Kearney student journalists earn recognition for broadcasting, yearbook

Kearney Middle and High School students were honored by the school board in January for capturing a long list of student journalism awards in state and national competitions. Students were honored for yearbook and broadcasting efforts.

KEARNEY — Bulldog student journalists in the Kearney School District are making a name for themselves by earning local, state and national recognitions.

PSA awards

For their efforts in making public service announcements about bullying, Dillon McElwee and Mac Dunn claimed second place in the national Buddies not Bullies It All Starts with You high school PSA competition with their video “What’s Up Snapchat.” Buddies Not Bullies is a program that educated children in bullying awareness and intervention.

Last year, two Kearney High School students earned honorable mention in this category for the national competition.

Miles Strain, Ethan McMullen, Stone Walden and Zach Zurliene took first place in the competition in the middle school category for their video “Please Step In.”

The student videos can be viewed online via the Buddies Not Bullies site at

Another high school student recognized for her work in public service announcements was Macy Higgins, who won the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association’s Broadcast PSA challenge.

MIPA hosts for challenges for students throughout the year. Each includes a theme and provides students about two weeks to complete the challenge, covering a topic for their school in a way that fits the theme, said Kearney High School Journalism teacher Karen Johnson.

“Macy actually created a full feature package about Seth Cooper and we aired it on KHS-TV as well as during halftime of one of our (Bulldog Broadcasting Network) on ESPN3 football games in the fall. She then took the initiative to take some of that footage and create a PSA based off the theme ‘You Don’t Have to Be Great to Start, But You Have to Start to Be Great’ when MIPA issued this challenge. She earned first place,” the teacher said. Seth Cooper is a high school student who plays for Midwest Adaptive Sports on its Kansas City Kings wheelchair basketball team.

In addition to winning the PSA competition, Higgins was the only high school student hired by the Kansas City Royals for their Game Crew staff.

“Higgins says she believes the experience she has received in classes such as broadcasting and sports entertainment arts have helped lead her to this opportunity,” states a district release.

The Royals Game Crew is responsible for executing pre-game ceremonies such as the first pitch and National Anthem as well as setting up, managing and executing in-game contests and features shown on CrownVision. As a crew member, Higgins will get to learn about live, game day production and worked FanFest.

In addition to her PSA win, Higgins and fellow student Cierra Logan placed second in MIPA’s strategic communications challenge.

“Cierra is Kearney News Network. She coordinates posting stories, videos and photos on our KNN site. She and Macy decided to team up for the new MIPA strategic communication challenge. They selected to cover the theme of ‘Elevating School Spirit’ and then had to choose three or four of the medium options to create as a package communicating this theme. Cierra wrote the story and created the social media graphic and Macy created the video,” said Johnson.

State photojournalism awards

Regular photography contest entrant Tyler Pedee was noted in October and December of 2019 by MIPA for honorable mention in the organization’s monthly Photo of the Month competition. For the competition, students submit a photograph with caption that are judged against other entries from across the state.

TV & yearbook

national awards

Eight KHS-TV and Clipper yearbook student journalists claimed national awards from the National Scholastic Press Association convention this fall in Washington, D.C.

“These students, along with almost 5,000 middle and high school journalism students from across the country, attended breakout sessions and competed. They also submitted their overall broadcast and yearbook in the Best of Show competition. KHS had two individual winners as well as a Best of Show award,” said Johnson. “For the first time, KHS-TV brought home a seventh place Best of Show in the Broadcast Program category, which includes schools of all sizes.”

Students honored by the Best in Show win were Higgins, Abby Dunkin, Nic Westerfield and Gabe Coffelt.

Reece Greenwood and Higgins also earned individual awards from the Journalism in Education Association contest for capturing honorable mention in the yearbook copy and sports caption category and excellent in the broadcast sports story category.

“In the individual competitions, students earn a rank of Superior, Excellent, Honorable Mention or no award. Reece competed in one of the write-off competitions, where he had two hours to take information provided to him for a story and captions and then decide the best way to take that information, write the story, headlines and captions for a sports spread,” said Johnson.

The 2019 Clipper Yearbook earned the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crown Award.

“The Crown Award indicates the publication they produced ranks among the best in student journalism,” states a release from CSPA. As a Crown Award winner, the staff will be presented with either a Gold or Silver Crown Award in March 2020 at the CSPA national convention in New York City.

“Earlier in the year, the 2019 Clipper yearbook earned the Walsworth Gallery of Excellence recognition for the third year in a row. Then, based on the staff’s selection as a Crown Award winner, the Clipper Yearbook also earned a spot in the Walsworth President’s Collection, which includes those books that earn a NSPA Pacemaker or CSPA Crown Award, the two highest national honors for high school yearbooks,” wrote Johnson in a description of the honors.

The yearbook also earned a MIPA All-Missouri award, which will be presented to the staff in March 2020. The book also earned a First Class with One Mark of Distinction in Coverage from the National Scholastic Press Association and a Gold Medalist rating and All-Columbian Honors in Verbal and Visual from CSPA.

“Not to brag just for me, but for these kids, these are some amazing awards,” said Johnson. “... I’m really thrilled for those guys. They spent hundreds of hours in and outside school, attending events, performances, sporting events and photographing them, writing about them and recording them for history in that book. They went above and beyond and I just want to tell them thank you for that.”

Johnson said her students not only do good work for their own publication and broadcasting efforts, but step up when professional media sources interview or tap them for their work like on ESPN, in the Courier-Tribune and on KCTV5.

“They do an amazing job,” she said with a quivering voice after getting emotional about her students’ accomplishments. “I am proud of the way they represent Kearney everywhere we go.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at or 903-6001.

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