Feb. 13, 2022  

Chapter Awards 2022 School Newsroom Grants to Four High Schools

SPJ Florida was proud to award four $500 grants to deserving high school media programs in the Sunshine State: Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Gadsden County High School in Havana, and Hollins High School in St. Petersburg.

In its fifth year, the High School Newsroom Grant is a part of the chapter’s initiative to support student journalism.

Boca High’s The Paw Print is not funded by the school or the district, leaving students on their own to fundraise, solicit donations and apply for grants. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a challenge. Camile Lofters, the adviser for The Paw Print, said that with the grant, they want to be able to print copies of their quarterly magazine, which they haven’t been able to do since January 2020.

“You have absolutely made our year!” Lofters wrote upon discovering her class won a grant.

Christopher Columbus High’s CCNN Live broadcast program has many students who are able to attend the private high school due to financial aid. Adviser Delgado said they would be using the money to help send two students to the University of Florida’s Summer Media Institute this July, a cost their parents would otherwise be unable to afford. The students would be able to bring back a wealth of knowledge back to their classmates after the eight-week course.

John Nogowski, who teaches journalism as well as AP Language, AP Literature and English III at Gadsden County High School, shared in his application a story that many teachers have experienced—without funding from the school, he and his wife has taken on some of the costs of running the journalism program. This includes paying for the subscription for their newspaper website. This year, he would like to be able to print out a hard copy of the newspaper, perhaps their special graduation edition.

The adviser shared that the school is located in one of Florida’s poorest counties, is 100% free and reduced lunch, majority of students come from single-parent families, and attendance is an issue. But The Gadsden County Gazette has been a way for students to come together to work on something they love.

“I have tried to use our newspaper to connect every part of our campus,” he explained. “But not all of our students have computer access or are willing to go online to read our paper. If we were able to produce a newsprint version or two, I think it might really help our school and our students feel more connected.”

The same spirit of community comes from the Legends Yearbook program at Hollins High School, run by Teresa Zemaitis. With students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds and no funding from the school, Zemaitis has purchased items herself to start a photo studio for the yearbook staff—items that can be used for many years to come.

“I was just given the space this year so it’s time to make it happen,” she said.

At the end of the school year, the classrooms will be reporting back with how the grant money helped them achieve their goals for their journalism and yearbook programs.

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