NLP names 2022 News Literacy Change-Makers

Educator award named for NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller

This week we celebrate our amazing 2022 News Literacy Change-Makers! Please join us in recognizing the outstanding achievements of our educator, journalist and student of the year.

These honorees have distinguished themselves in their commitment to news literacy. And this year the awards have a deeper meaning for NLP, as the organization’s board has named the Educator of the Year Award in honor of NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller. NLP’s other awards are named for its late board members, the distinguished journalists John S. Carroll and Gwen Ifill.

“I am greatly honored and deeply grateful to be recognized in this way,” Miller said. “I appreciate this connection to the outstanding educators that we honor each year and find it particularly meaningful to have my name included alongside John and Gwen, for whom I had such admiration and affection.”

Please join us as we celebrate these News Literacy Change-Makers in a live, virtual event Thursday, June 9, at 7 p.m. ET. Register here.

And be sure to visit our dedicated landing page to see videos of the winners, read their stories and learn about past winners.

Our 2022 Honorees

Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year

Jamie Gregory, a librarian and journalism teacher at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, South Carolina, is the news literacy subject matter expert for her school. While news literacy lessons are essential to her journalism classes, Gregory also works with colleagues from all disciplines to help them integrate the subject into their lessons in relevant and meaningful ways. “Being named the educator of the year was a big surprise. I see myself as a regular teacher who is just trying to meet the needs of her students. I’m so humbled and grateful for the honor.”

John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

Pierre Thomas, chief Justice correspondent for ABC News, has covered some of the biggest stories of our time, and has been an active participant in NLP’s work from its founding. He was one of NLP’s first volunteer journalism fellows and participated in the in-person classroom program. He also has been featured at various NLP events and serves as a charter member of NLP’s National Leadership Council. “To be named the News Literacy Project’s John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year means the world to me. I’m humbled by it. The organization, I believe, is helping to make journalism and our democracy healthier.”

Gwen Ifill Student of the Year

Alysa Baltimore, a junior at Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, is a serious and thoughtful student who is deeply concerned about issues of equality and racial justice, said her AP English teacher Stephanie Jones, who nominated her for the award. “I feel like this [winning the award] has helped me grow, and it has solidified my idea for what I want to be in the future,” Baltimore said.

Congratulations to our honorees!

2022 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year

2022 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year
Alysa Baltimore
Station Camp High School
Gallatin, Tennessee

When her AP English teacher let Alysa Baltimore and her classmates choose a book to read and report on, Baltimore saw it as an opportunity to learn more about an issue important to her — racial justice.

She chose Just Mercy, a nonfiction book about redemption and justice by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration. Stephanie Jones, Baltimore’s  teacher at Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, was not surprised that she chose such a serious and meaningful read.

“She is an intelligent young woman who is passionate about many issues, especially those concerning race,” said Jones, who nominated Baltimore as NLP’s Gwen Ifill Student of the Year.

Baltimore, a junior, will be honored as one of NLP’s News Literacy Change-Makers in a virtual event June 9 along with the Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year and the John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year. Register here to join the event.

To be considered for the award, students submit an essay demonstrating how becoming more news-literate has impacted their lives. Baltimore, 16, explained how she used newfound research and critical thinking skills to deepen her knowledge of mass incarceration in an effort  to make others aware of the issue.

“Finding adequate statistics and facts on mass incarceration might have been challenging if it weren’t for the skills that I developed from completing the Checkology® virtual classroom lessons,” she wrote in her award submission.

What she learned also has influenced her daily habits. “When you have so many people manipulating the truth, it becomes challenging to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. Checkology has changed the way I look at social media and news articles. Now I check the background before I share anything,” she said.

Baltimore also has become the person friends and family go to when they are unsure about the credibility of information they encounter. “I do think I have a responsibility to correct people,” she said of friends who seek her out, and her sister in particular. “If she’ll come to me with something that might not be accurate, I can help her find true information and help build her connection with what I’m passionate about,” she said.

Baltimore credits Checkology with helping to give her the insight to recognize a professional goal for her future, which is someday becoming a defense attorney. “On the surface, Checkology may be viewed as simple lessons on finding quality articles, but it ultimately led me to developing a passion for equality, equity and justice,” she said.

About Gwen Ifill

Ifill was a trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. The award in her honor is presented to female students of color who represent the values she brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week and was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a network news broadcast on PBS NewsHour. 

