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High School Students Across the Nation Will Participate in 2021 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference June 21-24

Award-Winning Journalist and Author Isabel Wilkerson Will Receive the 2021 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media on Monday, June 21

WASHINGTON — From June 21-24, 2021, the Freedom Forum will host 46 of the nation’s leading high school student journalists at the 2021 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the second year the conference is held virtually since its inception in 1999 to honor the late Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY, the Freedom Forum and Newseum.

The Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media will be presented on Monday, June 21 to journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” In 1994, she became the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her feature writing in The New York Times.

Washington Post columnist and MSNBC anchor Jonathan Capehart will present the award to Wilkerson, and the audience will include the student scholars, who will have an exclusive conversation with Wilkerson about her work and career. The award presentation on Monday evening, June 21 is free and open to the public.

Each year, this academic and scholarship program inspires and equips some of best and brightest students in the United States to pursue careers in the journalism and media industries. These rising high school seniors will each receive a $1,000 scholarship to the college of their choice.

The Freedom Forum enlists the help of high school journalism educators throughout the country to recruit applicants and promote this important program. Prospective applicants are required to submit work samples, letters of recommendation, student transcripts and essays about their interest in journalism, as well as the qualities they possess that render them “free spirits.”

“In each of these with scholars we see the imagination to dream, the courage to dare and the capability to do great things,” explained Jan Neuharth, chair and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum. “This year’s talented group of scholars will learn about the relevance of the First Amendment, the importance of a free press and its critical role as a cornerstone of democracy.”

During the virtual conference, students will hear from presenters, including CNN reporter and anchor Abby Phillip, Washington Post reporter Maura Judkis and New York Times reporters Catie Edmondson and Rick Rojas. The students also will attend “From Freedom Riders to Racial Justice,” a program featuring Freedom Rider Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr., and civil rights activist and author DeRay Mckesson.

2021 Free Spirit Scholars

ALABAMA
Elizabeth Bell, Sparkman High School, Harvest

ALASKA
Lauren Olson, Ketchikan High School, Ketchikan

ARIZONA
Natalia Spencer, Lake Havasu High School, Lake Havasu City

ARKANSAS
Elise Harris, The Academies at Jonesboro High School, Jonesboro

CALIFORNIA
Nicholas Harvey, California High School, San Ramon

COLORADO
Nathaniel Rudolph, Greeley West High School, Greeley

CONNECTICUT
Emma Levinbook, Kingswood Oxford School, West Hartford

DELAWARE
Emily Malone, Padua Academy, Wilmington

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Dionna Duncan, Archbishop Carrol High School, Washington

FLORIDA
Asher Montgomery, Hillsborough High School, Tampa

GEORGIA
Alexandra Audrain, Marietta High School, Marietta

HAWAII
Kendelle Hung-Ino, Moanalua High School, Honolulu

ILLINOIS
Victoria Feng, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire

INDIANA
Elyse Perry, Delphi Community High School, Delphi

IOWA
Yuki Kitamoto, Iowa City West High School, Iowa City

KANSAS
Campbell Wood, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village

KENTUCKY
Satchel Walton, duPont Manual High School, Louisville

MARYLAND
Lily Freeman, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda

MASSACHUSETTS
Ellyssa Jeong, Newton South High School, Newton

MICHIGAN
Eliot Klus, Community High School, Ann Arbor

MINNESOTA
Dedeepya Guthikonda, Edina High School, Edina

MISSISSIPPI
Caleb Jenkins, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Columbus

MISSOURI
Brianna Ammons, Francis Howell North, Saint Charles

MONTANA
Alina Caudle, Hellgate High School, Missoula

NEBRASKA
Hailey Nourse, Papillion-LaVista South High School, Papillion

NEVADA
Ethan Herrick, Reno High School, Reno

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Siera Biddle, Souhegan High School, Amherst

NEW JERSEY
Sarah Chagares, Ramapo High School, Franklin Lakes

NEW YORK
Oliver Tam, Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham

NORTH CAROLINA
Samir Tusneem, Green Hope High School, Cary

NORTH DAKOTA
Rebecca Riepl, Bismarck High School, Bismarck

OHIO
Megan Miranda, Lakota East High School, Liberty Township

OKLAHOMA
Aria Nanda, Casady School, Oklahoma City

OREGON
Catherine Bikales, Lincoln High School, Portland

PENNSYLVANIA
Sophia Pan, Conestoga High School, Berwyn

RHODE ISLAND
Samuel Loranger, North Providence High School, Providence

SOUTH CAROLINA
Noah Miller, Camden High School, Camden

SOUTH DAKOTA
Daniel Bethke, Lincoln High School, Sioux Falls

TENNESSEE
Madeline Sisk, St. George’s Independent School, Collierville

TEXAS
Izabella Grimaldo, Billy Ryan High School, Denton

UTAH
Emma Johnson, Highland High School, Salt Lake City

VERMONT
Rebecca Cunningham, Burlington High School, Burlington

VIRGINIA
Anuj Khemka, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Tech., Alexandria

WASHINGTON
Ritika Khanal, Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace

WISCONSIN
Ashlyn Jacobs, Neenah High School, Neenah

WYOMING
Lucyjane Crimm, Powell High School, Powell

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