photo of grace min with her teacher

Meet our impressive student of the year finalists

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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.”

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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.

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