2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year
Pierre Thomas, Chief Justice Correspondent, ABC News

Over his long and distinguished career, Pierre Thomas has covered some of the biggest stories of our time. While doing so as the chief Justice correspondent for ABC News, he also has taken the initiative to go beyond the story and help the public understand the vital role that journalism plays in our democracy.

“Journalists are not always portrayed as patriotic, but we are,” Thomas said. “And we want the country to thrive, and one of the ways it can do well is to have a public that knows how to consume news.”

Thomas has been volunteering with the News Literacy Project in various capacities since 2009 and has played a meaningful role in the organization’s growth. In recognition of his commitment to both quality journalism and to news literacy education, Thomas has been named the News Literacy Project’s 2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year.

“In addition to being a superb, award-winning journalist, Thomas embodies the journalistic and personal values that John S. Carroll epitomized,” NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller said in nominating Thomas for the award.

Thomas was one of NLP’s first volunteer journalist fellows; he participated in the in-person classroom program and initial digital unit, which evolved to become the Checkology® virtual classroom, and took part in five NLP-related events between February 2009 and January 2022. Thomas served on two prior advisory groups and is now a member of the National Leadership Council.

“Given what’s at stake in this moment that we find ourselves, we have to get as many people to know how to discern the news and how to consume it as possible,” he said. “And if anyone did not understand why an organization like News Literacy Project is important, all you need to do is look at January 6th. A bunch of people, angry, showed up, committed acts of violence based on misinformation. And that’s not a political view, that’s a journalistic, fact-driven view.”

Thomas will be honored as a News Literacy Change-Maker in a virtual celebration event June 9 along with NLP’s Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year and the Gwen Ifill Student of the Year. To join the event, register here.

As the ABC News chief Justice correspondent, Thomas covers major stories across all ABC News platforms. Since joining the network in 2000, he has covered some of the most important news stories of the day, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to mass shootings to racial injustice. He has received many of journalism’s highest  honors, including the prestigious Peabody and Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards and numerous Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Thomas is also the past chairman of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

In 2020, he reported on the murder of George Floyd and the racial injustice and police brutality protests that followed.

About John S. Carroll

Named for one of the most revered newspaper editors of his generation, the John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year Award is given annually to journalists who have contributed significantly to NLP and its mission. The honorees, who receive $500 and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Carroll, are selected by a committee of NLP board members and staff. During an acclaimed journalism career spanning four decades, Carroll was the editor of three major U.S. newspapers — the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader, The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times. He was a founding member of NLP’s board and served as its chair for four years until shortly before his death in 2015.

2022 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year

2022 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year
Jamie Gregory
Greenville, South Carolina

When it comes to teaching students to become more news-literate and helping her peers integrate news literacy education across disciplines, Jamie Gregory, librarian and journalism teacher at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, South Carolina, leads the way.

Gregory is NLP’s 2022 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year award winner. Tamara Cox, a librarian colleague at Wren High School in Anderson, South Carolina, nominated her for the honor. “She has been committed to integrating news literacy skills into various aspects of curriculum since she began teaching 17 years ago and is willing to learn more to adapt her teaching methods as students’ needs change,” Cox said.

Gregory will join the Gwen Ifill Student of the Year and John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year award winners in a virtual celebration event Thursday, June 9, at 7 p.m. ET. Register here to join the event.

Gregory discovered NLP’s resources six or seven years ago, when she returned to teaching journalism after a break of several years and realized that she needed a new approach in the classroom.  She attended her first NewsLitCamp®, where NLP experts like John Silva, senior director of professional learning, and local journalists work with teachers to explain news literacy and journalism concepts.  “I quickly knew that I was going to have everything I needed to help me to develop a curriculum,” she recalled. “Hearing John Silva say every student has the right to news literacy education reignited my passion, and I knew I was in the right place, and I have not looked back.”

Cox said Gregory serves as a subject matter expert for her school and others in the region, immersing herself in professional learning opportunities and helping NLP create a teaching framework for educators to use across grade levels. When she was asked to begin teaching a newspaper production class, Gregory applied and was selected for a Reynolds High School Journalism Institute, where she received two weeks of instruction from journalism professionals and educators. She is committed to sharing what she learns with other educators, recently presenting news literacy webinars with the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.

“No matter which school, which course, as a classroom teacher or school librarian, Jamie has consistently found ways to incorporate news literacy into the curriculum, showing her belief in its importance,” Cox noted.

