Page One journalism winner likes ‘telling the truth.’ Here are the other winners.

Columbus High student wins journalism award at Page One Awards ceremony

Michael Williams of Columbus High School is this year’s journalism winner. Ridley Hudson of Brookstone is the runner-up. Michael is the editor and webmaster, as well as a writer, for his school’s newspaper, The Blue Streak.
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Michael Williams of Columbus High School is this year’s journalism winner. Ridley Hudson of Brookstone is the runner-up. Michael is the editor and webmaster, as well as a writer, for his school’s newspaper, The Blue Streak.

The Ledger-Enquirer honored 194 high school seniors and teachers from the Columbus area during the 44th annual Page One Awards ceremony Tuesday night in the Bill Heard Theatre at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

They were nominated by high school principals throughout the Chattahoochee Valley in 13 student categories and one teacher category. The student categories are art, athletics, career and technology, citizenship, drama, English and literature, foreign language, general scholarship, journalism, mathematics, music, science and social studies.

After reading the applications, which include essay questions and a faculty recommendation, the Page One Award judges interviewed the nominees. The judges, who are 38 community leaders, also considered the nominee’s academic achievement and community service to select the winners and runners-up. The judges in the teacher category observed the three finalists teaching in their classroom.

A total of $19,000 in awards were presented Tuesday night, bringing the 44-year total to $610,000 for more than 8,600 students and teachers.

Ross McDuffie, the Georgia general manager and East Region vice president for the Ledger-Enquirer and McClatchy, told the audience, “All of us at the Ledger-Enquirer are proud to be a part of this program. We know that it has had a positive impact on the lives of the honorees over the years, and we look forward to this night, recognizing their accomplishments and their service to our community.”

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McDuffie thanked the judges for the voluntary service.

“Without you, this program would not be possible,” he said. “Your diligence and passion for our scholars are the fuel that makes Page One an inspiring celebration of the best our community has to offer.”

In addition to an awards, the student and teacher winners receive $1,000, except the journalism category winner, who receives $1,500 for winning the Tucker-Wilder Scholarship, named after three former Ledger or Enquirer editors: W.H. Tucker, W.C. Tucker and Bruce Wilder. The student and teacher runners-up receive $300 along with an award.

Michael Williams of Columbus High is this year’s journalism winner. Ridley Hudson of Brookstone is the runner-up.

Michael is the editor and webmaster, as well as a writer, for his school’s newspaper, The Blue Streak. He is an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction and served as class president for his sophomore, junior and senior years. He has been a member of the Latin Club, the National Science Honor Society the Academic Decathlon and the cross country, track and lacrosse teams.

He revamped the school’s Instagram account, making it easier for parents and students to access information. He also helped redesign Career Day at Columbus High, adding moderated sessions so recent graduates could share their college experiences.

In his application, Michael said he believes it is his duty as a journalist to interpret and relay information for the benefit of those who read it.

The judges were impressed with Michael’s strong understanding of journalism ethics and processes.

“Michael’s gift for writing goes far beyond the printed page as he considers what platform works best for his audience,” the judges wrote. “He has been able to use his talent to share his knowledge with other young reporters and challenges them to write beyond their own perspective.”

After receiving his award, Michael told the Ledger-Enquirer, “I’m ecstatic. This is very prestigious, and I’m very excited. All glory to God and everything.”

Winning the award, he said, “tells me where I can go in the future.”

The next step in his future is studying journalism and business at Mercer University.

“I don’t know exactly where I want to go with it, but I think that’s the beautiful part of it,” he said. “Journalism is something I’m very passionate about now, and there’s so many different avenues that I can take. I can go digital. I can go print. There’s just so many different avenues that I have time to go explore and look at what I want to do.”

Michael wants to be a journalist, he said, because, “I like facts. I like telling the truth, and I like giving a story to everybody. … As a journalist, it’s not my job to tell you how to think; it’s my job to tell you what’s out there, and then you get to make your own opinion. So I just want to be able to have everyone more interconnected all over the world.”

Shane Larkin of Early College Academy won this year’s Sara Spano Top Teacher Award, named after the late L-E food editor who retired in 1985. She also was a teacher and a Muscogee County School Board member. Luke Jernigan of Marion County and Brittany Moss of Harris County are the teacher award runners-up.

Larkin teaches history, geography and government and has chaired the social studies department at Early College for the past four years. He is the Muscogee County School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Larkin also is a U.S. Army veteran. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Columbus State University and his master’s and specialist’s degrees in education also from CSU.

The judges wrote, “Shane is a natural at building strong relationships with his students. He creates a classroom environment that promotes student ability and achievement. He has used his vast experiences to become a leader in the classroom.”

In his application, Shane said he still is a teacher in the making. He believes that he is constantly learning and evolving. This philosophy helps his students constantly learn and evolve as well, he said. He tries to help his students take ownership of their learning so they become lifelong learners.

After receiving his award, Larkin told the Ledger-Enquirer, “Can’t believe it. I saw the teachers I was standing with on stage, and I knew there were amazing teachers in that group. I’ve seen them in professional development and other things, so I knew the quality there.”

Larkin enjoyed being honored during an event that celebrates outstanding students.

“Tonight’s not really about any of us anyway,” he said. “It’s not the teachers here. It’s a bunch of kids in there that have done amazing things. I mean, the amount of talent that’s sitting in those chairs right now, that’s what makes this cool as well.”


The 2019 Page One Award winners, followed by the runners-up, in each category (with their high school in parentheses):

Art: Cameron Pearce (Harris County), Brianna Dass (Central).

Athletics: Hannah Mattson (Brookstone), Zarkestia Browder (Russell County).

Career and technology: Alexander King (Carver), Jada Smith (Columbus).

Citizenship: Olivia Paul (Columbus), Frances Seavers (Harris County).

Drama: William Gillespie (Brookstone), Delaiah Harris (Hardaway).

English and literature: Dakota Grimes (Columbus), Carly Cline (Brookstone).

Foreign language: Juanita Guerrero-Santoyo (Pacelli), Joanelys Lamberty (Russell County).

General scholarship: Angela Howard (Columbus), Kate Kostuch (Harris County).

Journalism: Michael Williams (Columbus), Ridley Hudson (Brookstone).

Mathematics: Alex De Souza Andrade (Northside), Tyler Bondurant (Columbus).

Music: Zequaea Williams (Spencer), ZaKyren Lias (Russell County).

Science: Priyanka Parikh (Columbus), Banks Stamp (Central).

Social studies: Jose Guerrero (Harris County), Emma Yancey (Brookstone).

Top teacher: Shane Larkin (Early College), Luke Jernigan (Marion County) and Brittany Moss (Harris County).

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Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.