Sterling High School senior Kasady Smith received one of the top honors a high school journalist can receive Feb. 23. She was named Kansas Scholastic Press Association Class 3A/4A Journalist of the Year.
During a morning assembly, journalism adviser Todd Vogts announced Smith’s honor in front of the entire junior and senior high school to the shock of the honoree.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “It was a complete surprise. I can’t explain how happy and excited I was. I almost cried. It was great to be recognized for all the work I had put in all through high school.”
Vogts said he found out about Smith’s win on Feb. 20.
“It was so hard to keep it to myself,” he said. “I wanted to tell her right away because I knew how much it would mean to her, but I really wanted to surprise her in front of the entire school. That made it all the more special.”
In order to win the award, Smith had to create a portfolio of all her journalistic work and write essays. These were then submitted to judges, who determined she was the top student journalist in Class 3A/4A.
In her application essay, Smith said, “Ever since I first became a member of The Cub yearbook staff, I have fallen in love with every aspect of journalism. Interacting with everyone in the school, reporting, capturing memories, and designing have made my high school experience that much sweeter. Having many photographs published in local newspapers, I have found a certain passion for photography and telling stories through those images. As I move on to college and pursue a degree in journalism, I plan to be a part of something bigger than myself and to create publications made for the people by expressing the views of the people.”
Vogts praised her in his letter of recommendation for her.
“Kasady Smith is an exceptional leader, especially in the journalism program at our high school,” he wrote. “As a four-year member of The Cub (our yearbook) staff, she knows what needs to be done and how to do it well. The other students look up to her and trust her decisions. Such willingness to follow her didn’t happen over night. Those students have seen the hard work and effort she puts into the yearbook, and they understand she had to put in the time to get to where she is. She wasn’t just given the title of editor. She earned it.”
Vogts said Smith was his first student to earn the JOY designation, and he said he was proud of her accomplishment.
“It is an incredible honor for her,” Vogts said. “Kasady is a stellar journalist. She leads our yearbook, The Cub, like a seasoned veteran, and she contributes greatly to the monthly magazine, The Cub Reporter. She is always positive and happy. Every day she comes into the class with a can-do attitude. She is a joy to work with, so it is fitting she is the JOY this year for 3A and 4A. She deserved it.”
Besides receiving a plaque proclaiming her as the winner and a bouquet of flowers, Smith also received a check for $750, which she said she plans to use, in part, to purchase Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.
“There are really no big plans for the rest of it yet,” she said.
With her eyes set on majoring in English and minoring in graphic design, Smith said she plans to attend Emporia State University, and she said winning JOY will help her achieve her future goals.
“Being JOY helps not only with the education aspect, but it also helps me with confidence,” she said. “I now know that I can apply for something and that my work is actually good enough to be considered one of the best in the state. I am now confident that I can accomplish what I want to and that I’m considered good at something I love to do.”