For example, Gregory helped an English teacher implement coursework built around censorship. Students read books that the state of South Carolina had challenged, conducted research about the attempted censorship and then wrote editorials defending freedom to read, resulting in some students’ work being published in the local newspaper. Gregory also worked with a science teacher to craft a weekly assignment in which students shared news articles related to science topics, and she taught a lesson on discerning fact from opinion as the class was reviewing news coverage about stem cell research. “Students can find information on their own, but they lack the skills to really differentiate what’s reliable. And they need instruction on being an ethical digital citizen,” Gregory said.

“It has been said that democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and Jamie Gregory embodies this sentiment with her passionate work to build critical thinkers, creative lessons and programming on media/news literacy topics, and a focus on helping students develop their voices and make themselves heard,” Cox said.

An urgent warning about the harm misinformation can cause

Earlier this month, Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of education, gave the keynote address for our annual 2021 News Literacy Change-Maker Awards. Adams issued a strong warning about the harm misinformation can cause, and we wanted to share his important remarks with you.

“The information systems we use to search, and to filter, to like and share, are gathering and monetizing our habits and interests in increasingly alarming and pervasive ways,” Adams explained. “They learn what we like and what we believe, what’s important to us, what we value, and not only echo these things back to us, they also often reinforce, rather than challenge, our view of the world.”

There’s a cost to the free content we read and share, he noted. “Every day, legions of trolls, opportunists, extremists and ideologues use these same systems and platforms to organize and to do harm. These bad actors target the same values and beliefs and biases that drive our online habits. They exploit our devotion to justice for outrage clicks. They convert our love for our families into skepticism about vaccines. They use our patriotism or our desire for self-determination to manufacture doubt and distrust in our institutions … and in one another. They pollute our information streams, derail our discourse and lead us down dangerous rabbit holes. In doing so, they don’t just diminish our individual civic power, they diminish our collective civic integrity. They exacerbate injustice, endanger marginalized people, deceive us into taking civic actions that are divisive and inauthentic — that are based on lies — and they threaten the viability of our democracy.”

But, Adams said, we can combat falsehoods and misinformation. “The good news is that there is strong evidence that high-quality news, media and information literacy education makes us much less vulnerable to mis- and disinformation. Keeping our emotions in check, thinking critically about claims and evidence, being mindful of sources and standards … and doing some simple checking when something seems questionable … these things usually work to prevent us from being duped into adopting beliefs that are false — and from having our civic agency hijacked and redirected.”

Watch his complete remarks and consider supporting NLP.

NLP Honors 2021 News Literacy Change-Makers

In recognition of their outstanding achievements in supporting news literacy during an unprecedented and challenging school year, NLP has named the recipients of its 2021 educator, journalist and student of the year awards.

We celebrate these honorees as news literacy change-makers who have distinguished themselves in their commitment to news literacy in their classrooms, in their professions and in their daily lives. NLP added a second student award this year — one for a middle school student and one for a high school student — in response to a dramatic increase in students using our Checkology® virtual classroom.

“After many difficult months for all of us, and especially for educators and students, these honors take on a special significance this year,” said NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller. “Honoring the recipients is always a privilege and a highlight for us, and we are delighted to recognize such an impressive and deserving group.”

Educator of the Year
Library director Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt believes that news literacy skills and habits of mind are urgently needed and apply across disciplines.

“As the librarian, I consider it my duty to integrate news literacy across as many areas of the curriculum as I can,” she said. “In this era of misinformation, social media, and information overload, being news-literate is more important than ever. It is the key to being an engaged and informed citizen of our democracy.”

Vikstrom-Hoyt has seen how students apply the news literacy skills they learn in a variety of subjects. “I’m in a unique position to advocate for news literacy education across the entire curriculum. It is my passion, and my duty to see that our students leave our school as skillful, savvy consumers of information,” she said.

Learn more about Vikstrom-Hoyt’s approach to news literacy.

John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year
In recognition of her dedication to standards-based journalism and her efforts to help young people become more news-literate, NLP has named CNN’s Alisyn Camerota its John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year.

Camerota, a founding member of NLP’s national leadership council, is co-host of CNN Newsroom. She has volunteered her time and talent with NLP since 2017. That year, she spoke to students at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Queens, New York, and wrote about her experience for CNN.com. Since then, she has only become more involved with NLP — participating in events with educators, students and NLP supporters and helping to advance the organization’s work.

