Kingwood Park Journalism Students Rake in Awards at TAJE
Pictured [Back Row]: Fallon Head, Ramiro Hernandez, Kaitlyn Sitton, Arleigh Doehring, Katie Gerbasich, Exa Nix, Ana La Rosa Grillo, Cara Helton, Madlynn Morris and Taylor Nethery
[Front Row]: Kara O'Hara, Bailey Hall, Maya Ortiz and Emerson Harris
by Joshua Koch | October 17, 2022
Kingwood Park senior Katie Gerbasich was not about to let the plaque leave her sight.
The Kingwood Park High School Yearbook Editor in Chief had just watched as her and her fellow classmates swept up 23 individual awards and a slew of major awards at the annual Texas Association of Journalism Educators Fall Fiesta Contest.
The plaque that she would not let go of was the ultimate prize - first place Sweepstakes Award, which goes to the best high school journalism program in the State of Texas.
“We were all insanely excited,” Gerbasich said. “It just makes it all seem worth it and all the stuff behind the scenes. For us to be like we’re also State Champions, on the same level as the other organizations in the school is just awesome.”
Along with the overall top award, Kingwood Park High School brought home honorable mention nods for Best of Show Yearbook and Best of Show Website. The KP Times finished in second place for Best of Show Print Newspaper.
Kingwood Park Student Publications Adviser Megan Ortiz has built the program back up from having limited students during the COVID years. Now, a bustling classroom is what welcomes her each day.
One that is now chock full of award-winning high school journalism students.
“It was like everything froze when they said Kingwood Park,” Ortiz said. “The whole staff just ran up and was jumping around in this huddle … They just enjoyed the moment and it was cool to see that.”
Maya Ortiz, Megan’s daughter, is serving as the Editor in Chief of the KP Times for her junior year. Maya is coming off a year where she was named the NSPA National High School Photojournalist of the Year and continued her successful photo run at the conference.
Maya brought home seven individual awards from the contest, including Excellent for her photo portfolio.
“It was a really big deal because it was the first time I’ve been able to go to an in-person conference,” Maya said. “Just being in that environment with so many high school journalists and winning was great.”
Along with her duties as the Editor in Chief of the KP Times, Maya admits that photography is her favorite part of journalism.
“Just telling stories through photos,” Maya said. “Getting the emotion and capturing those moments.”
As they continue to move into this school year, Maya says they are trying to add more multimedia elements - podcasts and videos - to their website.
Next up for the Kingwood Park student journalists is traveling to St. Louis, Missouri in November for the JEA/NSPA National High School Convention. It was at this convention last year that Maya earned her national award and Gerbasich placed in the Sports Action Photo of the Year contest.
Along with Maya and Gerbasich, there will be five more staff members that will travel.
“I think for me it is just more sentimental because it is going to be my last one,” Gerbasich said. “Nationals is brand new for all of us. I’m just excited for all the new experiences and being able to showcase our work again.”
For the first time ever, the KP Times is also up for the Pacemaker, which is a prestigious national award. Kingwood Park newspaper is one of 38 national finalists, one of eight from the State of Texas and the only one from the Greater Houston area.
“My daughter (Kathleen) called me from Rice,” Megan said. “She said ‘Did you see the Pacemakers list?’. I said no and she was screaming ‘We’re on it!’. She was so excited. We talked about those. Whenever we would be looking for new story ideas or design, I would say go look at the Pacemakers and see what they’re doing.
“They would always see the Pacemakers but never were they a part of it. So, for them to see that they were very excited.”
The Pacemaker winners will be announced for the first time at the awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m. November 12, as part of the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention, in St. Louis.
1st Place Sweepstakes - Kingwood Park HS
HM Best of Show Yearbook
HM Best of Show Website
2nd Place Best of Show Print Newspaper
Pre-Submitted Photos (Ratings are Superior - Excellent - Honorable Mention)
Maya Ortiz - Photo Portfolio (Excellent)
Katie Gerbasich - Photo Portfolio (HM)
Arleigh Doehring - Photo Portfolio (HM)
Maya Ortiz - Feature Photo (Superior)
Cara Helton - Feature Photo (Excellent)
Emerson Harris - 1st Year Photo (Excellent)
Madlynn Morris - News Photo (Excellent)
Katie Gerbasich - Sports Action (HM)
Katie Gerbasich - Sports Reaction (HM)
Maya Ortiz - Sports Reaction (HM)
Maya Ortiz - Video Commentary (HM)
On-Site Contests (Ratings are Superior - Excellent - Honorable Mention)
Maya Ortiz - 1st Place Best of Show On-Site Digital Photo Contest
Ana La Rosa Grillo - Editorial Writing (Excellent)
Taylor Nethery - Review Writing (HM)
Fallon Head - News Writing (Excellent)
Maya Ortiz - On-Site Digital Photo/Hot (Superior)
Arleigh Doehring - On-Site Digital Photo/Hot (HM)
Kara O’Hara - On-Site Digital Photo/Hot (HM)
Arleigh Doehring - On-Site Digital Photo/Self-Portrait (HM)
Emerson Harris - On-Site Digital Photo/Self-Portrait (HM)
Maya Ortiz - On-Site Digital Photo/Unexpected (HM)
Madlynn Morris - On-Site Digital Photo/Unexpected (HM)
Cara Helton, Bailey Hall, Exa Nix and Ramiro Hernandez - Scavenger Hunt (2nd Place)