SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Lexie James, a media student at Hopi High School, won a national award at the annual Journalism Education Association Convention April 10-13 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
James took home honorable mention, or third place, in the editorial category. About 200 of the best journalism students in the country competed in that category. Approximately 2,851 students attended the conference and 1,112 entered various contests with about 436 winners.
The competing students in the editorial category entered a large room where they were presented with a topic. They each had to write an editorial within one hour. The topic was about the Colorado River and the need for water conservation in the San Diego area. The key point of James' editorial was if people are serious about water conservation they need to cut back on green lawns and swimming pools.
"I was very excited and shocked to win this award because I didn't think I would win anything," James said.
James received the award in front of thousands of students April 13 at the awards ceremony. She said the contest session was informative and straightforward because the high school journalists had to put their minds together to prove their point.
James was one of five Hopi High media students attending the conference. The others were Abby "Road" Yazzie, Keannah "Cookies" Speen, Christen Ben and Allen "AC" Honyouti.
James, a senior, said the breakout sessions at the conference taught her that technology is changing every day and journalists need to keep up with it. She noted that a lot of colleges attended the convention to make the students aware of the opportunities to major in all facets of journalism.
James said Nora Guinney led her favorite session. While Guinney specializes in teaching students how to sell yearbook advertisements, she also talks about motivating students for all facets of life.
"She made me feel better about myself and it was a great way to get pumped up," James said. "I also liked the Writing for Broadcast session because it showed how to keep the audience interest and how to grab them with your first line."
Cory Morlock from Colorado Springs, Colo. led the Writing for Broadcast session.
James said her one disappointment was that there were no sections specifically geared toward radio. All of the broadcast sessions were tailored toward video. The broadcast contests were also only in video.
"I also think some of the speakers could have been more prepared," she said.
James' advice for students who attend the conference next year is to take plenty of notes and not to underestimate themselves.
"They should have confidence and know their strengths," she said.
James will major in sports medicine at Ft. Lewis College in Colorado, but she may minor in radio or journalism.
Yazzie, a broadcast radio student at Hopi High, said whether it was in the sessions or out on the town that the trip to San Diego was enlightening.
"The five students that attended the conference came away with a better sense of what it takes to possibly pursue a career in the field of broadcast," she said.
Yazzie was impressed with keynote speaker Laura Castaneda because she shared her Emmy-nominated documentary, "The Devil's Breath," which is about undocumented people who lost their lives in the fires that plagued California a few years ago.
Yazzie said the breakout sessions were geared mostly toward yearbook or newspaper, but readily adaptable to all areas of journalism.
The five Hopi High students also toured the historic district of downtown San Diego which was full of restaurants and clothing stores.
"Most of the people seemed to have an elevated sense of style," she said. "A multitude of homeless people could be seen holding up cardboard signs, hauling their possessions in plastic bags and sleeping in various public places. It was interesting to see prosperity and poverty so close together."
Aside from giving the homeless money, the Hopi High broadcast radio students gave food to the homeless as well.
Speen, an advanced radio broadcast student, also liked the session Guiney led.
"The session had inspiring stories that she faced and how she overcame the hardships. She still manages to put a smile on her face even for a person that tried to embarrass her. She gave me hope that no matter how bad hardships you face that you'll always have something to smile about," she said.
Speen, who has been accepted to the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Summer Institute, said Guiney gave her the nudge to pursue broadcast journalism.
"It is the important way people get information. With the presentation she gave, I saw myself in a lot of occupations," she said.
Speen, a junior like the other Hopi High radio students, said she was disappointed that there were no sessions on radio during the convention and she would like to start a conference that specializes in broadcast radio.
"If I don't go to Guiney's session, I didn't think that I could've figured out what I wanted to become after high school," she said.
Speen entered a video contest at the conference for sports story. Her video was about Charles Youvella and the Hopi High football team. Youvella was a football player who died following an injury at the Bruins' state playoff game.
"The judges told me that my video needed a bit of improvement with timing and interview, but overall I had the most courage for having the interview with Wallace Youvella Jr., the athletic director and Charles' father," she said.
Speen enjoyed going to the San Diego Zoo, but was disappointed that she didn't see the giraffe.
Ben, an advanced broadcast radio student, said the conference was a great learning experience because of the sessions and speeches.
Ben, a senior, said the session she enjoyed the most was "Ten Broadcast Tips" by Michelle Turner from Washington High School in Missouri.
"It was interesting because she talked the basics about being a great journalist. I learned that paper and pen is better than a laptop because it doesn't crash and it isn't as slow," she said.
Turner spoke about one journalist who would do all his prep work by paper and pen before putting it on the laptop.
Ben said that Turner also taught her that quantity is not as important as quality - that journalists don't have to interview tons of people about a subject, but that it's more important to ask the right questions.
Ben said she also liked the Guiney presentation about being tremendous and believing in yourselves.
"She was a great speaker that I would like to listen to again. She got everyone in her session standing, laughing and smiling," she said.
Ben said the conference gave her more information about journalism, television and yearbook.
Ben plans to major in sports medicine at Hastings College in Nebraska where she has received a scholarship for cross-country.
Honyouti, an advanced broadcast radio student, said the conference taught him how to become a better journalist, how to create a webpage and how to become more confident in himself as a journalist.
Honyouti, a senior, also liked the session on "Ten Broadcast Tips."
"Another point I learned is that journalism is growing more and more with the power of technology, which means that WebPages and podcasts are what catches the attention of the youth," he said.
Honyouti said rather than a 60-minute documentary people prefer to see two minute news briefs and that social media makes this more possible.
"Last, I learned that being a journalist means to have fun, be outgoing and enjoy it. You get to meet new people and let their voices be heard," he said. "I enjoyed my time there. The weather was perfect. It was a great experience and a lot of fun."
While on the trip, Honyouti learned that he won two art awards from the Heard Museum.
Honyouti will major in secondary education and minor in art at Mesa Community College.
The sponsors for the trip were the Hopi Foundation, June Fox, Nina Nadelson, Navajo County Chairman Jesse Thompson, Javier Linarte, Navajo-Hopi Observer, Salt River Project and Hopi High School.