Seven Dominion Students Recognized with an NSPA Award


Out of the seven recipients this year, five were on the school newspaper, including staff reporter Alla Abdelhalim, Editor in Chief Caelan Jones and assistant editors Lilly Cameron and Cynthia Gonzalez. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Columbel)

The National Scholastic Press Association, the largest association for scholastic journals in the nation, awards students from all over the world for their hard work. This year, seven Dominion students were recognized with the Leadership award in Student Journalism; Alla Abdelhalim, Lilly Cameron, Lindsay Fox, Cynthia Gonzalez, Caelan Jones, Anastasia Simonenko, and Tyler Whitfield. Jones, Simonenko and Whitfield are two-time recipients, having also won in 2022.

Mitchell Schwartz, who teaches all of the journalism classes at Dominion, uses the award yearly to acknowledge his students’ work. “It’s well deserved recognition for how much work and effort they put into the journalism program… I’m looking for students who go above and beyond, who are always willing to help out other people, always willing to take on the tough assignments and that extra mile that they go speaks volumes about their character,” Schwartz said.

Whitfield and Jones are two-time broadcast student recipients. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Columbel)

The NSPA Leadership Award in Student Journalism (previously known as the NSPA Honor Roll for Student Journalism) is awarded to around 1,300 high-school journalists. These students are individually nominated by their advisor and have to have served at least two years on a yearbook, newspaper or newsmagazine, or NSPA-member broadcast. They are able to receive academic recognition through the recently implemented society, Quill and Scroll International Honor Society for Student Journalists and must show journalistic excellence, staff leadership and be in proper academic standings, and maintain the ethical standards in the NSPA Model Code of Ethics.

“This award is a really big accomplishment and it makes me feel really proud of myself..  I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this class, it really makes me proud of myself that it hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Fox said. 

The NSPA makes many efforts to give proper awareness to students with many contests including individual rewards. Seniors that earn the Leadership Award in Student Journalism are able to apply for a scholarship. In 2020, scholarships were awarded to two seniors planning careers in journalism, awarding $1,000 to the first place winner, and $500 to the runner up.

Abdelhalim, Simonenko, and Fox are all students in yearbook and recipients of the award. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Columbel)

Each journalism class revolves around independent project-based work seen in the school yearbook and on DHS Press. “I think it’s also a great way to highlight how this is student-run journalism and that the students and their outstanding work, even though we’re a small program, make this the special program that we are,” Schwartz said. 

Dominion was one of three schools in Loudoun County with students to receive awards this year, alongside Rock Ridge High School and Loudoun Valley High School. In 2021, eight Dominion students were recognized with the Honor Roll of Students Journalists. Recipients’ names are listed on both the NSPA website and the pages of the Best of High School Press, they receive a certificate of recognition, and they are able to wear the NSPA Leadership Student Journalism teal honor cord for graduation.

Simoneko has been a student of Mr. Schwartz her entire highschool career and plans to continue in journalism at Virginia Tech next year studying Multimedia Journalism. “I know I should say it a lot more but definitely a big thank you to Mr. Schwartz for pushing through, being patient with me, cutting me some slack whenever I needed it, just being understanding and getting me where I am… Mr. Schwartz took me in and taught me all the ropes. I really wouldn’t be where I am right now without him,” Simoneko said.