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MVHS VISTAj is named the 2013 "Pacemaker"

Mountain Vista High School (MVHS) students involved in VISTAj, the school’s comprehensive student media program, accepted the NSPA Pacemaker Award at this year's fall convention.  The Pacemaker is the highest award given at the high school level, and is judged based on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, design, photography, art and graphics.

Wes Edwards, senior and co-Editor-in-Chief of VISTAj, couldn't accept the award with his partner, Taylor Blatchford, but he made sure to include her in the excitement via text as their name was announced.

"I kind of tripped over some people trying to get to the aisle because I was so excited," Edwards recalled, "I gave my adviser a huge bear hug, walked up front and got (the award) handed to us by one of the National Scholastic Press Association chairs."

The award was the perfect culmination of the year's tough transition from separate media and yearbook programs to a now large combined staff including the Aerie yearbook, Eagle Eye newsmagazine, Eagle Vision TV broadcast, website, and sports journalism.

"It's been a hard transition year in a lot of ways but we were still able to work that hard and produce many quality magazines," Blatchford explained. "I was really proud of our staff--for some people that had never worked on a magazine before came and made a great contribution."

While Blatchford and Edwards had the honor of accepting the award, they credit last year's Editor-in-Chief, Joanie Lyons, and adviser Mark Newton.

According to Blatchford and Edwards, Lyons was a hard worker and dedicated much of her time pulling the program together and motivating the staff.

"She was constantly working on something," said Edwards. "Every bit of her free time was filled up with something related to Vistaj so she really made that her life last year so she deserves a lot of the credit."

The support of their adviser, Mark Newton, was also a large factor in VISTAj's success.

"Our adviser Mark Newton has to be the first thing that comes to mind," said Edwards. "He has a clear idea and challenges the staff on how to get there."

"He always talks about striving to be 'epic'," Blatchford added, "Which means going above and beyond to do things we might fail at--but we also might succeed. So he definitely motivates us to do so."

As Blatchford and Edwards look to their futures and finish up applying to some of the most prestigious schools in the nation, that “epic” mindset will only aid them in their endeavors. They are grateful for the critical thinking, collaboration, and writing skills that VISTAj has instilled--not to mention the profound insights.

"You have to own what you do," Edwards said. "There is a sense of personal responsibility whenever you put your name on a publication.  I have to stand behind my work and I think that's the best motivator.  Once you take that much pride in your work you're going to be able to work so much harder at it."


During the convention, high school students also had the opportunity to compete in the annual WriteOff competition, where they are given a story and challenged to hand-write an article in just 70 minutes.  Around 2000 students participated, and only about 800 received recognition. Below are the names of the Douglas County students who were honored: 

Amani Brown - Mountain Vista - Honorable Mention - Feature Writing

Dylan Ingram - Mountain Vista - Excellent - News Editing

Brian Waite - Legend - Excellent - Yearbook Copy/Captions Academics

Vanessa Campuzano - Legend - Honorable Mentions - Yearbook Copy/Captions Clubs

Kaitlin Zenoni - Mountain Vista - Excellent - Sports Writing

Wes Edwards - Mountain Vista - Excellent - Press Law and Ethics

Gretchen Cope - Mountain Vista - Honorable Mention - Newswriting

November 27, 2013 | By rmbarber | Category:

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