Julia Poe was anxious Monday morning. The second-year Harbinger editor-in-chief knew that the Kansas Scholastic Press Association would be announcing its High School Journalist of the Year sometime during the day, but she didn’t know when or how. She checked Twitter on her phone between her first couple of classes, but there was no word from KSPA.
Then she walked into her third hour journalism class. During morning announcements, she noticed the student newspaper’s photo editors had their cameras out, which was unusual. Moments later, KSPA executive director Eric Thomas walked into the class and asked which student was Julia Poe. He handed her a bouquet of flowers and told her that she was the 2015 High School Journalist of the Year.
“I was extremely excited,” she said. “This award recognizes some incredible students, so I just felt extremely lucky to be one of them. I actually was pretty flustered, too, because I was in front of my whole staff and they were cheering and being so supportive.”
In addition to her work on the student newspaper and the Harbinger’s website, Poe was a commentator for the student broadcasts of SM East’s football games this past season.
KSPA High School Journalist of the Year is an elite honor – but one familiar to SM East. Since 2002, SM East has had six students earn the honor, including sisters Laura and Libby Nelson, who are now reporters with the Los Angeles Times and Vox, respectively. Long-time journalism adviser Dow Tate also had two students win Texas High School Journalist of the Year when he taught there.
Poe, whose parents were on hand for the celebration Monday, credited Tate with helping her grow as a journalist and a person during her time at SM East.
“If you met me freshman year, I was shy and quiet. I didn’t feel comfortable in myself,” she said. “Tate pushed me to become confident and to pursue every challenge I could find.”