A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

SRJC students impress at annual journalism convention

Michael Combs
A pile of plaques and certificates earned by the staff of the Oak Leaf during the Associated College Press’ 2024 Spring Convention Saturday, March 9, 2024.

Students from The Oak Leaf at Santa Rosa Junior College took home 25 individual and staff awards at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges conference in San Diego.

Nineteen journalism students attended the conference March 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in La Jolla, where they participated in three days of workshops and on-the-spot contests with other students from the 41 California community colleges that are members of JACC.

As a staff, they won JACC awards for “Online General Excellence,” and “Magazine General Excellence.” They were also one of three schools to win the “Digital Pacesetter” award, based on quality of digital publication combined with placings in both published and on-the-spot competitions.

The staff of the Oak Leaf pose with their accolades after the Journalism Association of Community Colleges awards ceremony Saturday, March 9, 2024. (Chelsea Kurnick)

The conference also included the Associated College Press, which boasts more than 570 members, and the California College Media Association. SRJC won two national awards, judged amongst attendees from all three organizations. They finished in fourth place for their website and fifth place for their magazine in the category of two-year campuses.

Several students won top individual awards for published work from the last year. Leilany Sosa won first place in the magazine opinion category for her story,Fading in and out,” about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Cameron Romanick received first place in the news story division for his descriptive coverage ofIndigenous Peoples Day at SRJC.” Sam Guzman won first place for feature photo with a powerful picture he took over the summer. Guzman also won third-place place in the profile feature category for his story “Living in Hiding,” about an SRJC student who fled China. Oscar DeJung received a second-place finish in podcast/audio news for his three-part podcast The Last American Outlaws.” Max Millan won a second-place award in magazine opinion for Dreaming in Limbo,” a story about his experience as a DACA recipient.

SRJC journalism instructor and The Oak Leaf advisor Anne Belden said, “I’m always thrilled to see my students win awards at the state level. It’s very affirming of their growing skillsets when they can compete and win, especially in the on-the-spot competitions. They leave with confidence that they can succeed in this highly competitive field.”

In the on-the-spot competitions, Oak Leafers took home multiple awards. Max Millan and Hana Seals won first place in the team feature contest. In the news photo category, Rosemary Cromwell received second place. Cromwell finished third in the news judgment/layout category. Cameron Romanick finished in second place in the opinion writing category and Salvador Sandoval-Garduno finished in third place in the creative portrait category.

“We all return to Santa Rosa exhausted but bonded by the experience,” Belden said.

Oak Leaf adviser Anne Belden hosts a workshop on investigative reporting which she put into practice during the writing process for her new book “Inflamed” Saturday, March 9, 2024. (Hana Seals)
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About the Contributors
Sean Shanks
Sean Shanks, Reporter
Sean is in his first semester at the Oak Leaf. He would like to travel and tell people's stories, partially because life can be so insufferably boring, but mostly because people's stories are beautiful and accountability is awesome.
Michael Combs
Michael Combs, Editor
Michael Combs (he/him) is in his fifth semester writing for The Oak Leaf, and his second as co-Editor-In-Chief. He began taking natural resources management classes at Santa Rosa Junior College to pursue his love of nature and the environment but has shifted toward journalism so he can share those passions with the world. Besides the environment, Michael also likes to write about politics, social justice and mental health. He has a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience and mammalian physiology from the University of California, San Diego, and hopes to get back to his roots with more science journalism as well. In his off time Michael likes to read, write and hike as often as possible in beautiful Sonoma County and beyond.
Nick Vides
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.  
Hana Seals
Hana Seals, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hana Seals (she/her) is in her fourth semester at Santa Rosa Junior College, and is preparing to transfer to a four-year school with a major in Journalism. She mainly covers breaking news, community issues and local crime. Outside of writing she spends her time watching documentaries, drawing and opening time with friends and family. Professional content consumer.

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