Richmond student journalists honored with countywide awards

Richmond High substitute teacher fired after attack on teen who used racial slur
Photo credit: Mike Kinney

Kathy Chouteau

Richmond student journalists have the “write stuff.”

A total of 16 students from high schools in Richmond have earned honors in the 2020 Lesher Awards Competition, per an announcement this week by the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative (CSJI).

Student journalists hailing from Richmond who were honored with awards included: Vivianna Bejarano, Jasmine Vazquez, Adelio Orellana, Jonathan Aldana, Heidi Carranza, Christian Cervantes, Hector Trujillo, Alejandro Duarte, Raul Manzo, Citlaly Estrada, Angela Garcia, Alondra Ramirez and Heidi Carranza of Richmond High School; Melissa Solis and Vanessa Macias of Making Waves Academy; and Alyssa Wirt of De Anza High School.

Organized by CSJI and its partners, the Lesher Awards recognize the work of student journalists from Contra Costa County high schools in a variety of categories. Due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, student winners and their entries were revealed via a website created in lieu of the annual awards ceremony at the Lesher Center for the Arts. The competition is part of the CC Spin newspaper program and is judged by Bay Area journalism pros.

CSJI Director Steve O’Donoghue said that while they had to cancel the annual awards ceremony, they didn’t want to cancel the recognition.

“Students worked hard at journalism and we wanted to make sure they received their well-earned honors by presenting their work online and to a larger audience. Their awards will be mailed out to them.”

Stand-out categories where the young Richmond journalists prominently placed included, “Personal column, “Best in-depth and investigative reporting” and “Journalist of the year.”

The full list of Richmond award winners, as well as their winning categories and entries, follows below:

News Category

Third place: Richmond High teachers introduce new elective classes by Vivianna Bejarano, Richmond High School. The school’s move to a seven-period day opens opportunities for new electives.

Feature Category

Second place (tie): Instagram’s influence on teens, promoting toxic femininity by Jasmine Vazquez, Richmond High School.

Honorable mention: Out with the new, in with the old by Melissa Solis, Making Waves Academy. An examination of our fascination with nostalgia.

Sports Category

Honorable mention: Managing the responsibilities of being a student-athlete by Adelio Orellana, Richmond High School. It’s not enough to play well. Academics count, too, and that puts pressure on athletes.

Personal column

Second place (tie): Why I write by Jonathan Aldana, Richmond High School. A rich journey into the mind of a writer beginning to find his voice.

Third place: Confronting conflicts of queerness, Mexican culture by Vanessa Macias, Making Waves Academy. The writer’s identity at the intersection of queer and traditional Mexican culture doesn’t make for a peaceful coexistence.

Honorable mention: Life as a diabetic 16-year-old by Alyssa Wirt, De Anza High School. Balancing a life of fun and work is difficult anyway, but when you’re a teen and a type 1 diabetic, life can be a whole tougher.

Best in-depth and investigative reporting

Third place (tie): Tragic Start to School Year by Angela Garcia and Alondra Ramirez with contributions from Heidi Carranza, Richmond High School. The school is roiled by death and allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher. 

Honorable mention: Self-medication: turning to substances to cope by Christian Cervantes, Hector Trujillo, Alejandro Duarte and Raul Manzo, Richmond High School. An inquiry into self-medicating while still in high school.

Editorial cartoon

Second place: Teens navigating relationships and love through technology by Citlaly Estrada, Richmond High School. Technology advances but romance persists.

2020 Journalist of the Year scholarship

Third place: Vanessa Macias, Making Waves Academy ($250), for a story as part of a special project for the CC Spin website re: the 2020 Census.

Click here to read the Richmond students’ award-winning entries—as well as some from other high school journalists throughout the county. 

The Lesher Awards for student journalism are made possible through via a collaboration between CSJI, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, the Contra Costa County Office of Education and the Bay City News Foundation.