• 2017 Journalism Scholarship Winners

    Congratulations to Thomas Oide, Bianca Quilantan, Alex Matthews, Emmanuel Aguayo, Emily Zentner, Daniel Wilson and Sawsan Morrar, the 2017 Journalism Scholarship recipients.

    The $4,000 Jerry Gillam scholarship was awarded to Thomas Oide, who will be a junior in the fall at the University of Missouri. Like the journalist his scholarship honors, Thomas started his career in sports writing. He was hired by the Davis Enterprise while still in high school to report on high school games and athletes. Last summer, he interned at the Sacramento Bee, where he earned high praise for writing impactful stories about a park district merger that eventually was scrapped, a contentious graduation ceremony that left graduates’ families on the outside trying to look in, and a family dealing with a rare genetic disorder. Thomas will be back at the Bee this summer, which he says will “give me an incredible opportunity to grow as a storyteller and build my skills in data analysis and multimedia.”

    The $4,000 Nereida Skelton scholarship, the winner was Bianca Quilantan. The Skelton scholarship is earmarked for promising students who come up through community college and are at the beginning of their journalism studies. Bianca graduated from Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista and now attends Chico State. During her time at Southwestern, Bianca not only became editor of the campus newspaper but also researched and wrote award-winning, impactful exposés. These included how the campus police department mishandled sexual assault cases, as well as an account of racial tension festering among staff, and features that displayed the human side of immigration by focusing on day laborers. A Chico professor described her as a Renaissance woman who was a stellar high school soccer player and a gifted singer who starred in professional theater productions. He also said she is a ferociously hard worker who loves journalism.

    The $4,000 Julie Soderlund scholarship winner was Alex Matthews, who will be starting a three-year master’s degree program at UC Berkeley this fall in the dual areas of public health and journalism. Alex’s route to a journalism career has involved several turns along the way. She planned to work in government when she came to Sacramento as part of UC Berkeley’s Cal-in-Sacramento fellowship program. Instead, an internship at Capitol Weekly affirmed her earlier high school passion for journalism. However, upon graduation she joined the Peace Corps to work in rural Morocco. Since returning, she has taken a variety of jobs including working for an open access scientific journal, while also developing a blog that tracks bills through the state legislative process. Her goal in pursuing a combined public health/journalism degree is to “use those skills and experiences to help translate the policies that come out of Sacramento to the broader public that they affect.”

    The $4,000 Dan Walters scholarship was awarded to Emmanuel Aguayo, who enrolled as a junior at Sac State this spring after graduating from Cosumnes River College. His road to college was not typical; estranged from his family, he was homeless and sleeping in his car when he decided to go to community college to try to improve his life. He describes discovering journalism as giving him an invaluable sense of purpose. As compelling as his life story is, what had more impact with the judges is how he has used those life experiences and personal growth to enhance his journalism and story-telling skills. Emmanuel says many of the stories he and his colleagues produced were “inspired by voices my colleagues and I heard while taking the local light-rail, studying at nearby coffee shops, or while tuning in on conversations of fellow students throughout campus.”

    The recipient of the $4,000 Steve Swatt scholarship was Emily Zentner, who will be interning at the Bee this summer. In the fall, Emily will be a senior at Arizona State University, where she has already had multiple professional experiences, including working for Arizona PBS in Washington, D.C., covering the Arizona delegation at the national Democratic convention, and traveling to Mexico with an advisor and team of reporters to write stories about the impact of the Trump election on people there. In his recommendation letter, her advisor wrote that she is versatile and a bit edgy in the way she attacks stories. He said, “She’s equally comfortable writing pop culture stories for millennials or lining up interviews with past and potentially future presidents of Mexico to talk about the current state of U.S.-Mexico relations.”

    The $6,000 Jean Stephens scholarship, the winner was Daniel Wilson, who will be a senior at Sac State in the fall. Daniel was a finalist last year, but fell just short of being awarded a scholarship. This year, he came back and the judges were very impressed with his continued development as a reporter and his dogged commitment to journalism despite personal adversities that he and his wife have faced. In the past year, he has worked as a freelance journalist for the West Sacramento News-Ledger, contributed to the Sac State Hornet as a news reporter, and worked for McClatchy to design and format sports agate for the Bee, the Bellingham Herald and the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The faculty advisor for the Hornet writes that Daniel’s news judgment and ethics “are unimpeachable. He responsibly assesses a story’s range of perspectives, and he takes care to include the crucial elements that help readers have the most informed and accurate understanding of the subject at hand.” While Daniel’s not-so-secret passion is to someday work for a video game news publication, he already has a diverse portfolio of news, features, opinion pieces, reviews and more. As he wrote in his application, “Honestly, I just want to write. It really makes no difference what I’m covering.”

    The $8,000 Earl Squire Behrens scholarship was awarded to Sawsan Morrar, who will be entering her second year of the UC Berkeley masters program, is also a repeat applicant. In fact, she was designated as a winner several years ago, but as a young mother she had to defer her plans to go to UC Berkeley that year. She returns to us with strong credentials, having reported as a free-lancer on stories in the Middle East, Asia and throughout the United States. Sawsan also worked for two years as an assistant producer at Capitol Public Radio’s Insight program. One of her most compelling pieces from her travels abroad was a story about underage domestic workers imported from Indonesia by Jordanian families as servants. Central to her piece was one family who kept their worker when they discovered she was only 14 for fear the government would only give her to another family to be mistreated rather than return her to her home country. In her application, Sawsan wrote that “storytelling is my passion and curiosity is my motivation. I love to write, ask questions, and use new technology to explore ways to tell a story.” The judges were very impressed with the quality of her work, her professionalism, and her thoughtful responses to questions about reporting as a Muslim woman in today’s polarized world.

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