Wildcat Staff Members Huerta, Kim Win Individual Awards at NSPA Convention


Makayla Huerta

Makayla Huerta’s comic strip, “System Malfunction,” was awarded first place in the Best Comic Strip category by the National Scholastic Press Association on Nov. 13. Four of Huerta’s other illustrations placed in the top 10 nationally.

At the National Scholastic Press Association’s (NSPA) annual convention in Philadelphia on Nov. 13, Wildcat staff members Doyon Kim, junior, and Makayla Huerta, senior, won awards for their individual work for The Wildcat in 2020 and 2021. 

The NSPA is a national community of high school journalism programs with more than 1,350 participating members. The organizations purpose is to “advance journalism and media as a vital cultural force by connecting advisers, students and professionals through national events and competitions,” according to studentpress.org

The annual contest — which is judged by a panel of high school journalism teachers and advisers — includes categories in writing, illustration, photography, broadcasting, and design.

Huerta received first place — the first top honor for the Wildcat since it began submitting student work in 2010 — for her comic strip “System Malfunction”, and fifth place for “Hybrid Feelings” in the Comic Strip of the Year category. Huerta also earned fourth place in Editorial Cartoon of the Year for “What it Feels like Talking to a Trump Supporter”, and Honorable Mention for “A Pandemic of Anti-Asian Violence Hits Close to Home” in Illustration of the Year.

“When I saw that I was not only a finalist in one category, but four, I felt accomplished, and it almost didn’t feel real,” Huerta said of her accolades.  

The Wildcat’s Editor-in-Chief, Kim, was also honored, earning an Honorable Mention in the News Story of the Year category. Kim’s story chronicles the events of a Dec. 5, 2019 BOUSD school board meeting that determined the Governing Member seat between members Gail Lyons and Lauren Barnes by the roll of a pair of dice.

I felt happy and honored because being able to be in the top 10 [in the country] is such an amazing achievement,” Kim said. “And [writing the story] was a great learning experience for me, to learn how to be a better journalist.” 

This isn’t the first time that Wildcat student journalists have been recognized by the NSPA. Since 2010, Wildcat staff members have been named “finalists” — or top 10 in the country — 15 times in categories ranging from illustration, comic strip, editorial cartoon, news and sports writing, cover and page design, and infograph design. No other journalism program in Orange County has more than three (Fullerton High School).