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Star wins media awards, Michael Amaya is Chicago’s Student Journalist of the Year

By Moriah Belt

The Steinmetz Star took third in the city for “Overall Newspaper” at the McCormick Foundation media awards ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Society on March 11. The annual event is open to all public and private high schools who join the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago.

Editor-in-chief Michael Amaya and several other Star reporters, and photographers won recognition. Individual Star staff members won many impressive awards, including the top category of Student Journalist of the Year. Star editor-in-chief Michael Amaya received the award, and a $1,500 scholarship.

“I was honestly surprised when I heard my name called,” Michael said, “I thought I was the underdog in the handful of nominees.”


Senior Michael Amaya, the Star’s editor-in-chief, is named “Student Journalist of the Year” at the 2014 McCormick Media Awards and Scholastic Press Association of Chicago luncheon. Star photo by Moriah Belt.

Star staff members won the following awards for their reporting, writing, photography, and art:
• Michael Amaya, Journalist of the Year
• Serlecia Jones, Excellent News story
• Victoria Boccia, Excellent Feature story
• Kamari Joiner, Superior Editorial
• Mateusz Gasienica, Superior Review
• Guadalupe Medina, Superior photo
• Francisco Holguin, Excellent original drawing and cartoon

The awards ceremony, following a pizza lunch, took place in a ballroom that overlooks Millennium Park, decorated with colored tiles and marble with a beautiful dome ceiling.

Whenever Star reporters’ names and their awards were called, the rest of the staff seated at three tables cheered and applauded wildly, hugged the recipients, and took photos.

“It felt like we were at the Academy Awards,” said adviser Sharon Schmidt, who also received a fellowship to attend a newspaper advisers workshop this summer.

Sophomores Brian Geans and Kala Geralds celebrated their work for the Star at the McCormick Media Awards.

Sophomores Brian Geans and Kala Geralds celebrate at the McCormick Media Awards. Star photo by Jalan Veal.

Contest judges ranked the Star higher than the newspapers of Lane Tech, Whitney Young, Walter Payton, and Taft high schools. Only Morgan Park and Marist received superior.

Judges said the Star was one of the best newspapers in the city because of its “good use of color,” plentiful photos, and “diverse and relevant” coverage.

“That evaluation means a lot,” Ms. Schmidt said. “We have always celebrated the diversity of our school in the Star, and worked to make our reporting interesting and important to our readers. We use a photo or a graphic with nearly every piece.”

Because Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s editor-in-chief and a 1944 graduate (who also was a Star reporter when he was a student) donates money to have the Star printed, Steinmetz is able to publish a newspaper in full color, in as many pages as often as we desire. Most Chicago high schools, especially neighborhood ones, are much more limited by their budgets, or neglect journalism and don’t cover printing costs at all.

As impressive as the look of the Star is the content, Ms. Schmidt said, which is equal to what is in Chicago’s selective high school newspapers.

“The Star looks great and also reads well,” Ms. Schmidt said. “Good journalism doesn’t require students with super high test scores; it takes work. Our motivated reporters are good listeners who work hard to write and revise accurate stories.”

The photography and art in the Star also represents talent and much work.

“I was so thrilled that Lupe and Francisco were recognized in the awards,” Ms. Schmidt said. “I don’t know how many hours Francisco has worked on his drawings, but I’d imagine it’s in the hundreds. I know Lupe has taken thousands of pictures this year. That’s how you get superior shots.”

Michael won Journalist of the Year because of his work on the Star over the past two years and the yearbook. Ms. Schmidt wrote a nomination letter and sent in many of his articles from several issues of the Star.

Roosevelt University Undergraduate Dean Linda Jones, the director of the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, wrote the following in a letter explaining how to redeem his $1,500:

“Michael, congratulations on being chosen as the journalist of the year. I was one of the judges, and I thoroughly enjoyed your work!”

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