Carzello, “Building a Wigwam,” Connecticut
FIRST PLACE: Barae Hirsch “Sex, drugs and classical music in Town Square,” West Anchorage High School, Anchorage, Alaska
Barae confronts stereotypes about young people in the context of a ridiculous municipal proposal to drive misbehaving teens from town square by blasting classical music. Great idea and some hilarious snippets from teens. A fun report.
FIRST PLACE: Justin Hern, “Keyshawn Johnson Talks About NFL with YJI”, Bristow Middle School, West Hartford, Connecticut
It was interesting to see a former NFL star in a different context, doing his job at ESPN. Justin’s knowledge of football came through.
FIRST PLACE: Lily Grossbard, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, “Putting the ‘T’ in LGBTQ”
Lily tackles a taboo subject within a taboo subject and does it elegantly. Acknowledging her readership is left of center, she goes beyond preaching to the choir for a deeper dive into gender identity than even many gay and lesbian students and their allies might find comfortable. She also deftly marries stats, a personal story and perspective from the author of the study she cites to create something more effective than the typical teen polemic on a divisive social issue.
SECOND PLACE: Kai Lawson-McDowall, International School of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya “Coming Kenyan Election Triggers Memories of 2007Violence and Worries About What’s Next
Kai gives a strong run-down of the issue’s history and asks the reader to acknowledge their position of privilege, from which the discussion is largely academic, and consider the position of the less fortunate.
COLUMN WRITING (individual)
FIRST PLACE: Teo Armus Laski – “The best and the Brightest,” Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York
This was well written, and thoroughly thought out. Good introduction and a good concluding statement.
SECOND PLACE: Issac Jiffar, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, “Montgomery County’s Math Masquerade
This column had a strong introduction, lots of supporting facts and a strong conclusion. Well done.
Kennedy Huff, Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, TX, “Your Confederate Pride is My Pain”
This column was well constructed and heartfelt. It is clear the writer was speaking to others and encouraged their attention and response. Well done piece.
Alexa Silver, Rosyln High School, Roslyn Heights, NY, “9/11 – Today”
Although this column was a bit wordy, it covered a huge topic and multiple events. It was well constructed and conveyed the author’s feelings and opinion. Well done.
Wonik Son – Trinity School, NY, but he lives in Fort Lee, NJ, for “North Korea and American Exceptionalism”
This column stated the position of the writer in a clear and concise manner. It had a good introduction, good content and a strong conclusion.
FIRST PERSON ESSAY (individual byline)
FIRST PLACE: Sophia Slater, The American School in Japan, Tokyo, Japan, “Helping After the Great East Japan Earthquake: When Money May Not Be Enough,”
SECOND PLACE: Britta Fischer, American School of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, “To Nairobi Student, The Westgate Mall Attack In Kenya Is ‘The Scariest Thing In The World’”
HONORABLE MENTION: Dina El Halawany, Riada Language School, Alexandria, Egypt, “Egypt Rises Again, For ‘Safety and Freedom’”
FIRST PLACE: Stephanie Haber aka W. Idget , Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, New York, “Rags to Riches” 
The use of MS Paint in these images is hilarious. There are way more refined graphic design programs, but MS Paint has a special place in this judge’s heart. The pixelation and elementary look emits a lightheartedness to a serious transition in the subject’s life. To change from a teacher to a pope is quite the jump, but the combination of digital photography, MS Paint and text creates for a straightfoward, yet humorous portrayal of such an exciting situation.
SECOND PLACE:  Auroba Tariq, Karachi, Pakistan, “Importance of Vaccines”
The work is a simple visual equation. There’s clear labeling and an effort to render specific images to communicate the issue at hand. In this case, the presentation of shortages of essentials creates a somber message that can be clearly understood.
FIRST PLACE: Eli Winter, Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston, Texas, “New Strokes Album Rivals the Band’s Best”
Eli nailed it. He sounds authoritative and expresses sound critical judgment in his writing.
HONORABLE MENTION: Leigh Cook and Kenyetta Whitfield, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, “Ending 2013 with a whole new music scene”
Solid writing.
HONORABLE MENTION: Arooj Khalid, Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, “Pakistani Girls Rock Out At Campus Concert”
Strong real-time reporting.
FIRST PLACE: Arooj Khalid, Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, “Burka Avenger Is Perfect Superhero For Pakistan And Great Role Model For Girls”
Arooj’s succinct appraisal of this fascinating children’s show is impressive for putting the program in its cultural context.  The review acknowledges the potential controversy of putting a woman in a burka in some corners of the world, but offers a cogent defense.  I’d watch this show and I’m a 45-year-old male!
SECOND PLACE: Alan Burkholder, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, “Lincoln Deserves A Dozen Academy Awards”
Alan’s review of ‘Lincoln,’ a movie I wasn’t crazy about, shows how the reviewer has a strong viewpoint and backs up his assertions.  The review may veer a bit too close to fawning, but it manages to be passionate and savvy.
Chi Le, Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, Hanoi, Vietnam, “Magic Falls Short In Now You See Me”
Cara Maines, St. John’s School, Houston, Texas, “Under Review: ‘Now You See Me’”
Two sides of the same coin! Shows how two people could see the same movie and have
differing opinions.  Nice!
Arielle Schwartz, Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, New York, “Cronut Craze” 
Describes the recent hype in a concise and clear manner. Ends with implications for the future (+1) for why it’s first place.  Includes diverse opinions.
