Valeria Luquin using Checkology

California high school student named Gwen Ifill Student of the Year


Valeria Luquin, a high school sophomore who applies skills gleaned from the News Literacy Project’s Checkology® virtual classroom in her daily life, has been named NLP’s Gwen Ifill Student of the Year for 2019.

“Valeria has taken everything she’s learned on Checkology to heart,” said Alan C. Miller, NLP’s founder and CEO. “She not only has brought these lessons to bear on her work as a student journalist, but is now considering a career in journalism herself.”

The award commemorates Gwen 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 as the first woman and first African American to serve as moderator of Washington Week and as a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a network news broadcast on PBS NewsHour. Honorees are selected by a committee of NLP staff and board members.

Luquin will receive the award — a $250 gift certificate and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill — at a Sept. 17 lunch at her high school, the Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Van Nuys. Pearl, The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002.

Checkology lessons were a weekly component of Luquin’s ninth-grade journalism class in the last school year. Her teacher, Adriana Chavira, called Luquin a “remarkable student who has taken her responsibility as a future journalist to heart. She is not afraid to question where people get their information from, and she makes sure she has facts from credible sources to support her reporting.”

Chavira recommended that Luquin join Miller to discuss misinformation on a local public affairs program, In Depth, broadcast on Fox 11 in Los Angeles in April. The show’s host, Hal Eisner, then invited Miller, Luquin and her mother, Lorena, to discuss news literacy in more detail on his podcastWhat the Hal.

“I am so honored,” Luquin said when she was told about the award. “Receiving an award in honor of Gwen Ifill means a great deal to me. The legacy she left behind as a journalist inspires me, especially being a woman of color as well.”

In a video interview with NLP earlier this year, Luquin described how Checkology has had an impact on her life. “After doing Checkology, I feel I have gotten better at being a journalism student and identifying real news from fake news,” she said. “It actually makes me kind of want to be a journalist.”

She also said that she feels a need to help others think critically about information they consume and share: “I think I have the responsibility to identify whether different stories on the news are actually factual.”

She even has become an advocate for news literacy at home. For example, she told NLP how she had asked her father about the credibility of the sources in a documentary he had been watching. “He looked at me and told me, ‘I notice that you’ve gotten a lot more critical,’” she said. “That made me realize I do act more critical.”

Luquin also wants to set a good example for her 7-year-old sister: “I can tell she looks up to me, so it’s important that I’m a good role model.”

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