2021 NFPW High School Communications Contest

Thank you to all who entered the NFPW High School Communications Contest. The contest is now closed and entries are in the hands of the judges. First place entries in the affiliate and at-large contest will advance to the national round of judging with winners expected to be announced in May. 

The NFPW High School Communications Contest, one of only a few nationwide communications competitions for high school students. It inspires students to do outstanding work in their quest for excellence. In this highly acclaimed competition, entries are judged at three levels.

Level 1: State Affiliate and At-Large contests 

State affiliate contests: NFPW affiliates host statewide contests open to all high school students. This includes public, private, or home school students who reside in their states.

At-Large contest: Only those students who live in states where there is no NFPW affiliate, or the affiliate in their state is not hosting a contest, may enter the NFPW At-Large High School Communications Contest. Students attending the Department of Defense Schools overseas also are eligible to enter the At-Large Contest.

First-place winning entries in the state affiliate and at-large contests are eligible to advance to Level 2

Level 2: The NFPW National High School Communications Contest

NFPW hosts a nationwide contest for all entrants whose work receives a first-place award in the state affiliate or at-large contests. First-place winners at this level receive an award certificate, an invitation to the National High School Luncheon at our National Conference, and a check for $100 per entry.

Level 3: NFPW National High School Communications Award of Excellence

All first-place entries from the national contest will move to the third level of the contest where they will be judged against one another. The student or team whose national first-place entry is judged best among all national first-place entries receives the National Federation of Press Women High School Communications Award of Excellence and an additional $250 per entry. Another $250 is awarded to the school or program the student attends.


All 2021 contest entries must have been published, e-published, broadcast, or issued between February 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021.

Entries must be produced by a current high school student or a recently graduated student who produced the work in their senior year after February 1, 2020.

Entries must have been professionally published/produced or published/produced by a school or professional publication in a recognized medium for the category. I.e. A school, local or national newspaper, a website, a school, local or national television production and the like. No social media posts are accepted at this time. Please visit the Categories and Descriptions page on our contest site to learn more about each category.


All NFPW judges, both at the state and national level, are experts in their fields. They are to judge each entry in accordance with the judging criteria outlined in the contest categories and guidelines.

Each entry will receive constructive comments from the judges. You will receive your comments regardless of your placing.  After all entries have been evaluated, the judge will assign first, second, and third place winners, along with any honorable mentions he/she sees fit to award. A judge can decide no entry in a given category merits a first-place award and may assign the other places accordingly.

Names and personal information of the judges are not made public.

The decisions of the judges are final.


Winners receiving a first, second, third, or honorable mention at the state level (Level 1) will receive an award certificate. First-place winners advance to the national level of competition (Level 2). 

Winners at the national level (Level 2) will receive an award certificate, an invitation to the National High School Luncheon held at the NFPW National Conference and a check for $100 per entry (team entries will split the prize money) First-place winners advance to the NFPW National High School Communications Award of Excellence round (Level 3) 

The winner of the NFPW National High School Communications Award of Excellence will receive an invitation to speak at the National High School Luncheon, an award certificate and a check for $250 per entry (team entries will split the prize money).

Cost of Entry

The cost of entry varies by state. Please visit the Find Your Competition Page on our contest website to find out if your state offers a high school contest. Entrants without a high school contest in their state should enter the at-large contest. Entries into the at-large contest may be split by region if entries warrant.

Membership Requirements

Entrants in the high school contest are NOT required to be NFPW members to participate or advance in the high school contest. High school students are welcome to become members at the discounted student rate to enjoy the benefits of membership in NFPW. Visit our Join page to learn more.



Texas high school newspaper editor wins top communications award

The editor-in-chief of a Texas high school newspaper has won the National Federation of Press Women’s high school communications contest’s Award of Excellence award for 2020.

Samantha Thornfelt, a graduating senior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, has been honored with the “Best of the Best” award for a sports story she wrote for her high school newspaper, The Marquee.

The feature story “Swimming against the current,” focused on a high school swimmer who fought and overcame many trials.

“I first thought of this story when brainstorming sports feature ideas for an issue early this year, Thornfelt says. “I remembered a girl named Emma who I had befriended in a class junior year.  She had always mentioned struggling in swimming, had missed multiple days in class for doctor visits and surgery, and had to wear an arm sling for the last few months of the school year.  While I figured I would only be able to write a short profile on her recovery, I soon learned her story was more in-depth and impactful than I thought.”

She joined the newspaper staff as a reporter her junior year and was promoted to News Editor at the end of my first semester.   At the end of her junior year she was chosen as the 2019-2020 Editor in Chief. “I consider this to be one of my proudest accomplishments.”

Her advisor, LaJuana Hale says, “I saw Sam’s writing skills when she was in a Journalism 1 class. We ran one of her print stories before she was even on our newspaper staff. Her writing has continued to be outstanding, winning her numerous state and national awards. Sam has been an exceptional leader for our staff this year. She was dedicated to excellence and committed to producing a newspaper that our student body would read. Every story mattered to her, and she was a joy to work with.”

Thornfelt entered her story in the Press Women of Texas high school contest where it won first place honors and advanced to the national level contest, competing against first place entries from across the nation. The story won first place in the nation in the sports writing category and competed against first place entries in 22 other categories to be named “Best of the Best.” The award comes with a cash prize of $100 for winning the sports writing category and $250 for the national award. The journalism program at Marcus High School will receive a matching $250 cash award.

In selecting the sports story as the top award, one of the national judges commented, “I believe the Sports Story is an excellently written article and hearkens back to a time when newspaper stories were the next best thing to being there if you wanted to really ‘see’ what happened at an event. It brings the reader into the story from the headline and the introductory paragraphs to the degree that you almost find yourself struggling to breathe as did the young swimmer in the story. The writer provides enough essential background to give the reader a foundation for understanding what this young swimmer has experienced throughout her sports career, thus far, and does so with a style that continues to put the reader in a position to not only want to keep reading, but to hope that the story has a happy ending. In a communications world now dominated by video, it was reassuring to find that the written word still has the power to provide the visual; and equally, if not more, encouraging to know that there are writers who still have that gift.”

Thornfelt says the distinction of this award is truly a great end to both my last year on staff, and my senior year as a whole, as I will not be able to get the same form of closure with my journalism program as I had originally hoped.  “I am extremely thankful to the National Federation of Press Women, as they have helped to validate that my college and future career paths in journalism are the ones for me.”

Through the newspaper, she was able to realize her true passion for writing and hope to continue working in the field of journalism once she graduates from the University of North Texas. She plans to major in print and online journalism. “I do not yet know the exact career path I will take, I am positive I will be a writer for the rest of my life,” Thornfelt says.

The NFPW High School Communications contest is sponsored by the NFPW Education Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, community-oriented organization. The Education Fund invests in members by funding programs that fulfill evolving educational projects such as the High School communications contest. The fund operates solely on donations. Two anonymous long-time members of the organization have sponsored the Best of the Best contest for the past seven years. Five of the seven award winners have been from Texas high schools.