BY JOHN ETHEREDGE, NINA EDUCATION COMMITTEE CHAIR
The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association is honoring two outstanding high school student journalists this spring.
A panel of NINA judges recently selected Ayse Eldes, a senior at Prospect High School in northwest suburban Mt. Prospect, as the Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year for 2019.
NINA is also honoring Lars Lonnroth, a student at Lyons Township High School in west suburban LaGrange, as a Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year scholarship winner.
NINA will award Eldes a $1,000 scholarship, while Lonnroth will receive a $500 scholarship. The two students, who will graduate from their respective high schools this spring, will also receive plaques from NINA commemorating their scholarship awards.
For more than two decades, NINA has sponsored the Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year scholarship program to encourage talented high school student journalists to continue their journalism education at the college level.
NINA judges selected Eldes as this year’s first-place scholarship winner based on her outstanding work as a reporter, editorial writer and editor for The Prospector, Prospect High School’s award-winning student newspaper.
As a reporter, Eldes demonstrated the skills of a professional journalist in reporting on a wide variety of complex topics, from the financial problems facing a local elementary school district to TIF (tax increment financing) districts to the challenges facing Turkish refugee students at her school.
Jason Block, Eldes’ journalism instructor and adviser at Prospect High School, said Eldes has continued to “take on challenging topics, then proceeds to tell these stories in a personable and engaging way.”
Block described Eldes as the “moral compass” of The Prospector’s staff.
“She always seems to make the responsible and correct decision on what to run, where it should run, and what topic or even what words might not reflect the professionalism of our publication,” Block said.
In her autobiographical essay, Eldes noted that, as a Muslim teen, she has had to endure her fair share of “stares, discomforting comments and unnecessary put downs…”
She recalled that on the first day of her freshman year, she found that Prospect’s journalism program provided a “pathway to balancing this dichotomy I struggled with personally. A reporter’s job is to blend into their surroundings, become a fly on the wall, and journalism taught me that I can do that while also being the elephant in the room.”
Eldes said she has learned that journalism means truth-telling and analyzing that truth to help others understand why it matters.
“The average person doesn’t have the time or ability to know what’s happening every moment of the day across the globe, nor do they always know how it affects them,” she said. “That’s why journalists entertain the impossible by conveying that information to the world.”
She concluded, “My journalistic mission statement is no different from my mission behind everything I do: inform people about what I believe is important for our society’s global progress.”
Eldes will be attending the University of Michigan.
- NINA judges selected Lonnroth for a $500 scholarship based on his work as a reporter and managing editor of breaking news for the Lion, Lyons Township’s award-winning student newspaper.
Jason Scales, journalism instructor and adviser to the Lion, described Lonnroth as “the most driven and talented journalism student” he has taught in his 16-year career.
Scales noted that Lonnroth stood out in a journalistic writing class that Lyons Township students must take if they are interested in joining the Lion staff.
Scales praised Lonnroth for his “command of the written word, his determination to pick up a new writing style and his willingness to go to any length to report a story.”
For example, Scales noted that Lonnroth talked his dad into driving him to O’Hare International Airport when President Trump enacted his travel ban in 2017. Lonnroth interviewed lawyers and travelers affected by the ban and filed a story.
“Never before had I had a sophomore do this type of intrepid reporting,” Scales wrote.
In his autobiographic essay, Lonnroth said he views journalism as more than just a job, but a passion.
“I’m entering this industry knowing that my profession is facing an extremely daunting existential economic crisis — a crisis that is eroding newsrooms everywhere,” he said. “But that’s a mountain I’m more than willing to climb. I will fight for the truth, I will fight for the communities and I will fight to ensure that high-quality public services journalism will be alive and well, regardless of whether I’m reporting in print, on the airwaves or online. That’s why I’m pursuing journalism in the year 2019.”
The scholarships are intended to help both students continue their journalism education at the college level.