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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Starting in the 2024-2025 school year, Advanced Journalism students eligible to earn honors credit

Asaph Li
Accolade staff writers junior Kayden Kim (left) and sophomore Kevin Lee work on creating magazine layouts for The Accolade’s upcoming May senior issue during fourth period Tuesday, April 17, in Room 138. With the creation of an honors Advanced Journalism course starting next school year, Kim, Lee and their peers on staff can be eligible to earn honors credit for taking this elective if they become an editor.

For the first time in Sunny Hills history, students enrolled in Advanced Journalism are eligible to earn honors credit starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

“It was a long and arduous process to get this approved, and I’m grateful for the support the journalism program received from our school administrators,” said English teacher Tommy Li, who also teaches Journalism 1 and Advanced Journalism. “Many of our editors have historically spent countless hours working to produce award-winning work, and so I’m glad that they will now get something added to their GPA for their dedication to this elective.”

Trustees for the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] unanimously voted to approve a new course titled, Advanced Journalism Honors, as part of several items listed in the consent calendar on the agenda during their Tuesday, Jan. 9, meeting.

The Sunny Hills course listing, which underclassmen and juniors received as part of their 2024-2025 registration process at the end of February and early March, included the class among the electives.

While regular Advanced Journalism asks those who want to write for the publication to take the prerequisite class, Journalism 1, along with an application to join The Accolade, the honors class additionally requires an editor position as well as a teacher recommendation, Li said.

Moreover, the course description includes a “College and Career Preparation” section, which isn’t part of the regular Advanced Journalism class. Students wanting to receive honors credit will have to “research the history and evolution of Careers in Journalism based on Design and Publishing (Print or Online), Graphic Design, News reporting, Advertising and the generation of revenue, and Photography and video within news reporting,” according to the five-page outline, which was updated on Oct. 11, 2022.

They will then have to present their research findings to the adviser, create a portfolio of their work, create a resume and learn how to search for media-related jobs at the university level and beyond, according to the course description.

Li said he and subsequent Advanced Journalism teachers will decide which students are eligible to enroll in the class to earn honors credit.

“At this time, I’ve decided to only allow editors and assistant editors the chance to be enrolled in the honors class since they do much more work than staff writers,” he said. “This will also give more of an incentive for first-year staffers to be more efficient and effective in their work so they can seek promotion in future years to seek a higher position.”

The journalism instructor said he never pursued an honors elective for journalism until then-copy editor and current web managing editor senior Hannah Lee brought it up to him when she was a sophomore.

“I heard that Troy’s yearbook program was considered as an honors class and that their journalism program was trying to do the same,” said Lee, who received this information from her older sister, a Class of 2023 graduate from Troy High School. “My immediate response was to wonder why our school didn’t offer that.”

She said knowing that her journalism adviser was the president of the Orange County Journalism Education Association and would have experience interacting with others in the same profession, Lee thought he was capable of answering her question.

“Underclassmen may think the seniors are annoyed that we won’t be able to reap any benefits from this change, but I don’t think that’s the case,” she said. “Many of us got into prestigious schools either way, which makes me doubt that making journalism an honors course would impact college admissions at all.”

Nonetheless, Lee agrees that Advanced Journalism deserves this change.

“Advanced Journalism was often more rigorous than even my Advanced Placement classes,” she said. “I’m happy knowing that my underclassmen peers will be rewarded with honors credit for their effort, and I hope it will incentivize the staff to work harder.”

Juniors Jenna Kim (left) and Claire Lee along with sophomore Nicole Park plan their designs for The Accolade’s upcoming May issue fourth period Tuesday, April 17, in Room 138.

Though Li acknowledged the possibility an honors journalism elective could increase enrollment in Journalism 1, he shared with the staff two years ago his concerns about advocating for such a change:

  • Students would join the journalism program just to improve their GPA.
  • Other electives would seek a similar change, which could oversaturate the course offerings with an overabundance of honors-designated programs.

