Padua Academy senior Stella White, an aspiring journalist with a passion for human rights, yesterday became the first and only Delaware recipient of the National Federation of Press Women’s Communications top award.
White’s 1,000-word article in response to last fall’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue published in her school’s digital newspaper, Padua 360, earned her the most prestigious award for high school journalists.
White wrote The Reality of ‘Never Again’ only hours a shooter gunned down 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill, PA.
The article she submitted to her journalism instructor – her first draft – was the very same version that won yesterday’s top national award, almost to the word. “So, it was just whatever I felt in that moment I tried to get down on my laptop. And really, the final piece was almost unchanged,” she said at the ceremony. White served as editor of Padua 360 this year.
“I’m not used to writing opinion. My specialty, I guess you could say, is to write about people stories. So, writing something so deep and meaningful to me was a bit scary. But I kind of just let my emotions take over and just let my heart really dictate this piece,” said White.
Lydia Timmons, a University of Delaware Department of Communications assistant professor and a presenter at the ceremony, said the award of excellence is “truly the best of the best.” The National Association of Press Women and the Delaware Press Association presented the award to White in Padua’s media and television classroom, where she was surrounded by fellow journalism students – of whom some also received awards this year.
After carefully reviewing 1,600 submissions — hundreds of articles, TV and radio tapes, news and sports photography — three judges selected White’s opinion piece as the very best piece of high school journalism in the nation.
White also first received the top award in the state for her essay and a national first place award in the “opinion” category. White was the only Delawarean to land first place among the 23 categories of journalism.
“I think it (winning the top award) is truly a reflection of how important it is. I mean I’m a little tentative to cover such important things because I feel like I’m not qualified. But it is an indicator to me that I am just part of the voices that we need to raise up. And we all need to raise our voices, even if it’s just a single piece.”
An advocate for free press, she added, “Journalism is the backbone of democracy and an opportunity to give a voice to the silenced. As I continue learning and writing I hope to help others find their voices as well.”
In presenting White her award today, Timmons said, “Telling the stories of people and this tragedy and to write about it in a way that really moves not just your community, but the state and the national judges is an amazing thing. We are really proud of you.”
White also received another journalism award earlier in May, when she was named Student Journalist of the Year in the Youth Journalism International Contest. Winners of the 2019 contest represented 12 countries on five continents, as well as 19 US states.
An impressive ten Padua students received 1st Place Awards in a variety of categories in statewide competition this year, and of those 10 entries, five received national awards.
1st Place – OPINION
Stella White “The Reality of ‘Never Again’”
3rd Place – NEWS/FEATURE PHOTO
Emily Malone “The Future of Calling in a Text Message World”
3rd Place – VIDEO FEATURE STORY
Missy Marazzo “Faithful Friends Animal Society” Padua Academy Wilmington, Delaware
Honorable Mention – BEST NEWSCAST: RADIO OR TELEVISION
Missy Marazzo, Rebecca Baker, Keeley Dugan, Meghan Doyle, Summer Gearhart, Gabriella DiSabatino “PATV Jan. 28, 2019”
Honorable Mention – VIDEO SPORTS STORY
Madison Hildreth “Marathoners at Padua”’
“You truly are an amazing group of accomplished young women, and we think you have the potential to light up the world with all of your amazing talents,” said Katherine Ward, co-director of the National Federation of Press Women’s National High School Communications Contest.
White is not sure what her career path will be, but she’s confident she will pursue her love of writing. “I definitely will continue to do journalism in some degree. I am not completely set on a career path, but it’s definitely something that I’m very much interested in, and I don’t think I will ever stop writing.”