Winslow Township Middle School teen named runner-up for national JEA award


Recent Winslow Township Middle School graduate Briana Worthington was named runner-up for the JEA’s Aspiring Young Journalist Award.

Heather Hay said she can often tell right away when a student is a rock star journalist-to-be.

Let’s just say that the Winslow Township Middle School teacher didn’t exactly get that sense when Briana Worthington was first coming around at the beginning of seventh grade. She figured Worthington would enjoy it and have fun with it, and that would be about the extent of the experience.

“I called it completely wrong,” Hay admitted. “She has turned out to be one of the bright spots, one of the stars in our room.”

Worthington’s star has shined far beyond Hay’s classroom, as she recently was honored as runner-up for the Journalism Education Association’s Aspiring Young Journalists Award, a national recognition handed out to a middle school journalist each year.

Worthington submitted an extensive portfolio, including writing samples, photos, and video work, to a committee at the JEA, one of the largest national organizations that supports scholastic journalism. One of those who reviewed her portfolio was journalism educator Joe Humphrey of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida.

“Briana showcased excellence in video production, writing and photography,” Humphrey said on the JEA’s press release on its website. “Her future school will be lucky to welcome her as she continues to grow as a journalist.”

Among Worthington’s contributions to her middle school’s publication, The Soaring Eagle, were pieces covering the dangers of technology, a student’s surprise reunion with her aunt who’s in the military, and a couple of sports pieces.

“I like that (journalism) is not just about writing,” Worthington said. “There’s a whole process into creating your news story. I like to take the little pieces to create a bigger picture.”

One example of this is in the piece she cites as her favorite, “Chefs in the Classroom: Food for Thought,”  about a program which introduces healthier eating options to students. The story includes extensive background about the program as well as a complementary video clip.

“When it comes to my news stories, I like to dig in deeper and find more details about the topic so I can write it out a little better,” she said. “I spent a lot of time on that one and dug in deeper.”

Hay saw Worthington’s propensity for digging deeper, and her confidence, flourish this year.

“I would say in this eighth grade year she’s become far more curious, she’s become far more confident,” Hay said, “and she’s really also strengthened her ability to look at a story and see what about the story should my reader care about, what part of this is going to get them to latch on and want to read and want to come back for more. She’s just much better in terms of evaluating now.”

Worthington noted that her language arts skills (and grades) have improved since her foray into journalism began, and she’s considering pursuing it beyond high school.

“I’m not sure what specific type of journalism,” she said. “I’m still looking into it and I don’t know for sure, but when I do, I’m planning on going to school for it.”