MSMS students bring in awards at MSPA Journalism Spring Convention

The Vision received 36 awards at this year's MSPA's Statewide High School Journalism Convention awards.

Mississippi Scholastic Press Association

The Vision received 36 awards at this year's MSPA's Statewide High School Journalism Convention awards.

Ada Fulgham, Student Life Editor

The Mississippi Scholastic Press Association (MSPA) announced its statewide award winners of 2020 via video last Tuesday, March 31, with MSMS’s own publication, The Vision, racking up 36 award nominations and numerous prestigious individual awards. 

Despite the sudden cancellation of the physical award ceremony and conference that was designated to take place on the same date on the University of Mississippi campus, the MSPA’s Spring Statewide High School Journalism Convention awards were successfully announced at 3 p.m. in a video live-stream on the MSPA’s website. The Vision’s staff and adviser Thomas Richardson joined a Zoom call to stream the awards announcements together. 

As they watched, the staff of The Vision received nine “winner” awards, 19 “finalist” awards and recognition in 27 categories overall–some with multiple pieces in each. 

Vision adviser Richardson said that he wasn’t surprised by the results, but didn’t realize the extent to which MSMS would dominate in the competition. 

“The Vision team this year has done remarkable work. We have gotten the sense all year that this is a special group because we have done really well in the ongoing Best of SNO recognition program as well as in other competitive self-improvement features of our website hosting company, but I’m not sure that I knew we would do quite this well at MSPA,” he said.

The number of awards received far exceeded the number that The Vision garnered last year, which had been the best awards year to date with 22 in total. The honors included “finalist,” which means the piece placed in the top five (or three in the carry-in contest). Winners were chosen by the MSPA judges out of those finalists.

Other awards nominated journalistic supporters and advisors from schools, as well as individual students who had submitted outstanding journalism portfolios and displayed distinguished talent. 

The Vision’s very own adviser, Mr. Richardson, received the “JoAnne Seller’s Newspaper Advisor of the Year” award, and MSMS Counselor Dr. Heath Stevens was awarded the “Scholastic Press Ally of the Year.” 

Vision Managing Editor Cameron Thomas and Social Media Editor Alden Wiygul were recipients of the portfolio-based “All-Mississippi Award” (top 10 high school journalists in the state). 

“It’s really rare to get a group as passionate about journalism at a STEM school as we had this year…”

— Cameron Thomas

“I did not expect to get that many. It was surreal for me going from not receiving anything last year to winning nine individual awards this year,” Thomas said. “It’s really rare to get a group as passionate about journalism at a STEM school as we had this year, so I knew from the beginning that passion would show through The Vision’s content this year, thus explaining why we did so well with MSPA.”

Among other award recipients was Editor-in-Chief Gina Nguyen, who had not only secured the “Mississippi High School Journalist of the Year” award earlier in the month, but also received three additional individual awards during the live-stream. 

Nguyen was confident even before the awards were announced.

“I had high expectations for us. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if we didn’t do as well as we did, but watching this team grow incredibly since August, I am so proud of how far we’ve come,” she said.

…watching this team grow incredibly since August, I am so proud of how far we’ve come.”

— Gina Nguyen

Richardson has also watched the team grow and was impressed by this year’s mix of both juniors and seniors, who he said have worked hard together to develop a “competitive edge” in order to become better journalists and give their audience a better experience. The diversity of the grades in the team showed through this year, with seven different juniors having their names called during the awards, and Richardson said that it was “important to note that most of them had never worked with a school newspaper before.”

Even for the more seasoned journalists though, like Wiygul, the competition this year took most of the staff off guard. With so many awards amid the pandemic-induced live-stream, she said it was almost a relief that the ceremony was not held in person. 

“The ceremony was really different this year, but I should have expected that because last year we had to hold for applause and the winner walking [to] the stage. I’m kind of glad though we didn’t have to wait in anticipation for too long,” she said.

Competing with close to 70 participating schools and over 1,000 submissions annually, The Vision has been working to stand out in this year’s MSPA awards, but Richardson said the honors received only highlight a small part of the effort. He expressed his pride at how the team accomplished the awards together and said that “the awards represent the whole staff” and never tell the whole story of what goes on at The Vision.

“Every individual award is a team award, too, because there are so many moving parts at producing each week’s issue. I think the group this year just gets what we’re trying to do together,” he said.

Nguyen said that she believes this has been an important journey for both juniors and seniors on the Vision staff.

“These people amaze me every time, and I hope that if nothing else, this recognition shows the seniors how hard they’ve worked, and encourage juniors to keep up their passion and take the lead next year,” she said.

Richardson believed that this year’s MSPA awards send the seniors off on a good year for The Vision.

“I’m going to miss this group. I think any MSMS teacher would tell you that one of the worst parts of the job is that we’re only around the students for two years at a time, and in the case of something like a school publication or an athletic team, we only have that specific group for one year,” he said. “I’m going to have to turn the page really quickly, and I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll do some meditative practices and learn to let go, knowing that future groups can be inspired by the 2019-2020 team.”


The Vision received the following MSPA awards:


Mississippi High School Journalist of the YearGina Nguyen

All-Mississippi (top-10 high school journalists)Cameron Thomas

All-Mississippi (top-10 high school journalists)Alden Wiygul

JoAnne Sellers Newspaper Adviser of the Year–Thomas Richardson

Scholastic Press Ally of the Year–Heath Stevens


Carry-In Contest

(for work produced or published after the Feb. 15 “Best of Mississippi” deadline)

Feature Photo–Gina Nguyen, winner

Feature Photo–Cameron Thomas, finalist

Portrait–Amanda Anderson, finalist

Lede–Gracie Rowland, finalist

Caption–Aiden Leise, winner

Caption–Gina Nguyen, finalist

COVID-19 Visual–Cameron Thomas, finalist

COVID-19 Writing–Cameron Thomas, winner

COVID-19 Writing–Aiden Leise (x2), finalist

News Best in Show–Vision Staff, finalist

Best of Mississippi, Newspaper Division

(for work published this school year before Feb. 15)


News Story–Davan Reece, finalist

News Story– Caroline Boltz and Hua Chen, finalist

Depth Reporting–Cameron Thomas, finalist

Feature Story–Cameron Thomas, winner

Feature Story–Fiona Dawe, finalist

Opinion Piece–Luke Bowles, winner

Staff Editorial–Vision Staff, finalist

Review–Gracie Rowland, winner

Review–Cameron Thomas, finalist

Editorial Cartoon–Ada Fulgham, finalist

Sports Story–Muneebah Umar, finalist

News Photo–Gina Nguyen, winner

Infographic–Carter Moore, winner

Best of Mississippi, Broadcast Division

(for work published this school year before Feb. 15)


News Story–Cameron Thomas, finalist

Podcast–Alden Wiygul, Fiona Dawe, Gracie Rowland, & Muneebah Umar, winner

Podcast–Alden Wigyul, Linda Arnoldus, Kate McElhinney, & Gracie Rowland, finalist

Podcast–Alden Wiygul, Cameron Thomas, & Linda Arnoldus, finalist 

Longform Story–Alden Wiygul, finalist

Best of Mississippi, All Publication Divisions

(for work published this school year before Feb. 15)

Best Social Media Presence–The Vision, finalist

Best Online Presence–The Vision, finalist

Best Opinion Writing– The Vision, finalist