June 15, 2021
MINNEAPOLIS — Two graduating high school seniors planning journalism careers will receive 2021 Honor Roll Scholarships from the National Scholastic Press Association for their accomplishments in academics and journalism.
Itzel Luna, of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, Lake Balboa, California, has won a $1,000 scholarship as winner, and Atharva Weling, Wayland High School, Wayland, Massachusetts, has won a $500 scholarship as runner up.
Luna and Weling were selected from among hundreds of high school and middle school journalists named to this year’s NSPA Honor Roll of Student Journalists and who applied for the scholarship. The Honor Roll recognizes student journalists who have achieved a 3.5 or higher grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and have completed at least two years on a high school staff by the end of this school year. Seniors on the honor roll are eligible to apply for scholarship consideration.
Luna was a three-year staff member on The Pearl Post newspaper and website and Prestige yearbook. A staff writer her sophomore year, she was lead reporter in coverage her school district’s strike, and the staff won an NSPA Online Pacemaker Award in 2019. The Post was named best high school newspaper by the Los Angeles Press Club in June 2019.
Luna then helped lead the staff as it transformed the publication’s format from newspaper to magazine. She was named magazine editor-in-chief her senior year — a role dramatically changed during the pandemic.
“I was faced with the uncharted territory of leading a virtual staff,” Luna said. “Luckily, I didn’t have to do this alone. The rest of the staff and I worked together to redesign our approach to reporting and publishing, utilizing new multimedia elements and working to redesign major portions of our magazine.”
Newsmagazine and yearbook adviser Adriana Chavira praised Luna’s leadership.
“From her home, Itzel took charge in assigning stories, editing stories and posting them online,” Chavira said. “Itzel is intelligent, self-motivated, mature, takes initiative, has a strong work ethic and produced much more copy and photographs than the rest of her classmates.”
Luna said her mother is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, and, as a reporter, she found her sense of purpose reporting from the front lines of a DACA protest.
“I plan to pursue a career in political journalism to best utilize my voice,” Luna said.
Weling was a two-year member of the Wayland Student Press Network, the school newspaper. He was a reporter his junior year and opinions editor as a senior, and he won seven Best of SNO citations from the digital-publishing platform.
Weling wrote that his interest was in opinion writing, but a story assignment changed him as a journalist, he said.
“I was assigned an article on our high school’s sole female wrestler and her forced decision to participate in the girls all-state tournament rather than boys sectionals,” Weling said. “I reluctantly sat down for the interview, when all of a sudden, I found myself liking it. I genuinely enjoyed listening attentively as this girl poured her heart out about the state athletic guidelines and how they interfered with her competing with the boys she had been demolishing all season.”
His adviser, Brian Keaney, said Weling distinguished himself on staff the past two years.
“Atharva is an extremely dependable and steady leader who possesses sharp analytical skills and an ability to communicate well,” Keaney said. Atharva was one of five students in the state to win a certificate of superior writing in the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement in Writing competition.
NSPA, the nation’s largest association of scholastic media, provides training and recognition of achievement to high school and middle school journalists. It serves hundreds students and their advisers with two national conventions each year. NSPA’s renowned Pacemaker Awards honor the top scholastic newspapers, yearbooks, magazines, websites and broadcasts, and its individual awards celebrate student work through dozens of specific categories.