RJ honors top high school journalists in Clark County

Nearly four years ago, a scheduling mistake landed Ania Martinez in an introduction to journalism course at Sunrise Mountain High School.

The mistake quickly turned the math whiz into a passionate journalist.

On Monday, Martinez was among the students on hand when the Sunrise Mountain’s student newspaper earned top honors in the 41st annual Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards.

“She stayed with me for all four years,” said her adviser, Holger Stolzenberg. “Now, she’s editor-in-chief. It comes full circle now that we’re No. 1.”

Martinez’s ear-to-ear smile lit up the room as she accepted the award — best newspaper standard format — on behalf of her staff and school. She was also named her newspaper’s most valuable staffer at the ceremony honoring the best work of journalists at 17 Clark County high schools.

“All of our writers … they put a lot of thought and work into each one of their stories,” Martinez said. “It’s not just an assignment for them — they’re writing the stories for our students.”

The moment was also a special one for Stolzenberg. After spending several years at Durango High School, he joined Sunrise Mountain four years ago when it became a turnaround school, and began the student newspaper.

Since that time, the program has grown from about 15 to 36 students.

“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Stolzenberg said. “When I went there four years ago, people said, ‘Why would you go there? That’s not a school you want to be going to.’ I think we were able to prove this school can do anything it wants. And it proved it today by winning.”

Green Valley High School also took home top honors by earning first place in the best newspaper reduced format category.

This was the first time Green Valley competed in the reduced format category after students convinced adviser Eric Johnston to transform the InvestiGator into a news magazine format.

“A lot more kids read it,” Johnston said. “It’s more visually appealing. Kids are more excited about reading it.”

In the past 21 years, the InvestiGator had won first place in the standard format category 17 times.

The Review-Journal also recognized the Southwest Career and Technical Academy for having the best news website and Andrew Mendez at Spring Valley High School, for first place in the First Amendment category.

All the awards were judged by Review-Journal staffers.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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