“My great hope for NLP is that it can just be more widespread, it can get into more classrooms, it can have an impact on more students,” Camerota said.

Camerota joined CNN in 2014 after 16 years at Fox News, where she was co-host of America’s News Headquarters, a co-anchor of Fox & Friends Weekend and a contributor to the Fox & Friends weekday franchise. She also has hosted prime time TV news specials and worked at ABC, NBC and local news outlets earlier in her career.

Named for one of the most revered newspaper editors of his generation, the John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year Award is given annually to journalists who have contributed significantly to NLP and its mission. The honorees, who receive $500 and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Carroll, are selected by a committee of NLP board members and staff. During an acclaimed journalism career spanning four decades, Carroll was the editor of three major U.S. newspapers — the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader, The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times. He was a founding member of NLP’s board and served as its chair for four years until shortly before his death in 2015.

Discover why Camerota is committed to news literacy education.

Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year
Like many teens, Ana Rodriguez turns to social media to find out what is going on in the world. But she is well aware that sorting fact from fiction in her newsfeed can be difficult. That’s why, as a sophomore at Archie Williams High School in San Anselmo, California, she embraced the skills and mindset of becoming more news-literate.

“I don’t want to be sharing false information with the people around me,” said Rodriguez, 15. “As a Latina woman in society, it is fundamental for me to have the right information at all times.”

Learning about bias and misinformation helped Rodriguez complete an important project in her social studies and English classes that explored pseudoscience and, specifically, racism in science.

Find out how news literacy informs Rodriguez’s world.

Gwen Ifill Middle School Student of the Year
Mirudulaa Suginathan Yamini, 13, was in seventh grade at Central Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts, when she unintentionally shared a post that was not credible and soon discovered how far and fast misinformation can spread.

In eighth grade, Mirudulaa and her classmates were introduced to Checkology, which helped her learn how to discern credible information from rumor, conspiracy theories and manipulated content.  “After using Checkology I feel a lot more informed and confident,” she said. “Checkology helps you improve, realize and change your ways.”

Hear Mirudulaa describe her experiences.

The Gwen Ifill Student of the Year Awards honor the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. The awards are presented to female students of color who learn and apply news literacy skills and who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, PBS NewsHour.

Related Stories:

Educator helps integrate news literacy across disciplines

Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt
2021 Educator of the Year
Director of library services
The Overlake School
Redmond, Washington

Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt Educator of the YearIt didn’t take the tumultuous events of 2020 and the accompanying flood of misinformation to convince educator Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt that news literacy should be part of every school’s curriculum. She already knew it, and she had established herself as a news literacy leader at her school.

“As the librarian, I consider it my duty to integrate news literacy across as many areas of the curriculum as I can,” Vikstrom-Hoyt told NLP. “In this era of misinformation, social media and information overload, being news-literate is more important than ever. It is the key to being an engaged and informed citizen of our democracy.”

Sara Baquero-Garcia, Overlake’s social studies department chair, nominated Vikstrom-Hoyt for NLP’s educator of the year award — which includes a check for $500 —  because of that leadership. “Kelly has been at the forefront of our school’s efforts to integrate news literacy and media studies across the middle and upper divisions,” she said.

To Vikstrom-Hoyt, the urgency of teaching young people news literacy skills and habits of mind was evident as dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 went viral, and rumors and falsehoods about racial justice protests and the presidential election deepened divisions and fueled anger.

While working against this tide of misinformation, educators simultaneously had to transition to distance learning or a hybrid model of teaching. But experience with NLP resources like the Checkology® virtual classroom gave Vikstrom-Hoyt and her students an edge. “I think that… Checkology, specifically, was perfect for the pandemic because it already had these ready-made modules that were interactive, where kids could get the information and I could give it to them as asynchronous work,” she explained.

Baquero-Garcia noted that Vikstrom-Hoyt challenged her students to look for information on Checkology about bias, point of view and validity of sources. And she helped other educators integrate news literacy in their lessons and become comfortable with the technology.

“Kelly is really passionate about her subject and committed to bringing news literacy and media literacy to classrooms. Kelly is one of those people that is always looking over the fence to try to discover what the next area of need will be so she can get right to work on it,” Baquero-Garcia said.

