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Winners of the 2015 Philadelphia Student Journalism Awards

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The Notebook is proud to announce the winners of the 11th annual Philadelphia Student Journalism Awards for high school students, honoring exemplary work produced in the 2014-15 academic year. Nine schools and organizations entered student work to be considered for four cash prize awards and four special recognitions.

The Notebook congratulates all the schools and publications that submitted entries, as well as the dedicated teachers, advisers, principals, and staff who aided in producing such a diverse body of work. Not every school that has participated in the past submitted work this year, but a few participated for the first time. This year, we inaugurated a new category, “Best New Publication,” in hopes of inspiring more schools to create news sites and newspapers.

The prize winners tackled important issues in different ways. Sarah Santiago’s commentary “The Importance of Transgendered Equality” in the Esperanza Post, was inspired by the suicide of Ohio transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn. “I wanted to use the newspaper as an outlet to speak to others who might be feeling lost or might’ve lost hope,” she told us. “I think a big part of making change is educating those who might be ignorant and advocating for those who don’t have a voice.”

In her column in Masterman Voices, Carolyn Ton wrote about a wide range of issues from a personal perspective. “I find the best way to make the most of hardship is to become self-aware in order to help others through similar circumstances,” she said. “When choosing a topic, I … ask myself what I wish I knew when I was going through the experience.”

This year’s submissions were from: Central High School, The Centralizer; Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School; Esperanza Academy, Esperanza Post; Murrell Dobbins CTE High School, Dobbins Recruiter; Olney Charter High School, Olney Student Voice; J.R. Masterman, Masterman Voices; Philadelphia Student Union, The Union Rep; Science Leadership Academy, SLA Media; South Philadelphia High School, Southern INK Press.

Award recipients

School News

Winner: Sky Deswert, Julia Flanagan, Gabriella Morace, The Centralizer, Central High School, for “The Maintenance of Inadequacy”

Special Recognition: Alexis Riddick, Masterman Voices, J.R. Masterman, for “Bartram for the Benefit”


Winner: Sarah Santiago, Esperanza Post, Esperanza Academy, for “The Importance of Transgendered Equality”

Special Recognition: Benjamin Simon, SLA Media, Science Leadership Academy, for “Teachers, Students React to New Relations with Cuba”


Winner: Kyra Williams, Masterman Voices, J.R. Masterman, for “Sisters take on the Junior Olympics”


Winner: Carolyn Ton, Masterman Voices, J.R. Masterman, for “Carolyn’s Column”

Best New Publication and Overall Design Excellence

Special Recognition: Southern INK Press, South Philadelphia High School

Best Established Publication and Overall Design Excellence

Special Recognition: Esperanza Post, Esperanza Academy


From “The Maintenance of Inadequacy” by Sky Deswert, Julia Flanagan, and Gabriella Morace, Centralizer

“When we first met with Mayor Nutter, we began the discussion of the school district from his unique perspective as both Mayor of the city and father of two children. He told us the tale of a city divided, where under-resourced schools are caught in a vortex of political confusion and the public is searching hopefully for a way out of this educational chaos.”

From “The Importance of Transgendered Equality” by Sarah Santiago, Esperanza Post

“Leelah Alcorn should have been known for how much of an amazing person she was, how she loved to write and make art, her love for things like Sailor Moon and video games, and how she used her Tumblr to be an activist for women’s issues. Over 41% of transgender teenagers commit suicide, but we cannot let Leelah and the many others be another LGBT youth suicide statistic. We need to start to value the voices of those we seldom hear.”

From “Sisters take on the Junior Olympics” by Kyra Williams, Masterman Voices

“Ana and Natalia dedicate themselves completely to their sport so that they are able to compete with the best of the gymnasts their age. However, without the support of their family and friends, that would be far from possible. As talented female athletes who started gymnastics so young, they strongly believe that their family and friends have really kept them going over the years.”

From “Carolyn’s Column: An Unfettered Mind” by Carolyn Ton, Masterman Voices

“At the onset of my elementary education, I developed an overweight frame and overbearing shyness which subjected me to the ridicule of peers. I wasn’t ‘fit’ by any standards. At home, my excess weight was met with frigid criticism by adults who were acclimated to the gaunt physiques of other Vietnamese relatives. Astringent indifference would utter, ‘Why don’t you try eating less?’ Victimization on the scholastic as well as domestic backdrop lead me to accept my condition… Whereas accepting failure solidifies the condition, understanding that there is always room for improvement paves the way for success. That low test or quiz grade will only define you if you dwell on failure, rather than strive for improvement.”

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