Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Journalist of the Year winners continue to lead, inspire after high school

Where are they now? Catch up with past winners of the Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht Scholarship

JEA’s Journalist of the Year competition, awarded each spring with Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht Scholarships, honors outstanding student journalists based on digital portfolios showcasing their work in scholastic media. Here’s a look at what some former winners are doing today and what they loved most about their high school journalism experiences.


Ebony Reed

Ebony Reed, 1996 Journalist of the Year

Back then:  Southfield-Lathrup High School; Lathrup Village, Michigan

Now: I’m the Chief Strategy Officer at The Marshall Project, a national news nonprofit that covers the criminal justice system; Co-author of the book Fifteen Cents on the Dollar: How Americans Made the Black-White Wealth Gap; Fundraiser and supporter of endowments (at Howard University and Missouri School of Journalism) that honor my late fiancé, NFL journalist, Terez. A. Paylor, who passed away in 2021.

Where: Kansas City, Missouri

Proud accomplishment since high school: I am the coauthor of an investigative and deeply researched book: Fifteen Cents on the Dollar: How Americans Made the Black-White Wealth Gap. My co-author, fellow journalist and professor Louise Story and I have conducted just under 400 interviews, commissioned our own Harris Poll and taken a deep dive on seven Black families. This is a book for anyone who wants to better understand this topic and its impact on America today. It is also for student journalists who want to understand the rigor involved in producing a journalistic, investigative book.

I am also extremely proud of all of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been raised for future sports journalists/college scholarships in my late fiancé’s name since his unexpected death. 

Favorite part as a high school journalist: I loved meeting new people, asking tough questions with the title of “student journalist” and seeing the impact of my work in the lives of others. That’s still one of my favorite parts of journalism today.

Skill you learned in scholastic media and still using today: I developed excellent note taking for documentation, organization and interview skills as a high school journalist. And all of these skills transcend any medium!

Emily Hood

Emily Hood, 2020 Journalist of the Year

Back then: Francis Howell North High School; St. Charles, Missouri

Now: I’m currently a senior at the University of Missouri studying journalism and computer science. I also work remotely for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis as a Newsroom Product Contractor, where I’m helping develop analytics tools for reporters. I’m looking to work in a news product or audience engagement role at a news organization when I graduate in May.

Where: Columbia, Missouri

Proud accomplishment since high school: Through my work with the Star Tribune, we’re building an analytics chatbot that provides reporters and editors with data on how their stories performed. It is an exciting project to work on while I’m still in college. I got to combine my love of coding with the reporting skills I learned in my high school journalism program to build a tool that gave the newsroom what they needed. I experienced the ways innovative projects can improve a newsroom and therefore support a community. I joined my high school’s journalism staff and chose to continue in the field because I wanted to help people by giving them information to make their lives easier. I’m thrilled to be able to continue that mission by building a tool to help our reporters better understand the impacts of their important work and make more informed decisions.

Favorite part as a high school journalist: I got to work on so many amazing stories as a high school journalist, but my favorite memories are the people. There is nothing quite like the camaraderie that occurs in a high school newsroom as we celebrated and created together. I loved making friends that I would’ve never gotten to know in my other classes. We bonded as we covered our ceilings in Christmas lights (and then raced around our classroom to cover the windows in wrapping paper so the fire marshal wouldn’t fine us). We danced together as we handed out a set of authentic chainmail armor to our staffer of the week. We handed out awards made on paper plates to celebrate our achievements at the end of the semester. I’m still good friends with many of the people I met in my high school journalism program. I love working in journalism, but my friendships are the thing I will value forever.

Skill learned in scholastic media and still using today: While I’m not doing much reporting these days, I use the leadership skills I developed as an editor in my current job every day. Learning how to communicate with others, keep a project on track and most importantly, listen to the needs of those around you has helped me tremendously. Scholastic journalism uniquely helps you develop this skill because you are working with people from all over your high school and producing a product with tight deadlines. Even if it wasn’t the flashy thing I thought I would learn when I signed up for classes at 14, I’m extremely grateful for it eight years later.



Christine Zhao

Christine Zhao, 2018 Journalist of the Year

Back then: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Alexandria, Virginia

Now: Pursuing a masters in computational linguistics, with a focus on under-resourced languages, at University of Washington

Where: Seattle

Proud accomplishment since high school: Winning a hackathon at SheHacks where I created a Text911 service relaying texts to calls, and recorded call audio to transcribed texts, using Bandwidth API. It’d been a project I’d wanted to do for a while, especially to reach people kept in a situation where calling 911 would expose their location, inspired by the memoir by Jaycee Dugard. I worked alone and won all the team prizes including four AirPods!

Favorite part as a high school journalist: So hard to choose. The design, photography and editing skills I picked up, the joy of seeing our print magazine passed around school, getting free admittance into any event since I was part of the press.

Skill learned in scholastic media and still using today: Editing and attention to detail, from Ms. [Erinn] Harris’ guidance and as a team leader and editor in chief. My recent linguistics teacher actually mentioned if she ever needed a proofreader, she would hire me!



Taylor Blatchford

Taylor Blatchford, 2014 Journalist of the Year

Back then: Mountain Vista High School; Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Now: I work on the investigative team at The Seattle Times. My job is a mix of reporting and thinking about creative ways to engage with our audiences, making sure our stories reach the people who are most affected by the issues we’re covering. I’m also earning a master’s degree in journalism education from Kent State University.

Where: Seattle

Proud accomplishment since high school: For about four years, I wrote a newsletter for student journalists called The Lead. I saw a lack of resources for student journalists and wanted to fill that void, so I built the project from the ground up, aiming to provide resources and connections for students at all levels. I’m proud of the way the newsletter resonated with readers and was able to spotlight great student work. The newsletter has been on hiatus for the past year for personal reasons, but I’m hoping to restart it in the future.


As part of The Seattle Times’ holiday pie project, Taylor Blatchford collaborates with colleagues from photo and video teams to produce a multimedia package. Their work earned Society of News Design and Best of the West awards.

Favorite part as a high school journalist: Traveling to the JEA/NSPA conventions and learning from students and advisers around the country was always a highlight. When I got my job offer at The Seattle Times after college, it felt very full circle, because Seattle was the first convention I went to (in 2012)!

Skill learned in scholastic media and still using today: Scholastic media taught me to collaborate with a team and communicate in the workplace — both skills that are foundational to nearly any job.







Ina Herlihy

Ina Herlihy, 2010 Journalist of the Year

Back then:  Convent of the Sacred Heart High School; San Francisco

Now: Founder & CEO of AddGlow, community software for brand websites

Where: New York City

Proud accomplishment since high school: Being a Group Product Manager at Walmart and everything I learned at Walmart. That led me to start AddGlow.

Favorite part as a high school journalist: Being the only high school student in the country credentialed to cover Barack Obama’s first Presidential Inauguration.

Skill learned in scholastic media and still using today: Cold outreach. We needed three sources for every story. I made lots of cold calls and sent lots of cold emails. That skill is valuable throughout my job searches and now in sales for my startup. The worst that someone can say is no (or no response). But you have to put yourself out there!





More to Discover