Lakota East’s Spark magazine racks up more national awards

Dean Hume, founder and adviser for Lakota East High School’s nationally acclaimed Spark news magazine, is as modest as he is successful – and he is very successful.

The student publication has recently named one of 15 national “Gold Crown” winners by the Journalism Education Association and two of its editors also garnered top honors.

It is the ninth consecutive year Spark won the distinction.

Lakota East senior Maddie Weikel earned “Ohio Journalist of the Year” from the association and fellow spark co-editor Brittany Meister was a runner-up. They were judged on a comprehensive print and their electronic portfolio – 32 pages from the magazine’s website.

Weikel, who received a $500 scholarship with her award, is now a finalist for the association’s national journalist of the year.

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The 17-year-old is the latest in a long line of outstanding high school journalists to come out of the Spark program Hume started in 1993.

But Hume deflects credit, saying it’s the students who make the magazine’s success.

“We really get good kids,” said Hume. “And basically the reason we are able to keep the streak going is because the kids drive themselves even harder,” with upperclassmen mentoring and challenging younger students on the staff.

“It’s the students motivating themselves to work harder,” said Hume. “Plus Spark has very high standards and they attack stories and go after things at a very high degree. And it’s not just me saying they have to go to a higher standard, it’s them saying what can we do to make this the best we can.”

In 2010 — after earning the “All American Award” for 10 consecutive years — the news magazine was inducted into the All American Hall of Fame at the National High School Journalism Convention.

Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis said, “Spark news magazine is the gold standard in student publications not only in Southwest Ohio but across the nation.”

“The commitment to outstanding journalism is embedded in every facet of the long standing program. Students are provided real work experiences as they manage and develop every aspect of the news magazine,” said Davis. “Lakota East, as well as the entire community, benefits from the investigative journalism these students conduct on hard hitting news topics every issue.”

Hume emphasized Weikel and Meister’s contributions to the current Spark staff calling them “both really good editors and there are both strong at motivating those around them and bringing them to a higher level.”

Weikel says working on Spark’s many, community-oriented stories reporting beyond the campus grounds “has been an opportunity to interact with the real world and do something outside the classroom.”

Meister said Spark “has been a huge growing experience for me.”

“It’s been exciting to show what I’ve been working on with other people in the community,” she said.

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