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Home > SPJ News > Delaware student wins High School Essay Contest

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Delaware student wins High School Essay Contest




Lauren Rochester, SPJ Director of Awards, 317.927.8000 ext. 210,
Christine DiGangi, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317.927.8000 ext. 205,

INDIANAPOLIS —The Society of Professional Journalists selected high school senior Courtney Swafford as the High School Essay Contest winner and the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship. Swafford, of Wilmington, Del., is enrolled in Write from the Heart, an online English program for 6th- to 12th-grade students.

Anan Yu, a Desert Vista High School senior from Phoenix, Ariz., and Chuli Zeng, a Woodbridge High School junior from Irvine, Calif., were awarded second and third place, respectively. Yu receives a $500 scholarship, and Zeng receives a $300 scholarship.

“The second and third place winners were standouts not only for their excellent phrasing and keen observations, but also for using personal examples to lead their discussions of the prompt,” said Jennifer Ellis, one of the judges. The SPJ chapter at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock judged this year’s contest.

SPJ received 213 submissions for the 2013 contest, which asked students to write 500 words on the topic, “Why is it important that we have news media that are independent from the government?” SPJ conducts the contest to increase high school students' knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media.

Swafford’s essay focused on Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who lit himself on fire and set into motion the Arab Spring protests.

“All three of the winning essays began with narratives that pulled us in,” Ellis said, “but we were especially struck by Courtney Swafford’s ability to make an eloquent and engaging philosophical argument using the context of the Arab Spring.”

Swafford, Yu and Zeng’s essays are posted online.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit


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