Vikstrom-Hoyt saw proof that students were absorbing what they learned and applying it to other disciplines. For example, an eighth-grade civics class that completed the Checkology lesson on bias in the media then worked on projects for their civics teacher using what they had studied. “The teachers told me that they incorporated a lot of the language and the lessons they learned into that project without even being prompted to do it,” Vikstrom-Hoyt said. “Then, even better, when they did the next project down the line that wasn’t even tied to the lesson I had given them, they were still pulling in those skills, and naming the terms and the things that I taught them in the Checkology lesson.”

She describes news literacy as a “super skill” that empowers young people to engage responsibly with information and she believes it will benefit them in the classroom, in college, in their careers and in daily  life. “In order to be an engaged citizen of the country, I think you need to have these skills to get the information, and to vet the information and understand where it’s coming from.”

Vikstrom-Hoyt shares her passion for teaching news literacy in this video.

NLP’s Journalist of the Year has witnessed harm misinformation can inflict

Alisyn Camerota
Co-host, CNN Newsroom
2021
John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

Photo of Alisyn CamerotaAlisyn Camerota has provided unflinching coverage, essential context and vital and verified information on major news stories to millions of people during her career as a leading broadcast journalist.

She also has seen misinformation, hoaxes and baseless rumors increasingly pollute the information landscape, as facts fall victim to false narratives. If such distortions and falsehoods are not called out and corrected, she says, real harm can occur, which is what happened during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“People stormed the Capitol because they had misinformation. They were fed falsehoods and lies about the election, and they didn’t know that,” Camerota, who co-anchors the afternoon program CNN Newsroom, said during a video interview with NLP. “You can have your own conspiracy theories, but you can’t have your own facts.”

In recognition of her dedication to quality journalism and her efforts to help make young people more news-literate, NLP has named Camerota its John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year for 2021.

“Alisyn has made a real commitment to help us bring news literacy education to students across the nation,” said NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller. “She has taken the time to talk to our students, participate in and help steward important NLP events, and bring greater visibility to our mission as a respected journalist on the national stage.”

Camerota is the eighth journalist to win the award, which is given in honor of Carroll, a revered newspaper editor and former NLP board chair who died in 2015. Recipients of the award receive $500 and an engraved glass plaque with an etched photo of Carroll, who was the editor of the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader, The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times.

“I’m really touched and flattered to receive the John S. Carroll Award, particularly this year, because it has been a trying year,” Camerota said. “It has been a really challenging year for journalism to be able to broadcast during a global pandemic.”

Camerota has been involved with NLP since 2017. That year, she led a lesson on journalism at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Queens, New York, and later wrote a piece about her experience for CNN.com.

“One of the best things that’s happened since I’ve been involved with NLP is meeting the students and getting to know them,” she said. “These kids explained to me how they took the course and understood that they had the tools to distinguish real news from fake websites, or satire websites, and how empowered they felt.”

In April 2018, she interviewed two students from the school during an NLP dinner in New York. That July, Camerota hosted an awards luncheon for the two students at CNN, where they each received the Gwen Ifill Student of the Year Award.

In 2019, she became one of the initial members of NLP’s National Leadership Council and helped arrange a cultivation lunch at CNN’s New York bureau at Hudson Yards, where she and CNN colleague Anderson Cooper were the featured guests. In January of this year, she was among a group of CNN executives, anchors and reporters on the panel “Women on the Frontlines of News Reporting” at NLP’s virtual NewsLitCamp®, presented with the network.

“My great hope for NLP is that it can just be more widespread, it can get into more classrooms, it can have an impact on more students, because I have a lot of faith in this next generation, that they want to be engaged, they want the real information, but they need the tools to do it,” she said.

Camerota brings a wealth of journalism experience to her work with NLP. She joined CNN in 2014 after 16 years at Fox News, where she was co-host of America’s News Headquarters, a co-anchor of Fox & Friends Weekend and a national correspondent for several years.

She has covered the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, the Paris and Brussels terror attacks and the Parkland school shooting. In the hours after the shooting, she interviewed several student survivors and has followed their stories through today. Camerota has also anchored various prime time specials, including Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America and The Hunting Ground: Sexual Assault on Campus. Earlier in her career she worked at ABC News, NBC and local news outlets.

In this video, Camerota discusses why she believes news literacy is so important.

News literacy skills help student better understand harm of bias, misinformation

Ana Rodriguez
2021 Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year
Archie Williams High School
San Anselmo, California

Photo of Ana RodriguezLike many teens, Ana Rodriguez, 15, turns to social media to find out what is going on in the world. But she is well aware that sorting fact from fiction in her newsfeed can be difficult.

