Shawnee Mission East journalism alums among first-ever team of students to win prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award

One of SM East graduate James Wooldridge's photos from the award-winning project.
One of SM East graduate James Wooldridge’s photos from the award-winning project.

A few years ago, Lauren Brown-Hulme, Jake Crandall, Vanessa Daves, Matt Hanson and James Wooldridge were learning the fundamentals of journalism from adviser Dow Tate at Shawnee Mission East. Today, they’re the winners of one of the most prestigious honors in human rights journalism.

The five northeast Johnson County natives are part of an 11-student team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to win this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights grand prize for journalism. The team spent months examining the effect of stores selling beer on the edges of the Pine Ridge Reservation in Whiteclay, Neb., where liquor sales are prohibited. The four liquor stores in Whiteclay have sold more than 42 million cans of beer in the past decade, mostly to residents of the reservation, where alcoholism is faulted for high rates of birth defects and crime.

The product of their combined effort, a project they’ve called “The Wounds of Whiteclay,” beat out well-known national publications like The New Yorker for this year’s prize. It’s the first time in the 49-year-history of the honor that a college team has won.

NPR interviewed Hanson, who put together the project’s website, for All Things Considered last week. You can listen to that interview here.

You can see the full reporting package here.