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Congrats to student journalists from local schools honored with Dean S. Lesher Scholastic Journalism Awards!

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, June 14th, 2013 at 6:25 pm in Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education.

Northgate students celebrate their in-depth investigative journalism award.

Northgate students celebrate their in-depth investigative journalism award.

Every year, writers and editors at the Contra Costa Times take time out from their work to scrutinize news stories and photos by local students who have entered the Dean S. Lesher Scholastic Journalism Awards contest.

As always, the entries this year were impressive. But a few stood out from the rest.

Kat Rowlands, Bay Area metro editor for Bay Area News Group, presented 27 awards in 11 categories along with promotion manager Deborah Nordstrom, during a ceremony Wednesday at the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

Cheered on by proud parents and teachers, students accepted their awards, while also soaking up advice from Rowlands about how professional journalists approach their work. Many entries, she said, were judged based on style and quality of writing, accuracy of coverage and the thoroughness of reporting.

Photos were judged based on visual impact, content and composition, and quality of the image. Rowlands expressed a little disappointment that more students didn’t enter the in-depth or investigative reporting category and said she hoped more would attempt such projects next year.

“Honestly, that’s the toughest category for professional newspapers to pull off too,” she said, “because it takes a lot of time and a lot of upfront conceptual work about what the project is going to entail, and then many, many pieces have to fit together because so many different departments are involved in that.”

Here are the winners.

Scholastic Journalist Award for leadership:
Caroline Theirry of Northgate High School and Shalaka Gole of California High

Best Editorial/Opinion Writing:
1 – Cole Souder, Las Lomas High School
2 – Michael Wong, Acalanes High
3 – Sam Fraser, Acalanes High

Best News Writing:
1 — Shalaka Goal, The Californian, California High
2 – Clare Varellas, Blueprint, Acalanes High
3 – Sarah Cole, The Page, Las Lomas

Best Column:
1 – Rachel Kastigar, Acalanes Blueprint
2 – Scott Dresser, Las Lomas Page
3 – Sean Cremin, Northgate Sentinel

Best Lifestyle or Feature Writing:
1 – Cara Doran, The Page, Las Lomas
2 – Adrienne Lee, Blueprint, Acalanes
3 – Joyce Ho, The Californian, California High School

Best Design Presentation:
1 – California High School, The Californian
2 – Hercules Middle High School, Titan Template
3 – Las Lomas High School, The Page

Best Sports Writing:
1 – Luke Finkel, California High
2 – Kelsey LaCour, Northgate Sentinel
3 – Jonathan Hawthorne, Las Lomas

Best Photography:
1 – Brad Wash, Blueprint, Acalanes High
2 – Brendan Foster, Acalanes High
3 – Amir Sagafi, California High, The Californian

Best In-depth or Investigative Reporting:
1 – Northgate High School, Sentinel

Best website:
1- Acalanes Blueprint
2 — California High

Overall Excellence:
1- Las Lomas, The Page
2- California High, The Californian
3- Hercules Middle High School, The Titan Template

When presenting the overall excellence awards, Rowlands asked students to comment on their work. No one from Las Lomas was present.

The California High award winner said she was proud of a story her paper did about a teacher who was treated unfairly by the administration, which included a YouTube video that got more than 1,000 hits and an online story that garnered several reader comments.

Hercules High student Joshua Bueno said some community and faculty members objected to a few of the paper’s stories, but the newspaper didn’t back down.

“Our year was very turbulent to say the least,” he said.

His classmate, Jobel Vecino, agreed.

“I’d say the greatest part about this year,” he said, “was learning how to grow a thick skin and not let anybody’s criticism get to us.”

Video clips from the awards are posted at

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One Response to “Congrats to student journalists from local schools honored with Dean S. Lesher Scholastic Journalism Awards!”

  1. Giorgio C. Says:

    Great work, all of you!

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