SECOND PLACE: Anisha Datta, Glencoe High School, Hillsboro, Oregon, “Game ON
Using a storytelling method, Anisha gives a good introduction that grabs the reader. Yet the review does not have diverse viewpoints or offer any indication of where the fad will go in the future.
HONORABLE MENTION: Cara Maines, St. John’s School, Houston, Texas, “C’est Magnifique: The French Cultures Festival”
Basic reporting with a simple, no bias approach, but there is no real singular moment that makes the piece stand out. It could have been anywhere in the U.S.A., so why is it special that it was in Texas? What’s the connection to France, if any? But it captures the moment and spirit of the event well.
SPORTS NEWS (Individual)
FIRST PLACE:  Anisha Datta, Glencoe High School, Hillsboro, Oregon, “Running a marathon no walk in the park
Clearly the best.
SECOND PLACE: Rae Martin, Metropolitan Learning Center, Bloomfield, Connecticut, “ESPN President Brings Vision, Direction”
FIRST PLACE:  Jean Cho, Seoul International School, Seoul, South Korea, “New Attitudes Help Gamers Enjoy Athlete Status”
Jean’s piece had good descriptive language and used facts and quotes to make a narrative.
SECOND PLACE: Kim Brenneisen, Juan Diego Catholic High School, “Martinez Aims for Target”
Kim built a story from two key points of view in the family while laying out the many facts and challenges involved.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tea Nelson, Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, “Senior Excels at Thailand sport takraw”
Tea did a nice job using quotes to support the storyline.
FIRST PLACE: Isaac Jiffar, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, “Our Mascot’s Going Down in a Blazeof Glory
Laugh out loud funny… clever… witty… snarky… full of cynicism…  uses all kinds of cool, hip ways to make a point… even brings in a third person’s opinion and similar situation to support his case. I was disappointed when the piece ended – although it gave me a chance to look for a hippogriff!
Kim Brenneisen, Juan Diego Catholic High School, Draper, Utah, “No Pay for Play
Kim offers an extremely strong opinion on a serious issue and presents similarly strong opinions on smaller issues within to support her larger opinion.
Spencer Rabin, Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, New York, “Homosexuality in Sports”
Well researched and studious, showing actually more work and effort than opinion. This well-conceived New York Times-type piece was more case study than op-ed. But Spencer’s lofty approach was hurt by some lazy writing – repetitive phrases and clichés – which could certainly be improved.
FIRST PLACE: Dina Halawany, Riada
Language School, Alexandria, Egypt
, “Egyptians Filled With Hope As Deadline Nears”
The photo shows action and creativity with the flag motion.
SECOND PLACE: Arooj Khalid, Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, “Pakistani Women Study Heart Health”
I like the simpleness of the people on stage.
HONORABLE MENTION: Francis Byrne, Hall High School, West Hartford, Connecticut, “Blizzard
I like the lighting and composition. The photos would have been better if you had waited for a subject to walk or run along the path. Even a dog would add to the picture.
FIRST PLACE: Lucius Xuan, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, “Boys Water Polo”
The image has plenty of energy and excitement. With regards to positioning, get closer. It will fill the frame better.
SECOND PLACE: Daniel Rich, Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, New York, “Girls Varsity Tennis Gets Historic Win”  
Excellent job in demonstrating movement.
Test out different shutter speeds to minimize the blur when capturing movement.
FIRST PLACE: Alex Arrouchdi, International School of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, for “Summit of Mt. Kenya”
This captivating and moody photo could easily feature in a travel magazine. Very well done.
SECOND PLACE: Jaynee Nielsen, Borah High School, Boise, Idaho, Music Man
This photo pretty much summed it up … singing. While I would
have like to have seen a photo prominently featuring Harold Hill and the townspeople singing from a wider view, this still tells the story.
HONORABLE MENTION: Emilio Mercado, Bristol, Connecticut, Framing the Wigwam
This image coincides nicely with the article and gives me a great visual on the teamwork required to build a shelter.
HONORABLE MENTION: Robert Guthrie, Wallace Hall Academy, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, Drops of Ice
A pretty image.
HONORABLE MENTION:  Sabrina Lawson-McDowall, International School of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, Sunrise/Sunset
A pretty image.
FIRST PLACE: Tom Vaughn, Terryville, Connecticut, attending Waterbury Arts Magnet School, Windmills of Portugal
The photos are well-composed and tell a story about the area. The article is filled with facts and is very informative about the history of both the windmills and the area. It gave enough information for the reader to want to learn more, but provided enough information that one feels more knowledgeable after finishing the article. The photos are well-lit, colorful and the windmill model photo has interesting scale, enough that it is a surprise when one finds out it is only a model.
Robert Guthrie, Wallace Hall Academy, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, China 
The article is somewhat lengthy and focuses on food often, and paints an interesting picture for the reader. The cultural differences that the writer experienced were highlighted throughout the piece. Including more technical information about the places visited would have made a stronger piece.
HONORABLE MENTION: Yelena Samofalova, Hall High School, West Hartford, Connecticut,  Boston Marathon Bombing
This piece puts a visitor’s perspective to the bombings and shows what is left after the event.
FIRST PLACE: Alan Burkholder, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, Mark Twain drawing
A charming sketch of a young Mark Twain shows Alan’s artistic talents.