After seeking feedback last school year from other journalism advisers in the district and SH administrators, Li said he was willing to move forward with the process of adding the honors-level class.

The process started with the FJUHSD’s new course approval request, which calls for several steps he would have to complete, he said. 

The first steps include collecting district journalism teachers’ signatures approving the need for an honors-level course and seeking their agreement on what the new course would entail. 

Then, the district’s school principals would need to approve the paperwork submitted for review before the request can be added for board members to vote on.

“The Buena Park High School assistant principal, who was our journalism curriculum coordinator, did a lot of the leg work for us, and I appreciate his willingness to help us with that,” Li said. “I recall we spent more than two hours after school one day to complete the new course description for the honors level class.”

Non-seniors who plan to reapply to The Accolade staff and enroll in Advanced Journalism this fall said they were grateful for the change.

“Last year as the copy editor, I never understood why journalism did not receive honors credit regardless of it consisting of many academic traits such as writing, editing and interviewing,” said junior Seowon Han, the publication’s Spotlight co-editor and business manager. “I don’t think the new requirements for the honors course really affects us, as the editors have been working so hard regardless, and I’m just happy to be finally rewarded for my work.”

Sophomore staff reporter Kevin Lee said he agrees with Li’s rationale for determining who receives honors credit.

“Before the honors designation, I believed The Accolade was a program worth committing to despite being a regular class,” said Kevin Lee, who applied for an editor position for the next school year. “But knowing editors will receive honors credit, it incentivizes me to work harder on [the] application so I don’t have to sacrifice my GPA.” 


Because yearbook has a separate curriculum committee, a group of advisers pushed for honors designation during the 2022-2023 school year to start this year, school officials said.

Helios adviser Lindsay Safe said she plans to make the transcript for the publication’s editors this school year show they are enrolled in the elective, Honors Yearbook: Advanced Design Publishing.

“There has been some general talk about Honors Yearbook last year, and I started to push for it again hearing the district had already approved it for another school,” Safe said. “It is nice that my students are being recognized with an honors distinction for the amount of work that goes into creating this book every single year.”

Junior Samantha Ro (left) and sophomore Maddison Pech work on producing the Helios’ 2024 yearbook Wednesday, Feb. 28, in Room 62. Like with The Accolade, Helios students can be eligible for honors credit in yearbook class if they are editors. That option became available this school year though. (Photo by Asaph Li)

Non-editor Helios staff members in yearbook will receive art credit, meeting the F requirement for University of California and California State University schools. 

Only editors will be allowed to enroll in Honors Yearbook, which provides elective and honors credit similar to Advanced Journalism Honors. 

“Since everyone starts off as a staff member in the yearbook, I felt that they should get art credit because of the various elements of art that come into creating this book,” the Helios adviser said. “Only editors get honors credit as they earned it by always going way above and beyond any staff member … [such as] what they do on a daily basis and the commitment they put throughout the summer as well as on weekends and after school.”

Design editor junior Alexander Chiao said he supports Safe’s decision. 

“This will positively impact the future of Helios because it will attract more students to join the program and gives editors-to-come a sense of determination and recognition.” said Chiao, who first heard about the decision getting finalized toward the end of last school year. 

Safe said she plans to teach the program the same as she currently does because staff and editors have had different responsibilities since the change, which was reflected in their respective course descriptions. She also hopes future applicants will want to join the program for the right reasons.

“I don’t necessarily want this to become the No. 1 reason students join this class since I want them to come in wanting to create a special product that kids will keep for years to come,” she said.

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Aiden Park
Aiden Park, Opinion Editor
Having been the arts & entertainment editor last year, senior Aiden Park is excited to continue his journey in The Accolade as he returns as the co-opinion editor. He hopes to make great memories and contributions to the staff. Outside of The Accolade, Park works part-time and runs in the cross country and track and field team.
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