Journalism triumphs at VHSL championship

Yearbook, newspaper and literary magazine win most coveted state award


Clare Gartlan

Seniors Priya Viswanathan and Kat Sharma and junior Julia Cheng pose with their programs’ awards at the event.

Anika Mereddy, business manager

In late October, journalism staff members traveled to Harrisonburg to attend the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Media Championships, the state competition for student journalists throughout Virginia.

Yearbook, newspaper and literary arts magazine all achieved the highest honor, Trophy Class, for their work last year.

Chantilly boasts a long history of excellence in all areas of student journalism, including Odyssey yearbook, which is considered one of the best yearbooks in the country, receiving 25 Trophy Class awards in total.
At the event, Odyssey was also recognized for its most recent Charles E. Savedge Award for Sustained Excellence in Scholastic Journalism, which recognizes programs that have received five Trophy Class rankings in a seven-year period.

“We are superstars of VHSL because we have achieved five      Savedge awards,” English department chair and Odyssey adviser Mary Kay Downes said.  

Recognized for a long legacy of hard work and success, Chantilly journalism has become well-regarded across the state.

“It’s very good for recognition in the state because people know who Chantilly is, and they revere us as a result,” Downes said.

Trophy Class titles are also important because they earn the school valuable points toward the Wells Fargo Cup for Academic Excellence, which is awarded to schools who earn high state recognition in yearbook, newspaper, broadcast, literary magazine, scholastic bowl, creative writing, theater, forensics and debate.

“Chantilly media [is] able to recruit the largest number of points possible,” Downes said. “Maybe this year, we will have our 13th Wells Fargo Cup.”

Many students don’t realize how much time and effort goes into putting together a high quality publication.

“With journalism, it’s really frustrating because we never have enough time, but getting the award really proved how much work we put into it,” Odyssey team leader Julia Cheng said.

The VHSL championship event also serves as a teaching ground for student journalists who attend. Various sessions covering a wide range of topics, such as interviewing and online reporting, occurred throughout the convention, and two sessions were even led by the Knightly News student leaders.

“I really got to learn a lot about [yearbook] and how big the whole yearbook world is,” Cheng said. “There are so many other schools that are really into this thing; it was a really good experience for me.”

Along with the three Trophy Class awards for overall excellence, Chantilly journalism was also recognized with a number of individual awards in the Multimedia Contest, including two First Place awards for work created by senior and Purple Tide editor-in-chief Priya Viswanathan and a Second Place award for Chantilly graduates and yearbook staff members Lauren Kim and Benita Luke.

“It is a very prestigious conference,” Viswanathan said. “We wanted to submit our best work, so that was definitely stressful.”

Downes led three sessions on yearbook journalism and helped those who planned the event with organizing it and teaching sessions with advisers from all over the state, and the student attendees spent the day learning about all forms of journalism before attending the awards ceremony at the end.

“I was really excited to go to all of the different classes,” Viswanathan said. “Since we transitioned to a news magazine, we needed a little bit more advice on how to work on that transition better.”

While awards and recognition do serve as a motivation, the main incentive for all the hard work is the staff members’ collective love for journalism.

“Every time we put out an issue, we always strive to do our very best to create a very good publication,” Viswanathan said. “However, I definitely think that the desire to win an award pushes us to do better in our publication.”