Skills are best applied to solve real-world problems

By Erinn Aulfinger
Lakota East (Ohio) HS, Class of 2017

(Editor’s Note: Erinn Aulfinger is one of two 2017 winners of the George and Ophelia Gallup Scholarship awarded by Quill and Scroll. She is a freshman at Ohio State University in Columbus.)

I’ve had great leadership opportunities in organized activities and clubs in high school, including as Chief Editor of Lakota East’s award-winning newsmagazine, The Spark, this past year.  But I believe the true proof of the skills we learn is how we apply them.  

The true proof of our personal values is whether we put them to the test. For me, leadership goes beyond serving in a structured capacity. Service goes beyond school-mandated volunteer hours. Both come down to a choice: Step out of the safety of organized activities and make your own mark on the world, or let others be the pioneers to set the vision and brave the unchartered path as you follow safely behind.  

That philosophy was put to the test these past two years when I uncovered an issue in my southwestern Ohio community.

There’s a sickness running rampant through the hallways of our schools, infiltrating households, and raging, unchecked, throughout public places across America.  It’s plaguing our children, yet there’s no outcry of outrage or fear.  No hot debates on national TV citing numbers of people won or lost.  No white-coated CDC experts highlighting the problem.   

Industry reports say girls see a significant drop in self-esteem around age 9 that’s both deeper and longer-lasting than that of boys. This drop is driven in part by body image issues, bullying, and societal gender bias. Girls with low self-esteem are more likely to suffer from depression, self-harm, and premature sexual activity, yet only a few organizations are offering solutions. Words have unmistakable power, and the halls of middle or high school have the uncanny ability to bring out the worst of them.

Walking the school halls since I turned 9 years old, I’ve seen friends succumb to the pitfalls of low self-esteem, including cutting, eating disorders, and drug usage. I’ve watched the rise of “mean girls” bullying others, and of adults treating girls differently than boys, both worsening the problem. I wondered how I could harness the power of words in a more positive light, curing the disease of poor self-esteem by stopping the spread before girls were infected. Perhaps by giving younger girls a “vaccine” to prevent the development of negative thoughts, I could prevent the spread of a weakening sense of “girl power.”

My solution was to create, fund, and publish a book designed for sixth-grade girls about to face new pressures from peers, teachers, parents, and puberty. My book, “Rewriting Your Story,” includes inspirational stories from older girls and women who’ve overcome self-esteem issues, along with exercises and tips to give girls tools to help avoid that self-esteem drop.  

I developed a detailed year-long action plan, contacted more than 1,000 organizations for research, raised $5,000 in printing costs, persuaded women to share their stories, and taught myself design software to do my own layout. With permission from 10 elementary school principals, I distributed a free book to the 700 sixth-grade girls in my school district this past fall, and posted a free online copy for girls globally.

The book is achieving my goal of changing lives and helping girls learn to treat themselves and each other better.  

“I realized I was treating another girl … in a way I wouldn’t want to be treated, so I changed,” one girl said.

“I decided that if all those women could see themselves as pretty, so could I,” said another.  

A parent told me “I have an older daughter who’s struggled with much of the subject matter… so thanks for changing the world one page at a time!”

This project taught me new skills like project management and fundraising, introduced me to strong female leaders globally, and raised my own confidence as I tackled a project others initially told me “couldn’t be done”.  

Words can cause a sickness in heart and spirit. I hope my book can be one small part of the cure.

Quill and Scroll Executive Director Appointed

thumbnail_Jeff_Browne.2017Jeff Browne has been appointed executive director of Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists beginning July 5.

Currently the director of CU News Corps at the University of Colorado Boulder, Browne will succeed Vanessa Shelton as Quill and Scroll director. She is retiring after nearly 10 years in the position.

As executive director, Browne will direct the honor society and also will serve as editor of Quill & Scroll magazine and other organization media, and will direct Quill and Scroll Foundation.

Browne has extensive experience in scholastic journalism education, including as the executive director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association from 2009-2013 and of the Colorado Scholastic Press Association from 2003-2004. In addition to directing the CU News Corps student media project at the University of Colorado, Browne is a journalism instructor teaching two to three courses per semester.

