Northern Illinois competition recognizes student journalists


Donna Hornik

Award certificates pile high for East Side News members

This summer, journalists from East Side News were awarded a silver certificate from the Northern Illinois Scholastic Press Association for the overall quality of their publication.

Seven journalists also won individually in different sections of the competition.

Eddie Burgin, incoming junior and current staff writer, won an honorable mention for an advertisement design. 

Burgin said, “I just started crying when I [received the news], and my dog seemed very concerned. Last year was my first year in journalism, and this is [my] first time winning [for the NISPA competition]. I was considering dropping my school participation in many extracurriculars due to the nihilism I felt with the current state of things, but knowing I did a good job in journalism made my heart soar.”

Savanna Thomas, 2020 graduate, won an honorable mention for her Yungblud music review.

“I was actually surprised that I got an honorable mention. But I am extremely happy that I did because I think that my piece brings awareness to Yungblud’s songs and the deep meanings behind them,” Thomas said.

Incoming senior Mikaela Ramirez won an honorable mention for her graphic on the push for technology access in District 202.

Ramirez said, “Finding out that my graphic had actually gotten something came as a huge surprise… It was the first time I had ever won in anything so seemingly official, and I’m glad that people seemed to like what I had drawn.”

The journalists noted their reflections and subsequent motivation based on the results. 

“I think our time getting cut short teaches us to work like our deadline is tomorrow. So then we put in all our effort to make it the best it can be… I wasn’t expecting an honorable mention so receiving one has actually encouraged me to start writing again during the pandemic,” Thomas said.

I think our time getting cut short teaches us to work like our deadline is tomorrow. So then we put in all our effort to make it the best it can be

— Savanna Thomas

Burgin said, “We have to appreciate every second of time we have in school, along with each other. We learned we can do amazing things in a time crunch, we all deserve to be proud of ourselves and value the time with each other.”

“Because the year was cut so short, it felt sort of unfulfilling to say goodbye to many of the seniors that made up our journalism team that had helped so much. To hear that we got a silver for our work over the year is an amazing honor, and I’m glad that we had the chance to work together in making each issue,” Ramirez said.

In January, East Side News staff members gathered around the desk of journalism advisor Donna Hornik to choose pieces for competition from the fall semester.

The chosen pieces then travelled to coalitions of teachers, advisors, and practicing journalists to be judged with other scholastic newspapers from the Northern Illinois area.

The Corona virus brought about major changes in the functionality of journalism.

“As for journalism competitions and covering spring sports, prom, clubs, news, everything was cancelled,” Hornik said.

The annual NISPA journalism conference in April cancelled and meant that the results were announced electronically. 

Hornik said the shutdown changed the typical spring semester for the publication.

“In spring, journalism focuses considerably on celebrating seniors and creating a May issue of student accomplishments while appreciating the legacies and positive energy they leave behind. We begin working on the issue in January while simultaneously putting out three other issues and competing at the local and state level,” Hornik said.

Though the Corona virus changed spring publications, a modified video issue was created to celebrate seniors.

Hornik said, “Fortunately, we surveyed seniors electronically in February with Yearbook staff, so we had the superlative winners to create an improvised video issue. Cooperation from seniors made it happen.”

With the new year beginning online, the 2020-2021 journalists for East Side News should expect a changed format for the upcoming fall issues.

Ameera Haque, incoming senior, received a blue ribbon with Amber Speer for a Bengals from Both Angles dual column on life after high school. “It’s amazing that even with a global pandemic, that our team still achieved a high level. It was my first year of journalism, so I was disappointed that it was cut short so suddenly. Nonetheless we persevered,” Haque said.

Hornik said, “Last fall, we created an online presence while still printing a limited number of newspapers. Having that experience gives us a foundation on which to work. I look forward to hearing all the creative ideas from student journalists who dedicate so much time and talent to publishing a valuable service.”

Look out for upcoming news stories for the 2020-2021 school year on