In an English classroom at Southold High School Monday afternoon, students reminisced about the school year’s top stories as they put to bed the final issue of The Sentinel.
They were feeling proud because they received 10 awards at the Long Island Press High School Journalism Awards ceremony May 22 at Hofstra University, where were more than 1,200 submissions were judged.
Southold High School English teacher and student newspaper adviser James Stahl said this was The Sentinel’s best year in terms of winning awards. He helped launch the publication 18 years ago after the district decided to create its own student newspaper. Southold students had previously worked jointly with Greenport’s newspaper, The Quill.
Mr. Stahl said he attributes his students’ success to their willingness to conduct interviews personally rather than via texts or email, forms of communication they’ve grown accustomed to.
“I was happy because in this day and age there’s less face time and more emailing each other,” he said. “There’s something about [in-person interviews] that will hopefully always remain.”
Among The Sentinel’s award-winning stories was “BYOD — What’s That?” by reporters Nicole Busso and Halle Murphy, about the district’s “Bring Your Own Device” program. The pilot program, launched this year, allows students to use their own devices in the classroom instead of ones borrowed from school.
Nicole said she interviewed Superintendent David Gamberg after doing research with Halle about how the district lags behind other schools in terms of technology.
“He has a very open relationship with the students, so the interview wasn’t too nerve-wracking,” she said. “He knew we aren’t up to par with other school districts. He was very straightforward with honest information.”
The student reporters said they’re pleased with their story because it sparked a dialogue within the district about the importance of investing in technology so students are prepared for the future.
“We found that we’ve been behind for a long time,” Halle said. “Now that we’re graduating seniors, we won’t be able to experience it. Hopefully the underclassmen will get a better education with more technology.”
As for editorials, freshman Jackie Davey earned a second-place award for her opinion piece, “Saved in the Nick of Time,” about teacher layoffs proposed during this year’s budget process.
When Jackie learned that one of her favorite instructors, business teacher Kathy Williams, was in danger of losing her job, she said she felt compelled to do something to prevent it.
She addressed the school board for the first time during its budget workshop and spoke in support of Ms. Williams during the public comment portion.
Although Jackie admits she was biased in helping to save Ms. Williams’ job, she decided to focus her editorial on the layoff issue as a whole.
“I tried my best because we have great teachers that are worth fighting for,” she said.
Another award-winning piece in The Sentinel tackled hallway traffic.
Mr. Stahl’s son, Dan, won second place in the investigative journalism category for researching which hallways at the school are most crowded in between class periods.
Dan set up cameras and counted how many people walked by. He found that the most crowded area is near the ramp, where he counted 173 people. The stairway after fourth period is also jammed, with 155 people.
In the storytelling category, Shelby Pickerell’s article “A Lock’s Lamentation” won a second-place award.
She came up with the story idea when she noticed that more students were securing their lockers. In previous years, most students never felt the need to lock up their possessions, Shelby said, but the trend changed when locker theft increased this year.
Julia Grizadas earned a second-place award in the arts review category for her article “Must Reads.” This was Julia’s first year with The Sentinel and she said she plans to work on the student newspaper again next year.
In the photography category, Will Tondo and James Penney each won a second-place award.
Will submitted pictures he took during his school’s European trip. One of his favorites is a shot of Love Lock Bridge in Paris, which he said is lined with hundreds of thousands of locks.
James submitted his photographs from this year’s school play, “Grease.”
“A lot of people just capture what they see,” said James, who saved up for his Nikon D800 camera by working at Founders Tavern. “I love being able to capture what I want to see and show it.”
Other honorees include Justina Babcock and Shannon Quinn, who brought home an honorable mention in the school news category for their article about school lunches — “New Prices, New Proportions, Same Cellar.”
Aidan Mancini, a 2012 graduate, earned a first-place prize for his “Senior Map” illustration, which appeared in last June’s edition.