Mountain Vista student named Colorado High School Journalist of the Year
Pictured: Lauren Irwin with Mountain Vista Wish Week kid, Gabby Kovach.
HIGHLANDS RANCH— It was just two years ago that Mountain Vista High School student Lauren Irwin first enrolled in her school’s beginning-level journalism program. Now, she has been named the Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) High School Journalist of the Year. With this honor, she receives a $2,000 scholarship for a Colorado-based college, and she will move on as the Colorado nominee for the national Journalism Education Association (JEA) High School Journalist of the Year competition.
Irwin says it’s the ability to tell people’s stories that really sparks her excitement with journalism.
“It’s such a unique job to give people a voice through my writing or share a moment through a photo,” she says.
Irwin’s portfolio showcases the many stories and voices that she has shared over the last two years. A standout moment for her, though, was just this past January, when she had the opportunity to meet with Mountain Vista’s Wish Kid, Gabby Kovach.
“It was a incredible learning experience because I know now how to approach interviews about hard things such as childhood cancer,” she says. “It translated through to my journalism because I wrote an article I’m proud of and I know her family will cherish it. It’s the relationships you can create from being a journalist that are really unique as well.”
Irwin credits her skill development and love of journalism to the teaching of her journalism advisor, Mark Newton, as well as her staff members she works with on Mountain Vista Media.
“I admired [Newton’s] storytelling and extensive experience,” she says. “I walked into U328, our newsroom, almost halfway through my high school career, not having a clue what I wanted to do with my future. I am eternally grateful for him, my staff members, co-editors and the close relationships I’ve gained through the program. I have found my calling.”
“Kids sometimes come in and they are not really sure about what this looks like, and then they make it into something uniquely special to them, and it’s a place where they can find themselves and their passion, and they can really start to demonstrate and live their skills,” Newton says. “Lauren is the poster child for this.”
He adds, “She has never been afraid to take advantage of an opportunity, she has been fearless in trying to learn new things while not worrying about if she was successful right out of the gate. She had the patience, grit, and determination to stick with things even if they didn’t go perfectly. She makes everything a learning experience, and wants to make it better the second time, and then make it better the third time.”
Eager to learn, Irwin worked closely with seniors to quickly grow her skills. Now she is passing the baton down to the juniors in the program, mentoring them and teaching them the skills she has gained.
“She gets the idea that we’re going to leave this room better than we found it,” Newton says.
Even though journalism is a recent discovery for Irwin, she says she can never imagine doing something else. In fact, this Fall she will be attending the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she was accepted into their College of Communications, Media and Information.
“The lessons I’ve learned about myself while in a leadership position and the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained from being a part of a journalism team are things I will carry with me through the rest of my life,” she says.
Irwin is in good company. She joins a fast-growing list of Mountain Vista students who have received top honors for the CSMA competition. In fact, Mountain Vista students were named Colorado High School Journalist of the Year in five out of the last six years. Additionally, in 2014, Mountain Vista alumnus Taylor Blatchford won the national JEA competition receiving the national High School Journalist of the Year title. Newton attributes this level of success to the ownership and leadership the students invest in the media program, as well as the importance they place in passing down their knowledge and skills to the more junior students.
“Our seniors now are already looking at the juniors and the sophomores, saying ‘okay! Who’s next?’ That makes me very proud.”