2023 Leadership Award Scholarships

NSPA names 2023 Leadership Award scholarship winners

June 16, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS — Two graduating high school seniors planning journalism careers will receive 2023 Leadership Award Scholarships from the National Scholastic Press Association for their accomplishments in academics and journalism.

Ava Paulsen, Castaic High School, Castaic, California, has won a $1,000 scholarship as winner, and Chesney Evert, Carlmont High School, Belmont, California, has won a $500 scholarship as runner-up.

The new Leadership Award in Student Journalism honors journalistic contributions and leadership in student media, and it complements the academic recognition through the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society for Student Journalists, now part of NSPA. 

To earn the award, a high school student must serve with distinction for at least two years on the staff of an NSPA-member broadcast, literary arts magazine, newspaper/newsmagazine, specialty magazine, website or yearbook by the end of the current school year. Students are nominated by their advisers.

In April, NSPA named approximately 1,300 high school journalists as the first recipients of the Leadership Award in Student Journalism. These recipients were eligible to apply for the Leadership Award scholarship.

Paulsen was a four-year staff member on The Daily Howl, the school newspaper. Although Paulsen was part of more than just a handful of clubs, “Ava’s legacy at Castaic High School will best be remembered by her journalism involvement,” adviser Sarah Sumpolee said.

As a founding member, Paulsen started the journalism club with 8 students. Through 18 months of pandemic distance learning and multiple journalism advisor changes, The Daily Howl now stands as a full-credit class with more than 300 articles per issue. 

Inspired by Rachel Maddow’s ability to weave stories in riveting ways, Paulsen was drawn into journalism that told stories of people’s everyday life. Writing about the retirement of race-based mascots, survivors of ghost gun school shootings, sexual assault and more, Paulsen used her passion for journalism to create voices for other students. Paulsen “prioritized inclusivity and freedom of student expression.”

In addition to earning more than 14 individual awards, Paulsen’s leadership was a driving force in building The Daily Howl into an award-winning website.

Through planning meetings, editing articles and determining grading scales, “I credit Ava’s editorial leadership as the reason for the paper’s First in Class designation by the National Scholastic Press Association,” Sumpolee said.

Evert was a three-year member of Scot Scoop News, the school newspaper, and two-year member of The Highlander, the school magazine. She was a staff writer, podcast producer and Scotlight editor her junior year and editor-in-chief as a senior. Additionally, Chesney worked as an intern and student columnist at the San Mateo Daily Journal as a junior and senior.

Evert covered stories that explored the risks and dangers of fentanyl, interviewed NASA scientists working on the development of the James Webb telescope and earned a hefty number of accolades. 

Evert is not only an eloquent writer, but also a strong leader. 

“Her ability to learn new things and apply them is tremendous, but she also helps others with reporting, writing and technical questions,” adviser Justin Raisner said.

“We, the next generation of student journalists, have a mountainous task ahead of us: patch up global divisions amidst war and unrest. The silver lining to this tumultuous era is that people are upset. They care.

“As writers, this is the cue for us to harness duality in storytelling: I am going to be a journalist because I believe there’s room for both integrity and empathy on newsstands, and I vow to make space for this coexistence each time I sit down to write,” Evert said.

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 of 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.