We are proud to announce the first-place winner of the 2018 SPJ Florida College Scholarship, Emily Mavrakis!
A rising senior at the University of Florida, the judges were impressed with her growth as a journalist as well as her interest in environmental reporting.
“Journalism is a profession that enables me to learn about people, their issues and make a difference in the lives of others,” Mavrakis said. “The SPJ Florida scholarship will be an incredible help for me as I continue to seek out and cover stories in the hopes of becoming an environmental reporter this upcoming school year.”
It was during her time as an intern at the university’s Florida Museum of Natural History that she discovered that not only did she love journalism, but she loved reporting on environmental issues. During her junior year, she was a part of a class that produced the investigative series, “Energy Burden,” with WUFT, where they explored the issue of home energy inequity.
“I used local government data to chart how widespread these problems are and compare Gainesville to other municipalities in the state. By contributing to the project, I gained a better understanding of the importance of environmental issues and their connections to poverty and economics,” she wrote in her scholarship essay.
Mavrakis’ work can also be found in the Independent Florida Alligator newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Gainesville Sun, where she worked as an intern.
We are also excited to announce the 2018 second-place winner, Mackenzie Behm!
Also a student at the University of Florida, the rising junior has challenged herself to tell stories through different media, including video and investigative writing.
“Using video, I’ve worked to cover underrepresented people and issues. I told the story of Carlton, a midget wrestler who isn’t just a sideshow attraction, but a man who has a deep love for wrestling and a daughter back at home. In another piece, I showed the impact of pulling sailing from the Paralympic Games,” Behm said. “Through writing, I’ve written an investigation into abuse within a sorority at my university as well as several magazine-style pieces that serve audiences alike. These pieces often have a fun, yet informative narrative.”
Her investigative piece on abuses in a sorority was run by the New York Post, The Gainesville Sun, and the Independent Florida Alligator.
Behm’s appreciation for for journalism began when her family was homeless for a time. She wrote in her scholarship essay that, “I may not have been able to afford many opportunities growing up, but I was able to access news.”
In the spring of 2018, she founded Storyboard, an organization to “bring original and creative video journalism to college campuses.” She has also interned or worked for the University of Florida’s Department of Communications, WUFT News, Food Network’s Spoon University, The Tab UF, and Babe.