Campus News

Georgia high school journalism programs recognized at UGA ceremony

Athens, Ga. – High school journalism programs across the state were recognized at the 2012 Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards Ceremony recently held at the Classic Center in Athens and sponsored by the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

More than 100 awards were presented in recognition of outstanding work in high school newspapers, magazines, news websites, yearbooks, literary magazines and broadcast news shows.

Approximately 450 high school students and journalism teachers saw Mandi Woodruff (A.B.J. ’09) return to her alma mater to serve as the event’s keynote speaker. In her short but accomplished career, Woodruff has worked at several publications, including the Santiago Times in Santiago, Chile; the Athens Banner-Herald; the Gainesville Times; Reader’s Digest; and Business Insider, where she currently works.

The summer after her freshman year in college, Woodruff traveled to Argentina, looking to see some of the world she said she was excited to write about. “I realized there, for the first time, that I didn’t have to follow any cookie cutter path to success. I had this idea stuck in my head that there was a certain order to achieving success,” she said. “And all I was really doing the whole time was sabotaging myself by listening to others and looking what they were doing. So I put on my blinders and followed my gut.”

Woodruff returned to Athens and followed her instincts, which led her to move to Santiago, Chile shortly after graduation to work at a news website. “I carry the lessons I learned there with me every day,” she says. “For the first time in four years, I was free. It was the kind of freedom I could taste each morning when I woke up and watched the sun rise in a city that I fell in love with in the first couple of days. I learned to trust myself and that life was more than just ‘fill in the blank’ pages.”

Since returning from Chile, Woodruff was hired by Reader’s Digest, laid off by Reader’s Digest two weeks later, worked at an online news site, started a blog and was finally hired as a reporter at Business Insider. She said working at Business Insider has been one of the high points in her career.

“I always knew I’d wind up in this business somehow,” she said. “But if there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s that I got here on my own terms and no one else’s.”

To the high school journalists in attendance, Woodruff had one piece of advice. “Maybe you guys won’t all end up here at Grady or even in journalism at all, but the point is that wherever you go, you put those blinders on and follow your gut,” she said. “I’m still on a journey of my own, but it hasn’t failed me yet.”

At the ceremony, Clarke Central High School’s Carlo Nasisse, of Athens, was named the 2011 Georgia Champion Journalist, the highest individual honor given to a scholastic journalist. As the photo editor of his school’s newsmagazine Odyssey, Nasisse has produced several award-winning photos and page designs. He also has worked for Flagpole and Athens Move. His adviser, David Ragsdale, said it’s the senior’s willingness to work with younger students that stands out.

“He has two young apprentices with whom he works daily-taking them on photo shoots, critiquing their work and engendering an excellent sense of team spirit,” Ragsdale said. “He continues to push himself with photography for the staff and has expanded his role beyond photo editor to that of visuals coordinator, handling the photographs for our website, as well as assuring that graphics, photographs and designs in the magazine are up to par.”

The All-Georgia Awards, the top journalism recognitions in the state, were given to publications that performed best overall in their category. Nasisse’s school publication, The Odyssey of Clarke Central High School (Athens), was named the All-Georgia newsmagazine. The Southerner of Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta) was named the All-Georgia newspaper. The Grady News Network of Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta) was named the All-Georgia broadcast, while the Illiad of Clarke Central High School (Athens) was named the All-Georgia literary magazine. The All-Georgia yearbook award was given to Wolverscenes of Union Grove High School (McDonough).

Along with the more than 100 individual awards presented, “General Excellence” awards were given to the top publications in the state. Judges, comprised of journalism professionals and UGA journalism faculty, designated the following publications worthy of General Excellence awards:

Newspaper – Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta), The Southerner; Johns Creek High School (Johns Creek), The Chariot; The King’s Academy (Woodstock), The Verve; Lowndes High School (Valdosta), The Saga; Roswell High School (Roswell), The Sting; and Starr’s Mill High School (Fayetteville), The Prowler.

Newsmagazine – Clarke Central High School (Athens), Odyssey; and Decatur High School (Decatur), Carpe Diem.

News Website – Clarke Central High School (Athens), Odyssey Online.

Broadcast News – Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta), Grady News Network.

Yearbook – Chestatee High School (Gainesville), The Eagle; Dawson County High School (Dawsonville), Tiger; Mount Paran Christian School (Kennesaw), Teleios; Starr’s Mill High School (Fayetteville), The Pride; Walton High School (Marietta), The Legend; Union Grove High School (McDonough), Wolverscenes; and Whitewater High School (Fayetteville), Vision.

Literary Magazine – Berkmar High School (Lilburn), Images in Ink; Clarke Central High School (Athens), Illiad; Northview High School (Duluth), The Muse; Roswell High School (Roswell), Helicon; and Wesleyan School (Norcross), Book of Seasons.

For a complete list of awards, see

Organized in 1928 by UGA’s Grady College, the Georgia Scholastic Press Association assists Georgia high school media programs and students by encouraging the production of quality publications and broadcast programs through instruction and contests. There are 125 GSPA member publications for the 2011-12 school year, representing approximately 3,000 students across the state.

Established in 1915, the UGA Grady College offers undergraduate majors in journalism, advertising, public relations, digital and broadcast journalism, and mass media arts. The college offers two graduate degrees and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, see or follow @UGAGrady on Twitter.