Awards & Recognition, contests, Education, High schools

Eastland’s Erin Henze Is Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year!

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association is honoring a member of the Eastland High School Class of 2020 as Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year.


NINA will award a $1,000 scholarship to Erin Henze of Shannon to help her continue her journalism education at the college level. Henze plans to attend DePaul University in Chicago this fall.

A panel of NINA judges selected Henze’s scholarship application as the winner from a group of applications submitted by high school journalism students from throughout the northern Illinois region.

In awarding the scholarship, NINA judges took note of articles Henze wrote for the Rockford Register Star and the Prairie Advocate. In addition, the judges were also impressed by Henze’s work as a media relations director and copy editor for Eastland’s yearbook.

While reviewing her scholarship application, one of the NINA judge’s described Henze as an amazing student.

“Not only does she lead her high school to a Class 1A state basketball championship and is a first-team AP all-state selection, but she documents the experience with a story published in the Rockford Register Star that simply knocks your socks off,” the judge commented.

Matt Trowbridge, a veteran sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star, described Henze in a letter of recommendation as one of the most impressive high school students he has met in his 39-year career as a journalist.

Trowbridge cited her high grade-point average, her status as class president for all four years of her high school career and her talent as a writer. Henze, Trowbridge wrote, “is a gifted writer and already has more journalism experience than most college seniors seeking their first job.”

Trowbridge recounted how after Eastland beat No. 1-ranked Lewiston to win the state title, the Register-Star asked Henze to write her own first-person account of the championship season.

“Even though her story ran two days later, it received even more online hits than the title game story and is one of our top-10 most popular stories of the past year,” Trowbridge noted.

In a letter of recommendation, Monica Burkholder, Eastland principal, described Henze as a “one of a kind” student who has excelled in the classroom, in extracurricular and community services activities and athletics throughout her high school career.

Burkholder wrote, “Any college, university team or business that has the opportunity to have Erin be a part of will be better off for it. Eastland will not be the same without her next year, but she is going to do such great things in her life that we have to left her go.”

Anne Pilgrim, Eastland’s National Honor society adviser, said she cannot wait to see where Henze’s continued study of journalism will lead her.

“It would not surprise me if she becomes a household name someday. She is someone who leaves a lasting impression wherever she goes,” Pilgrim wrote.

In her autobiographical essay submitted as part of her scholarship application, Henze said she has always had a passion for reading and writing.

“I would beg my mom to let me stay up past my bedtime so that I could finish the chapter of whatever book I was engrossed in,” she recalled.

After graduating from DePaul, Henze wrote, she hopes to be a professional journalist, preferably in a large city such as Chicago.

“My dream job would be working as a field reporter…writing about and investigating stories occurring in the world in order to inform the general public,” Henze said. “With this scholarship, I would be empowered to become a more conscientious and hardworking member of society, flourishing into a young woman who grows personally by serving the needs of others.”

NINA president Margarita Mendoza congratulated Henze and thanked NINA Education Committee Chairman John Etheredge for organization the annual competition.

“It is truly an honor to offer scholarships to students who love journalism as Erin does,” she said.