Joliet West becomes journalism sectional champions, advance to state


Kelly Rappaport, Copy Editor

Their work is on newsstands, shown in advisories, and purchased to encapsulate fond memories. They are awake at odd hours to meet deadlines, attend every school event, and constantly ask for quotes. The students behind Joliet West’s Tiger News Network, Tiger Tales newspaper, and Alpha Omega yearbook came home IHSA Journalism Sectional Champions from the competition at Homewood-Flossmoor High School on April 13, in addition to state final qualifications in 11 of 18 categories.

While it is lesser known, the IHSA Journalism competition is extremely stiff, with high schools’ best reporters, photographers, and editors present. Under the leadership of teacher and advisor Jenn Galloy, the students spend all year preparing while simultaneously producing the yearbook, as well as unbiased news about sports, popular culture, campus happenings, and social issues. In the past, West has had several students qualify for the state competition, but 2019 marks the first year since 2009 that Joliet West walks away as sectional champions.

Twelve students who call the Publications Office home qualified for the state competition to be held at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois. West students placed in the top six for 16 different categories.

The journalism competition features categories in newspaper writing and design, yearbook writing and design, editing, illustrations, photography, and video news, and audio news. From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem simple, but the judges follow elaborate criteria set to IHSA standards, and each category has its own set of rules. However, West’s finest journalists accepted the challenge and cleaned up at the sectional.

West took home four first-place wins, five second-place finishes, two third-place finishes, three fourth-place finishes, and two fifth-place finishes. The top three of each category advance to the state finals.

Several category champions came from West, including sophomore Louie Mendoza and junior Daniela Jimenez for Yearbook Theme Development, senior Alita Stukel for Review Writing, and junior Val Villaflor for Broadcast News.

“I’m so glad everyone’s hard work helped us to win the sectional,” said Villaflor. Her event involves recording herself speaking in a format similar to radio. “My speech experience definitely helped, but it was mostly lots of practice and looking at winning entries from the past.”

Sectional runners-up advancing to the April 26 state competition include sophomore Lawson Sizemore for Sports Writing, sophomore Kiersten Jordan for Editorial Cartooning, senior Geraldine Jimenez for Infographics, and a Video News team featuring junior Ian Duda and sophomores Trevor Gould and Kailey Staniszewski.

Gould said, “Sectionals was chaotic, as it was my first journalism competition. I feel as if my group could have had better teamwork, but I am very proud of how it turned out and I’m excited for state.”

Two students even qualified to compete at the state level in two events; junior Aileen Carranza took third in both Newspaper Design and Headline Writing, and sophomore Kelly Rappaport won first in Copy Editing and second in Feature Writing.

“Finding out I qualified for state was one of the happiest moments of my life considering how close I was at the last sectionals. Qualifying in not only one but both of my categories felt better than I had ever imagined, all the work I put into journalism finally showed when I qualified for state,” said Carranza.

The Tigers will be headed to the state competition in Normal, Illinois, on April 25 to compete on April 26. Considering such a successful sectional, the future certainly looks bright.

Galloy said, “I’m so proud of our group as a whole. It’s been a long time since we’ve been sectional champions, and our program has changed and improved so much since then. I can’t wait to see what my kids do next.”