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Ivana Giang, of Ohio, Wins 2015 NFPW Award of Excellence

Ivana standing, facing the camera with left hand on her hip, wearing a black dress with pink roses pattern. Building with U.S. flag on pole in front of it is blurred in the background.

A senior and 2015 class salutatorian from Liberty Township, Ohio, captured the Award of Excellence for the best overall entry in the 2015 National Federation of Press Women High School Communications Contest.

Ivana Giang, writing for Spark News Magazine at Lakota East High School, received the top award, which includes a $500 check for her school's publications department. Her winning entry, a news story titled "The Contagion of Courage," was selected by a three-judge panel as the best among the contest's 22 first-place winners.

Ivana was the sole interviewer, researcher, writer, photographer, and designer on the story, which dealt with sexual assault at the childhood, high school, and college levels, focusing on the stories of two abused teenage sisters.

"Ivana Giang sets a high bar for high school journalism with this piece, addressing one of society's most distressing problems with clarity, sensitivity and careful research," wrote a judge. "The writing is strong, the story is well-sourced and the courage of the [sisters] and the family in sharing their experiences is evident. The reporter appears worthy of such trust as she handles this delicate story with care. She goes beyond the tragic drama of the family's experience to explain how the nation's legal system has responded to such crimes [and] the lack of political will to do more, bringing insight from attorneys and lawmakers and others. The sisters' efforts to help others who have been violated is explored as one method of recovery. This is a superior story that demonstrates the reporter's researching, interviewing, and writing skills—all traits of a young journalist with good instincts and a promising future indeed."

Ivana, the daughter of South Vietnamese immigrants, began her college studies in the 2015 fall semester at the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy with a concentration in Non-Profits and Social Innovation.

Overall, 104 students from 14 states won national awards for 87 entries. The award certificates, which come with $100 cash prizes for first-place winners, were presented Sept. 12 at the NFPW Communications Conference in Anchorage, Alaska.

The annual contest, endorsed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, is the only nationwide competition of its kind. The contest offers 22 categories, including news, feature, and column writing; photography; videos; radio/TV; and graphic design.

Students initially compete at the state level, and first-place winners then advance to the national competition. This year's state contests drew 1,195 entries. Of these, 144 entries competed at the national level. Twenty-two professional communicators or journalism educators judged the national contest.

There are many benefits to the contest. Journalism advisers use it as an incentive and learning tool. Students receive constructive feedback from expert judges to help them improve their work. These prestigious awards serve to boost student confidence and to enhance future college or job applications.

The state entry deadline for the 2016 competition is Feb. 8, and the national deadline is March 28.