Under his direction, the News Corps students produced an award-winning documentary “Taking the Lede: Colorado Edition,” which won a Best of Competition Award in 2016 at the BEA Festival of Media Arts. The documentary aired on Rocky Mountain PBS in June 2016. He served as producer of the film about First Amendment rights for Colorado high school student journalists.

From 1999-2009, Browne advised student media at Colorado State University and taught high school journalism, English and history from 1990-1999. He also has worked as a journalist in Florida.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Florida.

Active in national journalism organizations and conferences including JEA and NSPA, Browne is completing a two-year term through October as head of the Scholastic Journalism Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). He has taught at summer journalism workshops and was director of the Kansas Journalism Institute summer workshop from 2009-2013.

For more than a year, he has volunteered with Intercambio de Communidades teaching English to Spanish-speaking immigrants in Boulder County, Colorado.

2015 Quill and Scroll Scholarship Recipients Announced

After a competitive application process, six incoming college freshmen were awarded Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society scholarships for studies in journalism or communications.

The recipients of the George and Ophelia Gallup Memorial Scholarship are Ivana Giang, graduate from Lakota East HS, and Julia Poe, of Shawnee Mission East HS. Though hailing from Ohio and Kansas, respectively, both will attend the University of Southern California in the fall. The Gallup Memorial Scholarship is named in honor of George Gallup, Quill and Scroll’s founder and renowned pollster, and his wife.

Named in honor of a former Quill and Scroll executive director, the Richard P. Johns Scholarship is awarded to Marie Obsuna, graduate from Kadena HS in Okinawa, Japan. Obsuna will attend Arizona State University.

The Edward J. Nell Scholarship, also named in honor of a former director, has three recipients. Alexzandria Churchill, graduate of Notre Dame de Sion HS in Kansas, MO, who is attending the University of Missouri, Columbia; Karringtan Harris, graduate of East Mecklenburg HS in Charlotte, NC, attending Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC; and Jacob Prothro, graduate of Westlake HS in Austin, TX, attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

More than 60 applicants vied for the scholarships, which range from $1,000 to $500. Seniors planning to major in journalism or communications in college and who are members of the honor society or were awarded Gold Keys in Quill and Scroll’s Yearbook Excellence or Writing, Photo and Blogging contests are eligible to apply for the scholarships. The deadline for 2016 Quill and Scroll scholarships is May 10. More information is available at quillandscroll.org/scholarships.

The deadline for the Quill and Scroll Yearbook Excellence Contest is Nov. 1, and for the Writing, Photo Contest and Blogging Competition, Feb. 5. Each contest recognizes individual journalistic achievements of students. Middle and junior high school journalists may enter the Quill and Scroll Writing and Photo Contest for grades 5-9, which also has a Feb. 5 deadline.

Quill and Scroll members also have the opportunity to receive a $500 college scholarship from MyMozaic, where students can create portfolios of their work and link with colleges and other enrichment opportunities. For more information, visit www.mymozaic.com/quillandscroll.

And the winners are…

Winners of the 2015 Quill and Scroll International Writing and Photo Contest for high school students as well as middle/junior high school students and the Blogging Competition have been announced.

Plaques, certificates and Gold Keys are en route to Writing and Photo winners. Winning bloggers receive digital badges and evaluations that are delivered via email.

High school competition winners also are eligible as seniors to apply for Quill and Scroll scholarships to study journalism or communications in college. Scholarship applications must be postmarked no later than May 10.

Enter 2014 Writing, Photo and Blog contests: Slideshow and Multimedia divisions added

High school student-produced blogs, slideshows and multimedia productions are among the entries accepted in the 2014 Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society Writing and Photo Contest. New divisions – Photo Slideshows and Multimedia – Features – have been added to the types of journalism students can have judged.

Quill and Scroll also conducts a Writing and Photo Contest for Middle School and Junior High School students.

The Writing and Photo Contest and Blogging Competition are co-sponsored by the American Society of News Editors Youth Journalism Initiative and Viacom.

Entry fees for the Writing and Photo Contest are $2 per entry. The Blogging Competition entails an evaluation and has a $5 per entry fee.

Enter the Writing and Photo Contest and at the same time register for the 2014 News Media Evaluation to save money and receive the 2013 NME Gallup Award winners PowerPoint presentation CD. The full NME evaluation package is $65 and the ratings-only package is $50.

Entries should be postmarked no later than Feb. 5. See the contest entry form for more information.

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