Oak Leaf brings awards home to SRJC


Courtesy of JACC

The SRJC Oak Leaf newspaper staff presenting their awards at the JACC annual conference in Sacramento after the awards banquet dinner April 12.

Faith Gates, Managing and News Editor

Santa Rosa Junior College’s student-run newspaper the Oak Leaf returned from the Journalism Association of Community College’s (JACC) annual conference this year decorated with awards.

Forty-five colleges make up JACC and all were invited to the weekend that consisted of workshops, competitions and speakers from April 9 to 12.

The Oak Leaf won the highest award from JACC, the General Excellence award, for being overall outstanding in our issues from last semester. Out of 45 colleges, only 10 won the award. The Oak Leaf has won this award eight times in the past nine years.

“I’m very happy the Oak Leaf is back on it’s streak for General Excellence,” said last semester’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Julie Lee.

Almost all of the 19 SRJC students who attended the event participated in on-the-spot contests.

News writer Pio Valenzuela took home first place in on-the-spot news writing where he attended an event and had only an hour immediately afterwards to write a story.

“Honestly, I was shocked. I really wanted to take home a prize but I was really shocked to take home first place,” Valenzuela said.  “I was humbled. When I was holding my plaque I felt humbled and on the verge of tears and kept hugging everybody.”

Copy editor Alex Randolph competed in the on-the-spot critical review contest and won third place for his work. He said he was very excited to hear his name called because he didn’t expect it.

Co-Editor-in-Chief Nate Voge won honorable mention in the features on-the-spot competition, in which he was dropped off at an art festival and immediately taken back after it ended and given an hour to write a story.

“It feels good to be acknowledged for my efforts,” Voge said.

For the mail-in awards, the Oak Leaf swept the Enterprise News Writing category, winning first and third place. Investigative reporter JoshuOne Barnes won first place for his series of articles on the SRJC District Police. Third place went to the four-page feature the Oak Leaf wrote on homelessness in Sonoma County. Voge, Lee, Estefany Gonzalez and Jeanine Buckley wrote this article for the final issue of last semester.

“I’m so proud of our team. Our features team made the last issue especially meaningful for me,” Lee said. “But I really want to thank everyone who contributed to the piece, especially the families and students who shared their stories. It’s cliché but we really couldn’t have done it without their help.”

Meanwhile other students enjoyed JACC for the bonding time with fellow journalists and the content they learned from the workshops.

“I learned a lot from it. It was enthralling and majestic,” staff writer Matthew Koch said. “I cried every day I was there.”

The Oak Leaf also submitted entries into the Society of Professional Journalist’s Mark of Excellence Awards for Region 11. This region includes all colleges in Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada and the Mariana Islands.

The homeless feature won the finalist award for feature writing, which is equivalent to second place. Barnes’ article “Black Student Union members encounter racism” from last semester also won a finalist award.

Former Editor-in-Chief Nathan Quast won first place for his editorial last semester on how the student trustee deserves a stronger voice on the Board of Trustees, beating out schools such as the University of California, Los Angeles, and will go on to the national championship.