On June 18, the Asian American Journalists Association Seattle chapter awarded five promising young men and women scholarships to recognize their talent and encourage their journalism aspirations.
AAJA Seattle has been building a pipeline of minority journalists through the Northwest Journalists of Color program since 1986. More than 100 scholarships have been awarded. Previous winners have gone on to work for The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, CBS News and many, many more news organizations.
The Seattle Times hosted the reception in its auditorium, and sports columnist Jerry Brewer gave a heartfelt speech that inspired and moved us all.
Congratulations to this year’s NJC winners!
Michelle Ericksen, 20, is a senior at the University of Washington, where she is double majoring in political science and communications. Michelle says she discovered her passion in a journalism class at Highline Community College and went on to become editor of The Thunderword, the student newspaper. In addition to her numerous academic honors at Highline Community College, Michelle is the recipient of the Blethen award, which is aimed at UW students and designed to encourage cultural and ethnic diversity in the journalism profession. Born in India, Michelle is multi-racial: Persian, Punjabi and Norwegian. Michelle wrote in her essay, â€œBeing born in a different country has made me appreciative of all the diversity especially in Seattle. Whenever I write a story, I try and get as many different opinions as I can.â€
Tom Giratikanon, 21, is a senior at Northwestern University, where he is majoring in journalism. If thereâ€™s one running theme in Tomâ€™s journalism pursuits, itâ€™s blazing his own trail. At Edmonds-Woodway High School, he started The Prophet, an alternative student newspaper, and in college, he founded an award-winning daily online news site, North by Northwestern, that rivals the daily student newspaper. Heâ€™s now the lead web developer and designer for Abroad View magazine, a national magazine about study abroad. One of his professors writes, â€œI have no doubt that his commitment to ethics, high skill set and entrepreneurial spirit will allow him to be a journalist who makes a strong mark on the industry in the future.â€ Tom is a 2005 recipient of the NJC scholarship.
Olivia Hernandez, 18, joins Seattle University this fall and is a communications major. She graduated from A.C. Davis High School in Yakima, was a stand-out participant in last yearâ€™s summer journalism workshop at Seattle University and has written for four years for the Yakima Herald-Republicâ€™s weekly â€œUnleashedâ€ section for teens. For two years in a row she won honors for her writing in the national Youth Editorial Alliance awards across all newspaper circulation sizes. Olivia writes, â€œI have learned that being able to represent others and give them a voice is the most important task carried out by journalists and it is a torch that I cannot wait to bear.â€ As her editor at the Yakima paper tells us, Olivia is one of the best writers Unleashed has had and is a quiet leader among the teen writers, â€œthe kind that leads by example, by doing and listening and modeling principles, not by being loud or bossy.â€
Peter Sessum, 36, is a student at Edmonds Community College, where he studies journalism and is an editor at the student newspaper, The Triton Review. A father and husband, Peter returned to school after working for more than a year in Afghanistan on counter-narcotics operations for the State Department. Peter brings a rare perspective to his work, having visited 29 nations during his time in the Army, and intends to report from overseas on â€œwhat people in the countries where the military is currently deployed really think.â€
Mary Jean Spadafora, 18, starts college this fall at the University of Washington, where she plans to major in communications. Mary graduated from Kentridge High School, where she wrote for its Fleet Street News. A Cherokee by birth, Mary says that she wants to make the news more interesting for teens and young adults without sacrificing objectivity and good writing. Her journalism teacher writes, â€œWhether through a carefully wrought piece of analysis or a straightforward inverted pyramid news piece, she crafts, edits, reconsiders, and rewrites. Too often do students think one draft is sufficient. Mary Jean is not a typical student.â€ Mary also has volunteered in a nursing home and the Ronald McDonald House and was a member of her high schoolâ€™s band and varsity cheer squad.