FreeSpirit_Col_6.15.22

High School Students Across the Nation will Participate in 2022 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference June 20-23

From June 20-23, 2022, the Freedom Forum will host some of the nation’s leading high school student journalists at the 2022 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the third year that the conference will be held virtually since its inception in 1999 to honor the late Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY, the Freedom Forum and Newseum.


Each year, the Free Spirit academic and scholarship program inspires and equips some of the 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 make them “free spirits.”

“In each of these scholars, we see the imagination to dream, the courage to dare and the capability to do great things,” explained Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO 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.”

The theme of this year’s conference is watchdog journalism. Included among the many presenters that students will hear from is Megan Twohey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times and co-author of the book “Chasing the Truth: A Young Journalist’s Guide to Investigative Reporting.” Twohey will speak with Joon Lee, ESPN staff writer and 2012 alum of the Free Spirit program. Jill Geisler, the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership, will present on journalism ethics.

Five alums of the Free Spirit program will share stories about their careers in journalism from high school to today: Isaac Arnsdorf (2007), a national political reporter for The Washington Post; Derrell Bouknight (2014), an associate news producer at CBS Sports; Anjali Huynh (2018), former NBC News intern and POLITICO Journalism Institute student; Mary Pilon (2004) an award-winning journalist and author; and Snigdha Sur (2008), founder and CEO of the Juggernaut, a new publication focused on South Asia and South Asians.

2022 Free Spirit Scholars

ALABAMA
Neela Cole, Sparkman High School, Harvest

ALASKA
Jack Zink, Ketchikan High School, Ketchikan

ARIZONA
Layla Torres, Xavier College Preparatory, Phoenix

ARKANSAS
Miranda Shaver, Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville

CALIFORNIA
William Shun Graves, The Branson School, Ross

COLORADO
Maya Dawson, Conifer High School, Conifer

CONNECTICUT
Danielle Prohaska, Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Fairfield

DELAWARE
Natalie Gildea, Archmere Academy, Claymont

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Maia Nehme, Washington International School, Washington

FLORIDA
Charles Spungin, The Benjamin School, Palm Beach Gardens

GEORGIA
Sarah Lokenauth, Atlanta International School, Atlanta

HAWAII
Skye Bulman, Iolani School, Honolulu

IDAHO
Shyanne Strength, Highland High School, Pocatello

ILLINOIS
Sana Muneer, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn

INDIANA
Caleb Christensen, Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne

IOWA
Maya Chu, Iowa City West High School, Iowa City

KANSAS
Arshiya Pant, Blue Valley North High School, Overland Park

KENTUCKY
Natalie McGarry, Bullitt East High School, Mount Washington

MAINE
Angelina Griffin, Kennebunk High School, Kennebunk

MARYLAND
Obse Abebe, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda

MASSACHUSETTS
Joon Whang, Groton School, Groton

MICHIGAN
Ridhima Kodali, Huron High School, Ann Arbor

MINNESOTA
Athena Wang, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter

MISSISSIPPI
Christina Zhang, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Columbus

MISSOURI
Amber Winkler, Francis Howell North, St. Charles

MONTANA
Isabel Foley, Charles M. Russell High School, Great Falls

NEBRASKA
Sophia Mills, Omaha Burke High School, Omaha

NEVADA
Juliana Patton, Reno High School, Reno

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Theresa Cullen, Hollis Brookline High School, Hollis

NEW JERSEY
Rachel Levine, West Essex Regional High School, North Caldwell

NEW MEXICO
Tatiana Winter, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe

NEW YORK
Cristina Stefanizzi, Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham

NORTH CAROLINA
Emily Benton, First Flight High School, Kill Devil Hills

NORTH DAKOTA
Kaden Boyer, Bismarck High School, Bismarck

OHIO
Cori Bohan, Westerville North, Westerville

OREGON
Ava Rispler, Lincoln High School, Portland

PENNSYLVANIA
Amish Jindal, Wilson High School, Reading

RHODE ISLAND
Naeelah Desanges, North Providence High School, North Providence

SOUTH CAROLINA
Hannah Webster, Lexington High School, Lexington

SOUTH DAKOTA
Emma Forster, Lincoln High School, Sioux Falls

TENNESSEE
Alacia Williams, Hutchison High School, Memphis

TEXAS
Reagan Netherland, Ray Braswell High School, Aubrey

UTAH
Eliott Coda, Highland High School, Salt Lake City

VERMONT
Anna Hoppe, Essex High School, Essex Junction

VIRGINIA
Aarya Kumar, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, Alexandria

WASHINGTON
Yoon Lee, Lakeside School, Seattle

WEST VIRGINIA
Elisabeth Wilfong, Lewis County High School, Weston

WISCONSIN
Taigan Anderson, Stevens Point Area High School, Stevens Point

WYOMING
Gabriella Paterson, Powell High School, Powell

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