SM East’s Julia Poe named National High School Journalist of the Year

Dow Tate, left, and National High School Journalist of the Year Julia Poe with her award in Denver. (Photo courtesy Julia Poe).
Dow Tate, left, and National High School Journalist of the Year Julia Poe with her award in Denver. (Photo courtesy Julia Poe).

SM East senior Julie Poe this weekend became the third Kansas student under the tutelage of journalism adviser Dow Tate to be named the Journalism Education Association’s National High School Journalist of the Year.

Poe was one of 31 state level winners eligible for the organizations’ top student prize at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Denver. The announcement came at the convention’s closing ceremony Sunday, where the master of ceremonies read off the names of six runners up before getting to the Journalist of the Year honor.

“My two good friends, Nick and Dan, were named as two of the last runners up. I was so excited and I was cheering for them so hard that it took me a moment to realize, ‘Oh my gosh, they didn’t call me, I’m not a runner up,'” Poe recalled. But any questions about whether she would be walking away with an honor were quickly answered as Poe heard the emcee announce she was the top prize winner.

“I just couldn’t stop grinning. I had to walk all the way up to the front of the room, and I remember a lot of people — especially my friends from out of state — stood up to applaud as I got my trophy,” she said. “When I got back to my staff, I just went to Tate and hugged him. We were both crying a bit and my whole staff was on their feet and it was a very surreal moment.”

As National High School Journalist of the Year, Poe receives the $3,000 Sister Rita Jeanne Abicht Scholarship.

“Julia is terrific in every way,” said Jack Kennedy, a member of the awarding committee and the executive director of the Colorado High School Press Association. “Her ability to shine among so many outstanding student journalists at Shawnee Mission East is a testament to her talent, personality and work ethic.”

Since Tate took over the SM East journalism program in 2002, the school has produced three National High School Journalists of the year. Libby Nelson, currently an education reporter at Vox, won the honor in 2005. Amanda Allison, who now works for FleishmanHillard in Washington, D.C., won in 2007.

Poe said Tate has pushed her to reach beyond what she thought were her limits, which allowed her to tackle difficult subject likes suicide and racism she wouldn’t have been able to handle early in her high school career.

“Tate’s support has made me who I am today,” she said. “He taught me to set expectations for myself that were almost too high, and then helped me to break through those expectations and keep recreating them every year… I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done, and I hate that I only have a few more weeks with him as my full-time mentor.”