KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Several student journalists at John Sevier Middle School snagged international recognization from the Youth Journalism International (YJI) organization for their work published in the school’s newspaper.

Nine students landed an award, honorable mention or a spot as a finalist, according to a release from Kingsport City Schools. The merits stemmed from YJI’s 13th annual international media contest, which sees submissions from students around the world.

Students aged 19 years or younger submit pieces pertaining to opinion writing, reporting, art, photography, sports and other journalistic categories, and judges determine which works make the cut. In total, John Sevier Middle’s student newspaper The Sequoyah Scribe garnered 11 awards and honorable mentions, including the following:

  • Maddison Ball, finalist for the Frank Keegan Award for News
  • Claire Mooney, first place in In-Depth Reporting and honorable mention for Opinion Writing
  • Katelyn Burrell, first place in Opinion Writing and honorable mention for In-Depth Reporting
  • Michael Fanning, honorable mention for General Review
  • Maggie Dunworth, honorable mention for News Photo
  • Katie Carmon, honorable mention for Sports News Story
  • Calli Venzon, honorable mention for Sports Opinion Writing
  • Adeline Lyttle, honorable mention for Photo Illustration
  • Taishawna Davis, honorable mention for Illustration

Eighth-graders Mooney and Burrell localized national topics — specifically teacher turnover rates — to earn international awards and recognization for their work in the school paper.

“I reached out to the new teachers [and] some of our old teachers,” Mooney said. “There were a lot of psychology people at colleges that I reached out to who gave me some really interesting facts on teacher turnover, and then I reached out to students.”

Burrell said that the class taken to participate in The Sequoyah Scribe is more of a passion than it is solely schoolwork.

“I often talk to one of my friends about the fact that it didn’t feel like class,” she said.

The Sequoyah Scribe also gained attention from both in-state and national organizations. The Tennessee High School Press Associated dubbed the middle school publication Best Newspaper, and the print made it as a finalist for the Pacemaker distinction by the National Scholastic Press Association, according to The Sequoyah Scribe Advisor David Flanary, who launched the student newspaper 15 years ago.

“You give them the opportunity to speak out and have their voice heard,” he told News Channel 11. “I think that’s very, very important for the school environment.”

Those voices printed for a publication within the walls of John Sevier broke barriers, reaching the eyes of journalism leaders beyond the Tri-Cities.

“Now, these international awards show that Sevier’s student journalists are doing high-quality journalism that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any student publication globally,” Flanary stated in a news release. “I am incredibly proud of each student involved with The Sequoyah Scribe.”

Flanary added that the skills students hone from working on the publication apply to other facets of life outside the classroom and newsroom.

“How to speak with somebody, how to interview somebody, how to research, how to find accurate information, how to form a coherent argument — I think those sorts of things transfer very easily to any life situation,” he said.

The students’ achievements have not gone unnoticed by school leaders; Sevier Middle School Principal Dr. Kelli Seymour stated in a news release that Flanary exceeds expectations as the print’s advisor by devoting himself to its and his students’ success.

“I am so proud of the students for their hard work and extraordinary accomplishments,” Seymour stated. “Mr. David Flanary’s dedication and support of this program are remarkable. He and the students have worked together to create an amazing school newspaper that is unparalleled.”

YJI serves as an educational non-profit aimed at boosting young journalists’ skills as they take on the industry head-on. According to YJI’s website, the initiative launched in 1994 and has had over 500 students from every corner of the world. To learn more about the organization, click here.