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Student journalists shine under tough conditions
May 07, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy Photo - Ten members of the Gering High School journalism class brought back 12 medals from the state competition in Norfolk. Front row: Valeria Rodriguez, Jerilyn Laws, Tori Mueller, Jasie Beam. Back Row: Sydney Havengar, Austin Rogers, Kurstin Barrett, McKenna Copsey, Morgan Wallace and Brooke Doggett.

The Nebraska School Activities Association took over sponsorship of the state journalism championship for the first time this year. While there were some glitches in how the event ran, several Gering and Scottsbluff students did well and brought back medals for their work.

This year’s competition was divided into Class A and B schools, according to enrollment. There were 21 categories that covered newspaper, yearbook, photography and infographics.

“In past years, when the Nebraska High School Press Association ran the contest, state championships were based on preliminary entries,” said Gering journalism advisor Janelle Schultz. “This year, they qualified for state championships based on preliminaries.”

As in past years, Schultz submits her students’ best published work. “This year was more difficult for me to select what I was going to submit,” she said. “They’ve done so much more writing and other work just because of the way we’re printing the school newspaper, plus the online paper. We had a much larger pool of material from which to select.”

McKenna Copsey, who has also written for the Citizen, placed fifth for an editorial she wrote on whether high school awards ceremonies should be held in the afternoon or evening. And her first place Graphic Illustration entry showed some of the negative effects of too much homework.

“Students can compete in two categories,” Schultz said. “But McKenna qualified in seven, so she had to select her top two."”

Copsey said both of her categories were scheduled at the same time, so she took on the graphic illustration first. “We receive a prompt of the topic we’re going to write about or illustrate,” she said. “Then we do the work on the spot.”
Schultz said that overall, her students did an amazing job under difficult circumstances. “They did well in their class. The top schools were separated by only a few points. Finishing fifth out of 32 schools is pretty good. These kids really represented themselves well.”

Schultz said she was especially proud of the group for something that happened during the awards ceremony. And she shared the story with Principal Eldon Hubbard.
“There was a girl in front of us from Kearney and she was the sole competitor from their high school,” she said. “She was sitting there for a number of hours waiting for her category to be announced and she ended up as the state champion in her category in Class A schools.”

The Gering team stood up and applauded her. As Gering’s Morgan Wallace told her advisor, “She doesn’t have a cheering section, so we’re it.”
Gering’s core group of journalism students are all juniors, so they’re looking forward to improving even more next school year.

Scottsbluff also made an impressive showing. Advisor Terry Pitkin has been taking student journalists to state competition for the past 27 years. “Four of the nine kids we took medaled at the event,” he said. “Although I had some problems with event itself, I’m happy for the kids and how well they did.”

For Gering, competing in Class B, McKenna Copsey took 5th place for Editorial Writing and 1st place for Graphic Illustration. She was joined by Victoria Mueller, placing 3rd in Column Writing and 8th for Entertainment Writing. The team of Sydney Havengar and Morgan Wallace took 1st for In-Depth Newspaper Coverage, while Havengar was also awarded 8th place for News Writing. Jerilyn Laws placed 8th for Advertising and Morgan Wallace was 3rd in News Feature Photography. Kurstin Barrett collected two awards – 6th for Sports Feature Writing and 2nd for Sports Feature Coverage.

Among the yearbook staff, Valeria Rodriguez was awarded 10th place for Yearbook Feature Writing and Brooke Doggett in 2nd for Yearbook Sports Feature Writing.
Award winners for the Class A Scottsbluff journalism team included Mildred Avitia in 10th place for Advertising. Morgan Meister took two awards, 9th place for Column Writing and 11th for Editorial Writing. Richard Klemm was 7th for Editorial Cartooning and Alex Symonds was in 5th for Editorial Cartooning. Craig Smith placed 8th in News Writing. Elias Hutt was 5th in Sports Action Photography and Shane Burkey also took a 5th place for Sports Feature Writing. Jackson Hinze was 8th for News Coverage.

On the yearbook side, Kimberly Hernandez was awarded 3rd for Yearbook Feature Writing and the team of Morgan Smith, Barbara Calvert and Kimberly Hernan was 8th for Yearbook Theme Development.

Courtesy Photo - Scottsbluff journalism students.
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