Aiyana Ishmael, a Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of Journalism & Graphic Communication student, is among the top 10 winners of the college sports writing competition of the 60th annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program.
“This award means a lot to me. The Hearst Journalism Awards Program is one of the top awards to receive as a college journalist,” Ishmael said. “It just lets me know that I’m on the right path. That everything I’m working toward is real.”
Ishmael, a junior journalism student from Miami, placed No. 8 in the contest and will receive a certificate of merit for her winning story “Coaches’ Kids: Life Behind the Saturday Night Lights.”
In the story she wrote for Journey magazine, Ishmael focused on what happens to the families of coaches who lose their jobs. The article shed light on an overlooked piece of the story when coaches of professional and college teams are forced to move on and their children are also forced to start over. Ishmael is the editor-in-chief of Journey, FAMU’s student-run magazine.
The Hearst awards are open to 104 undergraduate journalism programs at the U.S. universities that are eligible to participate. Ishmael’s was among 145 entries from 79 schools in the sports writing competition.
Ishmael has also had a busy semester representing FAMU SJGC at national journalism organization events. In March, she was a Knight Foundation Fellow at the 2020 National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) Conference in New Orleans, which was sponsored by the Investigative Reporters & Editors and NICAR.
As a fellow she had all her expenses paid to attend sessions in data and investigative journalism, and learn about different data tools like Excel and Python. She was one of four HBCU students selected by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to attend the conference.
Ishmael also serves as the sole student representative for the Online News Association (ONA). She recently attended her first board meeting in Washington, D.C., where she discussed plans for ONA, including the annual conference. She currently serves on the education committee and is also helping to prepare for the upcoming application for the HBCU Digital Media Fellowship – which she received last year – and the Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab.
“Aiyana is a great example of what our students at SJGC can accomplish. She not only looks for ways to practice and improve the craft of journalism, but she is giving a voice to this up-and-coming generation of journalists – particularly African-American journalists – at the national level,” said Professor Francine Huff, the Knight Chair for Student Achievement and adviser for Journey magazine.