“As a Latino woman in society, it is fundamental for me to have the right information at all times. We sometimes are not provided with the right concepts on certain topics because of detrimental biases that affect the way my community is perceived,” she told NLP.

This awareness motivated Rodriguez to learn how to think critically about the information she consumes and shares. And she got that chance when her English teacher Matthew Leffel, who nominated her for the Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year Award, introduced his 10th-graders to Checkology® this past school year.

“A few years ago, I wouldn’t have checked my sources or the sources the articles that I’m reading about come from, but now I would definitely do that because I don’t want to be sharing false information to the people around me,” she said.

Leffel noticed immediately how the news literacy concepts resonated with Rodriguez. “There is an unmistakable spark in a student’s countenance that appears when they have decided to grab hold of their learning. Even in a classroom mediated by distancing guidelines, I could see it in Ana’s masked face in English class as we began an interdisciplinary project that focused on challenging pseudoscientific claims,” he said.

Learning about bias and misinformation helped Rodriguez complete that project, which explored pseudoscience, and more specifically, racism in science. She examined the long and harmful history of racial bias in scientific thinking, from eugenics to contemporary medical discrimination.

“For the project, I had to research several pieces of information that provided reliable facts and supported data, as well as researching those who did not provide effective information,” Rodriguez wrote in her essay for NLP. “In our world, almost every situation we choose to participate in is based mainly on the information we acquire from it.”

“Being able to distinguish reliable information from detrimental bias has been of great importance in my life. It has allowed me to help my parents and other family members during  the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rodriguez said, noting that she was able to advise her family how to steer clear of misinformation about vaccines.

“I want my community as well as many others to have the opportunity to learn about the dangers of biases that connect our world, as I want everyone to understand the consequences that manipulated stories and concepts can lead to,” she said.

In nominating Rodriguez, Leffel described her as a “fiercely dedicated student” who holds herself to high standards and often pushes herself beyond them.

Being named NLP’s high school student of the year has bolstered her belief in herself. “It has given me the sense that I accomplished something very big, and that I can be successful with the things that I do. Like a kick of confidence, I would say.”

The award commemorates Ifill, the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, on PBS NewsHour.

In this video Rodriguez explains why news literacy is important to her.

Student gains knowledge, confidence to help stop misinformation’s spread

Mirudulaa Suginathan Yamini
2021
Gwen Ifill Middle School Student of the Year
Central Middle School
Quincy, Massachusetts

Photo of Mirudulaa SuginathanMirudulaa Suginathan Yamini, 13, always had assumed that misinformation did not affect her. Then last year, when she was in seventh grade, she learned firsthand how it could fool her and just how fast and how far it can spread.

“I read a really interesting post and sent it to so many of my friends. But when I was reading it for the 10th time or so, I realized it wasn’t real news. It was fake,” she told NLP.

She immediately tried to stop the falsehood in its tracks. “I had to tell all the friends I’d sent the post to stop spreading it and why it’s not credible and not reliable,” Mirudulaa said. “But it was already too late. They sent it to their friends and so on.”

That’s when she realized just how hard it is to stop the spread — and potential harm — of misinformation. “I didn’t have any of the tools to see if it was real, or even learn about how to see if it’s real,” she said.

It was a hard lesson. “I felt very upset that now, I just told my friends things that are not true. And I was kind of really disappointed in me.”

But she would soon learn how to avoid being fooled next time.

When she entered eighth grade, school librarian Helen Mastico introduced Mirudulaa and her classmates to NLP’s Checkology® as part of a media class. Mirudulaa learned how to discern credible information from rumor, conspiracy theories and manipulated content. Now, she never shares information that she has not verified as reliable. And if someone sends her content that she recognizes as misinformation, she lets them know and advises them to explore  Checkology.

When nominating Mirudulaa for the student of the year award, Mastico, wrote that “Mirudulaa is an intelligent, dedicated, and conscientious student. Her tenacity at getting to the root of an issue is impressive, and I believe she deserves the award in recognition of that drive. Like a good journalist, she is thorough and attentive to detail, whilst retaining a compassionate attitude and a good idea of the bigger picture.”

The award commemorates Ifill, the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, on PBS NewsHour. She will receive a $500 gift certificate and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill.

Mirudulaa, the first middle school student to receive the award, said she feels empowered by her news literacy lessons.  “After using Checkology I feel a lot more informed and confident because I can actually see which is fake and which is not fake. Checkology helps you improve, realize and change your ways.”

