First Amendment, top journalists celebrated

2021 Indiana High School Journalist of the Year, Lawrence North High School senior Natalie Rowland
2021 Indiana High School Journalist of the Year Natalie Rowland earns a $1,000 scholarship from IHSPA and will serve as the Indiana nominee for the JEA Journalist of the Year Award. The national winner and runners-up will be announced April 10, and those students are eligible for up to $3,000 in scholarships. Visit for more information about Indiana High School Journalist of the Year.


March 3, 2021

The Indiana High School Press Association is honored to recognize Lawrence North High School student journalist Natalie Rowland as the 2021 Indiana High School Journalist of the Year.

One of five finalists from across the state, a three-person judging panel selected the North Star editor-in-chief’s portfolio because it showcased her journalistic skill, commitment to leading others and dedication to using multiple storytelling methods to address subject matter vital to her community.

“This journalist is a gifted storyteller who has excellent command of sourcing and writing. I liked that they challenged themselves to different kinds of stories, moving out of their comfort zone,” wrote Lisa Renze-Rhodes, contest judge and Ball State University’s Manager of Unified Media. “Additionally, it seems evident that this editor works hard to build a strong cohesive team and takes seriously their responsibility to that team and their publications. They have a clear understanding of the importance of cross-platform engagement, and work to help their team to achieve this outreach.”

Fellow judge Teresa White came to a similar conclusion and highlighted Rowland’s ability to guide her staff. White, the director of the Indiana High School Journalism Institute, was impressed that the North Star always managed to produce material via a wide range of platforms that was best presented for the differing readership.

“Through excellent documentation in her portfolio, Natalie demonstrates a profound understanding of 21st century journalism, both its best practices and its role in creating community,” White wrote in the contest rubric. “These insightful decisions reveal Natalie’s commitment to reaching her staff’s audience, including parents and community members.”

The overall body of work is what stood out to the third member of the judging panel, former JEA state director and retired student media adviser Nancy Hastings. She made note of Rowland’s numerous accomplishments during these unusual times.

“Nice work in an especially challenging school career due to COVID-19,” Hastings wrote in her evaluation. “Well organized and easy to follow portfolio. Lots of quality material included. Writing samples are well researched and well-reported, with multiple sources and storytelling quotes, reflecting good interviewing skills and strong writing. Quotes make the stories come alive.”

All of this is why Lawrence North High School educator, and current IHSPA Ella Sengenberger Indiana Adviser of the Year, Heather Klopfenstein was extremely grateful to have Rowland in a leadership position and motivating her peers in spite of a once-in-a-century pandemic. In her recommendation letter, Klopfenstein made clear Rowland’s effort is a primary reason why the North Star continued to function when most of the world had come to a halt.

“Like everyone else, the newspaper staff had to adjust their plans. We struggled to get everyone to participate, and so Natalie took on the bulk of the work,” Klopfenstein wrote. “She made sure people were interviewed, stories were up on the website, photos were taken, graphics were done, and content was covered.”

However, Klopfenstein noted that anyone who has met the Lawrence North senior would be surprised by the extraordinary dedication and professionalism she exhibited throughout these difficult times. That’s just who Rowland has been since day one.

“Natalie’s dedication to journalism is shown through her four-year commitment to the newspaper staff and the effort she has put into becoming a fair-minded, ethical journalist,” Klopfenstein wrote. “Anyone who meets Natalie instantly recognizes her as a mature, confident, responsible young lady. She is committed to excellence and willing to work hard, which makes her a great representative of any school or program.”

“I feel fortunate that she has been the face of ours for the last couple of years.”

As the state’s winner, Rowland earns a $1,000 scholarship from IHSPA and the four finalists will receive $200 each. Rowland will also serve as the Indiana nominee for the JEA national journalist of the year award where she will be eligible for up to $3,000 in scholarships. JEA will name the national winner and up to three runners-up April 10.

2021 First Amendment Design Contest winner, Ashley O’Connor, Columbus North HS


Indiana Journalist of the Year

Winner: $1,000

Natalie Rowland, Lawrence North HS

Finalists: $200

Emily Helmuth, Crown Point HS

Margaret Mowrer, Columbus North HS

Kimmy Turley, Mooresville HS

Elizabeth Valadez, Southport HS


David Adams Award

2021 First Amendment Design Contest runner up, Atzel Nunez, Ben Davis HS

Winner: $150

Spotlight, Ben Davis HS


First Amendment Design Contest

Winner: $100 
Ashley O’Connor, Columbus North HS

Second Place: $50
Atzel Nunez, Ben Davis HS


SPJ/JEA Essay Contest (Indiana)

Winners: $75
Gracie Walls, Paoli Jr-Sr HS
Jasmine Yang, Columbus North HS


Sports Journalism Contest

Winner: $100 
Margaret Mowrer, Columbus North HS

Second Place: $50
Eli Beck, Southport HS


For more information about these contests, please visit the spring contest page or email

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