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Sparkman earns most journalism awards in state

Beryl Kessio, "Crimson Crier" editor at Sparkman High School, was named Journalist of the Year, Rick Bragg Feature Writer of the Year and Bailey Thompson Editorial Writer of the Year and received the J.B. Stevenson Scholarship for Journalism at the Alabama Scholastic Press Association conference. (CONTRIBUTED)
Beryl Kessio, “Crimson Crier” editor at Sparkman High School, was named Journalist of the Year, Rick Bragg Feature Writer of the Year and Bailey Thompson Editorial Writer of the Year and received the J.B. Stevenson Scholarship for Journalism at the Alabama Scholastic Press Association conference. (CONTRIBUTED)

HARVEST – Sparkman High School journalism students earned 104 individual awards, the most honors of any school in the state, at Alabama Scholastic Press Association’s (ASPA) annual spring conference in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 13.

Sparkman placed in writing categories for news, features, sports, front-page design, opinions, spread design and public service announcement, along with editorial cartooning and photography. Their awards spanned web journalism, yearbook copy and caption writing, yearbook design, social media and web graphics.

For the literary magazine category, Sparkman won awards for poetry, feature writing, photography and illustrations.

The wins came in individual mail-in contests, onsite competitions and carry-in categories, journalism adviser and public relations representative Erin Coggins said. “The Crimson Crier” newspaper received an “All-Alabama” award. The yearbook, website and literary magazine earned superior awards.

“Our students go after stories full of emotion and about our own students” or relevant to Sparkman’s student body, Coggins said. Their last issue featured articles about the South’s gun culture and a possible new school in Madison County.

Senior Beryl Kessio, “Crimson Crier” editor, made ASPA history by winning all four senior awards: Journalist of the Year, Rick Bragg Feature Writer of the Year, Bailey Thompson Editorial Writer of the Year and J.B. Stevenson Scholarship for Journalism. She will compete for National High School Journalist of the Year.

Kessio submitted a portfolio, emphasizing feature and editorial articles, along with two essays. “Beryl did her portfolio digitally, capturing her photography skills,” Coggins said. Kessio will study journalism at Howard University in Washington D.C.

“Our newsroom is run like a real newsroom. We don’t shy away from the big issues that some schools aren’t permitted to address. Credit should also be given to our principal who doesn’t censor and trusts our staff,” Coggins said.

Coggins worked in communications before becoming a teacher. “It’s my true passion. It’s amazing to watch how engrossed these students are in the art of journalism. They want to be the best so they put their best foot forward at all times,” she said.

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