It was only the Sunny Hills Advanced Journalism staff’s third issue of the 2017-2018 school year.
With a front-page story titled in red and white, “Wake-Up Call,” and articles inside featuring the 40th anniversary of California’s establishment of high school student journalists’ rights, the edition won the Best of Show award at the February 2018 Orange County Journalism Education Association contest.
It then earned further acclaim when the Los Angeles Press Club named the Sept. 8, 2017, issue a finalist in its “Best High School Newspaper” category of the 60th annual Southern California Journalism Awards contest.
In the previous year, The Accolade’s 2016 November Elections issue was also named a finalist in the 59th annual SoCal Journalism Awards event.
In both cases, the other finalist was The Pearl Post of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Los Angeles County.
And in both cases, The Accolade came out on top, taking home two glass trophies that feature a golden shooting star along the side. The brass plate in front of the base of the 2018 award states, “Sunny Hills High School – The Accolade / Best High School Newspaper, Student.”
“All the credit goes to my staff for their willingness to take the time and effort to produce a quality product for our readers,” said Accolade adviser Tommy Li, who returned to oversee the Advanced Journalism class in 2016 after taking a break eight years earlier to help take care of his growing family of five children. “Winning awards isn’t everything, but it sure validates what we have going on here.”
Li added that the contest was not open to high school student media during his first go-around as Accolade adviser. So when he returned in the 2016-2017 school year, he found out about the contest while searching the internet for journalism contests.
“I made it a personal goal for us to enter just to see how we’d do,” he said. “So when we won two years ago, it set the bar for the following year’s staff, and I’m proud of them for responding to the challenge.”
Senior Jana Yi, who headed the sports section last year and was a staff reporter in 2016, is still in awe with the results.
“With my years in The Accolade, I never thought that our issues would make it this far into each competition,” said Yi, The Accolade’s managing editor this school year.
Like Yi, senior Noah Somphone joined the newspaper staff as a sophomore, and as editor in chief this school year, he said he aims to keep the paper’s award-winning tradition going.
“We’re really motivated after winning this award because we feel like we have no limit,” said Somphone, who with the staff resurrected The Accolade’s online news website Aug. 22 and plans to publish a magazine edition in the spring semester.
Besides the two SoCal Journalism Awards trophies, The Accolade has won national recognition from the National Scholastic Press Association’s Best of Show contests at recent conventions in Indianapolis and San Francisco.
“Being recognized as the best in what we do will hopefully attract more student interest in the Journalism 1 and Advanced Journalism classes,” Li said. “I’m sure everyone wants to join a winning team.”