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Last weekend, YJI honored dozens of young journalists in its 15th annual contest. This year’s contest attracted astonishing work from hundreds of students around the globe. Those earning awards represent 14 countries and 17 states within the United States.

Below are the winners of the contest’s signature honors. The full list of 2024 contest winners is online now.

– Amanda Lehmert, YJI alumna and volunteer


WINNER: Isabella Westrich of Clarke Central High School, Athens, Georgia

The judges said, “Isabella is a natural storyteller with the requisite curiosity to shine as a journalist. We hope she’ll never stop asking questions, never stop seeking answers and never cease trying to tell an ever wider community what it needs to know about itself.”

Read her work


WINNER: Tom Gayda of North Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana

The judges said, “Reading the comments by current and former students whom Tom Gayda has taught over the years makes it obvious that he’s managed to create a superb journalism program that’s also a big family, where North Central High School graduates always feel welcome and newcomers are readily embraced.”


WINNER: Nicole Luna of State University of Maringá, in Maringá, Brazil for “Brazil acts against riots, YJI reporter gets hostile reception at Bolsonaro encampment.” 

The judges said, “Nicole did an excellent job reporting a dangerous and very complicated situation. Challenged to deal with being pulled into the story, she still was able to maintain objectivity as much as humanly possible since Nicole is the reporter she refers to in her story. The best solution would have been to step back and have a colleague write about her covering the story. When that is impossible, one solution is for her to break out a first person sidebar. The fact is, she is a young reporter in a difficult situation who was able to get the job done.”

Read her story


WINNER: McKenzie Andersen of Albany, Oregon, for “With a rare, paralyzing disease, you must advocate for yourself.”

Read her story


WINNER: Spotlight, the student newspaper at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana

The judges said, “This newspaper’s content and overall presentation was focused on a specific theme, the U.S. Constitution. The highly readable descriptions of our founding documents benefit all Americans. By including the “Six Big Ideas,” you furthered our understanding of democracy. You communicated the core of our foundational documents in a concise and readable way, respecting your busy students’ time. The discussion of our First Amendment’s freedoms was notable for including comments of students and teachers. The layout, art and graphics were particularly compelling. Your work is outstanding.”

Read Spotlight


WINNER: Norah Springborn, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, for “Pekin, a place of pride and prejudice.”

The judges said, “A brilliant opinion piece on a lesser-known, but still important topic. Jacinta Bunnell would be proud of Norah Springborn.”

Read her story

“YJI educates students about journalism while allowing them to create international friends and cross-contiential relations. The ability to publish articles online while receiving support from other students and editors is so inspiring and uplifting. The world needs more kind people and educational opportunities like YJI. Could not be more grateful for this organization and the ways it has changed my life.”

NL Springborn, YJI student As shared on GreatNonprofits.org

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