She tries to regularly share her Checkology knowledge with her fellow students, and even beyond the classroom.  “I showed my parents many of the tools I saw in Checkology. Even they felt it was a big impact on their life. They changed. They stopped viewing some of the websites that they thought they could rely on,” Mirudulaa said. And, she added, they were even more proud of her than before.

Watch this video to hear Mirudulaa discuss the importance of news literacy in her own words.

Related Stories:

Meet our impressive student of the year finalists

This year we had an abundance of strong submissions from so many amazing students that it was difficult to choose just one winner in each of the categories — high school and middle school. While we felt that all the students deserve kudos for their hard work, we want to highlight two students — our high school and middle school Gwen Ifill Student of the Year finalists. Congratulations to Grace Min and Kyrie M. Blue!

Grace Min
Finalist, 2021 Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year
Canfield High School
Canfield, Ohio

photo of grace min with her teacher
Studying news literacy has had a truly powerful and personal impact on Grace Min, 15. In the essay she submitted to NLP, she told us that becoming more news-literate allows her to navigate the world with less fear and more confidence.

“The world is a scary place filled with uncertainty and lies, or at least that’s what we’re told growing up. But in reality, the world is far less scary when you are able to recognize truths from lies,” the 10th-grader wrote.

Being able to recognize fabrications and distortions about her community and her identity came as a revelation, which she described with honesty. “Growing up a woman of color in a predominantly white area, I wasn’t able to recognize truths from lies as easily as I would have wanted to. Unfortunately, at a very young age, I became subject to both blatant and subtle racism. My own racial identity changed into [something] that I despised about myself,” she wrote. “It wasn’t until I discovered news literacy education that I was able to understand that all of the racism I faced were lies. Doing my own research, finding credible sources and being able to create my own opinions was a liberating shift.”

Min’s English teacher, Chris Jennings, who nominated her for the student award, is not surprised at her depth of understanding and her ability to connect news literacy concepts to her place in the world. “Every once in a while —maybe once or twice a year, and sometimes less often — a student comes into my life and completely validates my decisions to become an educator. Grace Min is one of those students,” he wrote.

Completing Checkology® lessons about bias and misinformation helped Min better understand the rise in anti-Asian crimes that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. “These hate crimes are typically fueled by lies that people consumed whether it be a straight lie or from faulty sources,” she said. “My experience with Checkology and news literacy education has taught me about my own racial identity but has also manifested itself into my everyday life.”

She also has recognized that becoming more news-literate will serve her well not only in high school and college but also into adulthood. “By learning about news literacy education, the skills we pick up are going to be showcased throughout our lives.”

Kyrie M. Blue
Finalist, 2021 Gwen Ifill Middle School Student of the Year
Central Middle School
Quincy, Massachusetts

Photo of Kyrie BlueKyrie M. Blue, 14, is committed to using her voice and helping others do the same in the name of social justice. And she has found that being well-informed about events and issues that shape society is key to doing so.

Librarian Helen Mastico, who nominated Blue for the student award, said she has matured from a shy student to a classroom leader. “Kyrie Blue is an impassioned student who is actively involved in fighting for social justice. Since attending our school debate club in grade six, she has overcome her shyness to become an active participant,” Mastico wrote to NLP.

Blue’s mastery of news literacy is evident in the comprehensive and visually appealing infographic she submitted to NLP. Titled “What I learned from Checkology®,” the work features images and icons that function as signposts and entry points for the reader to digest detailed explanations of key news literacy concepts. She includes First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, the limits to constitutional amendments, “fake news” and the effects of the digital world on how we consume news.

“Checkology is a great tool. It taught me to be open-minded and appreciative of all the rights I have in America, but it has also taught me to be cautious and find out the truth for myself,” Blue wrote in her summary.

She noted “how the freedoms of the First Amendment are little sets of independent rights each American has. Rights that protect us from tyranny and allow us to live independently of the government.” Blue demonstrated an understanding of how a lack of accountability gives people and organizations free rein to post whatever they want online and highlight different logical fallacies.

Mastico noted that recognition from NLP would help Blue grow even more. “The Gwen Ifill Award will help her find her voice and be a louder advocate for herself and the people around her.”

And that is exactly what Blue said she hopes to do.  ”I want to teach others what Checkology taught me. It made me want to learn more about my rights and freedoms, and it made me want to find out what I want to do in the future to help others.”

Related Stories: