Journalists are facing a period of change and unrest, as newspapers and other media struggle to gain a financial foothold in a digital world.
But Lee’s Summit West senior Abby White is confident about her future as a journalist. For the 2019 Missouri Interscholastic Press Association Student Journalist of the Year, it’s all about telling the stories.
The first student from the district to earn this honor, White has been interested in journalism since childhood. She is editor of the “Titan Scroll” student news magazine and the written content editor for Istwestonline, the school’s online news site. She is also a passionate storyteller.
“I love learning about other people and their lives through journalism,” she said. “Everyone has a story and I like telling those stories.”
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In her role as editor, White helps fellow students find their voices as journalists, as well as a place in the sometimes turbulent high school environment.
“I like guiding people to find the passion I have for journalism and supporting them in life,” she said. “There’s a lot of drama in high school and I want to help other students figure out what they want to write and do.
“As an editor, I’ve also had an opportunity to make the paper and website as I envisioned they could be.”
Through journalism, White has formed valuable friendships with fellow students and these have also fueled her passion for the field. During the past month, she spoke to middle school students in her district about the camaraderie in the journalism community — and the importance of finding a “home” in high school.
“I tell younger students it’s good to find a home and a group of people they’re comfortable and confident with in high school, so they have a place to belong and go back to,” she said.
The path for selection as Missouri Interscholastic Press Association Student Journalist of the Year was both a challenging and growing experience for White.
To enter the contest, she had to fulfill an extensive array of criteria and present a professional level of journalistic accomplishments. In addition to letters of recommendation, a resume and the expectation for a high overall GPA, she was required to create a website and submit an online portfolio.
The portfolio included a self-analytical essay, along with work samples from 11 categories, such as design, editing, law and ethics, news gathering and literacy, leadership and multimedia broadcast.
Carol Ullery, Lee’s Summit West journalism instructor, is the “Titan Scroll” and lswestonline adviser. She was White’s teacher for freshman journalism and also helped her through the application process.
“Abby’s an excellent story teller and has a great way of communicating ideas,” Ullery said. “She does this with depth and thoughtfulness in the words she chooses. She’s articulate and outspoken.
“As an editor, she speaks with authority when she needs to, but does it in a kind and gentle way. She can bring calm to a chaotic situation — and to a staff of teenagers. She’s definitely a leader and well-deserving of the recognition she’s getting.”
Throughout her teaching career, Ullery has conveyed to her students, including White, the vital role journalism plays in our society.
“I’m a strong believer in the free press and everything that means to the salvation of our democracy,” she said. “I’m also an avid supporter of student publications and the student voice.”
As with her teacher, White’s commitment to story-telling and mentoring peers is paralleled by her own commitment to the freedom of the student voice.
“Even if people don’t always agree with it, journalism gives students an opportunity to express what they feel about issues such as Parkland, or other issues,” she said. “Students are very passionate—and I’m very passionate about giving them a voice.”
As winner of the Student Journalist of the Year award, White received a $2,500 scholarship from the Missouri School of Journalism and will be recognized at the 50th annual Missouri Interscholastic Press Association Journalism Day held at the University of Missouri March 25.
In May, she will graduate from West and, in the fall, will enter MU’s School of Journalism.