Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals Student Media Organizations Dominate State Awards Circuit

March 27, 2024

The ODYSSEY Media Group at Clarke Central High School and BluePrints student media organization at Cedar Shoals High School combined to win more than a dozen All-Georgia (best in the state) awards and notched more than 20 “Superior” ratings for their work during this school year in the 2024 Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) Awards. The awards were announced Monday, March 25, during the GSPA’s annual Spring Workshop and Awards Ceremony in Athens. 

The latest wave of accolades followed wins by both organizations earlier this month at the Southern Interscholastic Press Association in Columbia, South Carolina, along with numerous other recognitions throughout the academic year, continuing a longstanding tradition of excellent student journalism and exceptional coverage of their school communities. 

Clarke Central Awards

Central journalism group March 2024Highlighting Clarke Central’s wins on the state level this month was senior Molly Harwell, Editor-in-Chief of the ODYSSEY Newsmagazine, who was named the 2024 Georgia Champion Journalist of the Year by GSPA and the Journalism Education Association, an award that recognizes the top high school senior journalist in the state. Harwell is up for National Champion Journalist of the Year, which will be announced April 6 during the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition, junior Wyatt Meyer, Lead Copy Editor for the ODYSSEY Media Group, was selected as the Georgia Junior Champion Journalist winner.

In this year’s GSPA awards, the ODYSSEY Newsmagazine won the All-Georgia Award for newsmagazines and a Superior rating in its newsmagazine and news website categories, while the school’s iLiad Literary-Art Magazine also took top honors in the state. Meyer won individual All-Georgia awards for News Story, Sports Feature Story, and Double-truck Layout/Design. Aza Khan won individual All-Georgia awards for Feature/Entertainment Photograph and Literary-Art Magazine Photograph and won combined All-Georgia awards with Olivia Hendershot for Social Media Storytelling for a literary-art magazine and with Janie Ripps for Photo Essay. Hendershot also won individually for Advertising Design and Literary-Art Magazine Social Media Promotion, while Ripps won individually for Feature Story. Cadence Schapker won individually for Broadcast News Package, while the ODYSSEY staff won the All-Georgia Award for House Editorials. 

In addition, Schapker earned Superior ratings for News Story and Sports Feature Story and teamed up with Isabella Westrich for a Superior in the Feature Profile category. Meyer (Sports Game Coverage and Sports Column) and Maya Clement (Podcast and Double-truck Layout/Design) earned multiple Superior ratings, while Cooper Jones (Sports News Story), Liya Taylor (Critical Review), Antonio Starks (Illustration), and Kimberly Sanabria-Amaya (Literary-Art Magazine Artwork) also earned Superior marks.

"Of our 12 graduating seniors, seven have done ODYSSEY since the ‘Zoom’ days of COVID-19. Their perseverance and leadership have helped to pave the way the last two years," ODYSSEY Media Group founder and faculty advisor David Ragsdale said. "From presentations at conferences to telling important stories, to mentoring younger students to being all-around solid citizens, this group has cemented a legacy of excellence."

Cedar Shoals Awards

Cedar journalism group March 2024For Cedar Shoals, BluePrints Magazine and WJAG-TV, Ethan Greene won All-Georgia awards for Sports Game Coverage and Sports Photograph; Tumelo Johnson won for Social Justice Reporting, and Alyssa Weiszer and Fredrell Green combined to win for In-Depth Broadcast News Story/Documentary. 

BluePrints earned Superior ratings for its print product and website, while WJAG-TV was recognized for Achievement among student broadcasts. Ruby Calkin earned an individual Superior rating for News Story and a combined Superior rating with Noe Ventura-Catillo for Feature Story. Tory Ratajczyk and Maggie Gillan earned Superior ratings for Social Justice Reporting, while Nolan Dennison earned a Superior in the Feature Profile category. 

Calkin, a junior, also won the GSPA First Amendment Essay Contest for the second consecutive year and was followed by fellow junior BluePrints staffer Delia McElhannon, who finished second in the contest. Essays focus on the importance of the First Amendment to all Americans, to freedom of speech, and, particularly, freedom of the press for student publications.

"Student journalism is one of the most challenging and time consuming endeavors in high school,” said Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals English teacher and faculty advisor for the school’s student journalism program. “Our yearbook, WJAG-TV, and BluePrints students at Cedar Shoals continue to commit to hard work, supporting one another, and sharing stories and information about their unique school and community. We are all proud of the continued success of these students and remain grateful for the support the students receive along the way."