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Sparkman’s Riley Wallace named Alabama High School Journalist of the Year

Riley Wallace, at right, receives the Bailey Cason Editorial Writer of the Year award from Meredith Cummings, Alabama Scholastic Press Association director. Wallace also was named Alabama High School Journalist of the Year. (CONTRIBUTED)
Riley Wallace, at right, receives the Bailey Cason Editorial Writer of the Year award from Meredith Cummings, Alabama Scholastic Press Association director. Wallace also was named Alabama High School Journalist of the Year. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – The Alabama Scholastic Press Association (ASPA) has named Riley Wallace, a senior at Sparkman High School, as Alabama High School Journalist of the Year.

Wallace is the seventh journalism student at Sparkman to earn the state honor in 12 years. In addition, Wallace was named Bailey Cason Editorial Writer of the Year.

Sparkman’s journalism program earned 43 individual awards from ASPA, Erin Coggins said. Coggins advises the newspaper and yearbook staffs, teaches honors history and will teach broadcasting next year.

“Crimson Crier” received an All-Alabama rating. Sparkman prints the 12-to-16-page newspaper eight times annually. The online edition received a superior rating. Principal Mike Campbell was named Administrator of the Year.

The Journalist of the Year award is open to seniors planning to major in journalism. They submitted portfolios with in-school and outside publications, transcripts and three recommendation letters.

“Riley worked hard on editorial and feature writing, design, online writing and outside design work,” Coggins said. In editorial writing, “Riley is witty … something unusual for most high school students.”

Wallace has received a full scholarship to Belmont University.

This year, Coggins entered all 22 journalism students into onsite and national competitions. “Competing helps build our program (and) shows students they can do something special and have an impact on the school’s success,” Coggins said. “It also builds character.”

A solid journalism program is a Sparkman tradition. Before becoming a teacher Coggins worked in the media field. “My goal is to prepare students for a real career,” she said. “We get to do real journalism, hard-hitting journalism, even if the things written about are not always positive.”

Coggins credit Sparkman principals for realizing the public relations potential in school publications. “I’ve always been blessed with wonderful students who develop a passion for journalism.”

Coggins will accept the Crown Award for Sparkman from Columbia University Scholastic Press Association in New York in March. This award is the highest honor for school newspapers.

For more information, visit crimsoncriernews.com.

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