Smoke Signals wins statewide high school news awards

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Smoke Signals, George Rogers Clark High School’s student newspaper, has won several statewide high school journalism awards for excellence, including having students named the state champions in their division.

Under the leadership of editors-in-chief Laura Graves and Carson Kovalic, Smoke Signals publishes once a month to provide the student body with news and feature stories, sports coverage, opinion columns and photos.

The school paper won 17 awards in 15 writing, advertising, illustration, design and photography categories.

Email newsletter signup

In addition, Graves, media editor Andrew Clark and illustrator Derek Scott were named individual state champions.

Individual state champions were Media Editor Andrew Clark, Editor-in-Chief Laura Graves and illustrator Derek Scott.

Winners were:

— Feature Writing: Andrew Clark, state champion; Kathryn Gallenstein, third place

— Editorial Writing: Megan Rowe, second Place; Kathryn Gallenstein, third Place

— Review Writing: Maddie Mann, second Place; Stephanie Hull, third Place

— Photography: Laura Graves, state champion; Dustin Summers, second Place; Sydni Marstella, third Place

— Advertising: Shelby Gilkerson (Class of 2016), state champion; Lauren Palmer, second Place; Tommy Bankes, third Place

— Editorial cartoon: Derek Scott, State champion; Derek Scott, second Place

— Overall design: Smoke Signals, tie for third Place

— Illustrations and graphics: Derek Scott, second Place

— Best student online publication: Jordan Vallejo, second Place

Clark also won four awards in the Broadcast Division of the contest but GRC did not place overall in that division. His additional awards were state champion, Sports Package; third place, humorous feature; second Place, documentary; and third Place, videography

“Being a part of this staff is truly something special,” Graves said. “To win state just attests to the friendships made through Smoke Signals as it rewards us for our teamwork and camaraderie that we have worked to build this year.” 

This is the third year the publication has won at KHSJA, the first wins happening in 2010 and 2013.

Graves and Kovalic said a strength of Smoke Signals is that its staff members are involved in a diverse number of extracurricular activities, bringing a lot of different perspectives together.

“We’re involved in so many things,” Graves said. “We’re in almost every sport, almost every club. We all have different interests, but the newspaper is the common thing that brings us all together.”

And the bonds created by Smoke Signals are strong. Kovalic and Graves said they are close friends now, but because they were involved in different groups they likely never would have met if not for their work at the paper.

“I like working closely with the other staff members because you get to know them not only as a student but as a person, and you get to see their writing styles and how we can work to get the perfect paper because we made it together,” Kovalic said.

Both said that along the way they have learned about teamwork, seeking advice from peers and flexibility.

GRC journalism teacher Shanda Crosby said working at Smoke Signals is a unique high school experience.

“In this classroom, students don’t sit at a desk and do assignments that only the teacher will see,” Crosby said. “Smoke Signals is sort of the voice of the school and the students take that seriously. It’s dynamic. It’s hectic. It’s crazy. Everyone is doing something different. We have interviewing, writing, editing, design, video, broadcast, photography, illustrating and everything in between going on at the same time.

“When the dust clears, we have a cohesive and professional product that we hope helps bring the school and community together and draws attention to many of the amazing students, activities, sports and programs going on at GRC.”