photo/Tyler Rispoli
photo/Tyler Rispoli
photo/Tyler Rispoli

After hearing a loud shriek from his yearbook adviser, a startled Matthew Casler, senior, learned he was Florida’s Student Journalist of the Year.

Florida Scholastic Press Association will recognize Casler, second place winner Sawyer Carlton from King High School in Tampa, and third place winner Dana Dinh from Hillsborough High School in Tampa at the annual state convention, April 29.

“My immediate reaction was stunned. I’ve never competed in this manner before.  In Mock Trial I had an active role in trying to win, but for this, after I submitted the portfolio it was out of my control. After it hit me, I was exhilerated.  It made me feel that everything I’ve done the last three and a half years was worth it.  It was the culmination of my career thus far,” Casler said.

Each year the Florida Scholastic Press Association names one student the Todd C. Smith Student Journalist of the Year based on a portfolio of his work. The portfolio is a collection of the student’s work throughout his journalism experience.  It must include a self analytical essay; writing, design, multimedia, web and editing samples; one’s understanding of law and ethics, news gathering, news literacy; photojournalism; leadership and entreuprenuership.

“The process of putting the portfolio together taught me to be self-critical. It revealed to me how much I’ve grown as a writer, photographer and designer, as well as how to market myself.  I am interested in communications and law and this gave me an opportunity to explore myself in that medium,” Casler said. “My portfolio shows my strengths as a journalist.  As I move to college it will help me get a foot into the door.”

Now that he has won the state award, Casler will compete on the national level with Journalism Education Association. They will announce the National Journalism Student of the Year and up to six runner-up winners April 17, in Los Angeles, Cali.

“I’m confident that Matthew’s submission is as complete, organized and competitive as any I’ve seen. He’s definitely deserving of the recognition. I was particularly impressed with the breadth of his portfolio. He presented it well and supported it with quality letters and resume,” the judge wrote about his submission.

The state winners will compete against one another for the national title and a $3,000 scholarship.

“I am petrified.  I have no idea what to expect on the national level.  It’s hard enought at the state level, but the national competition is the best of the best. Ultimately, I’m proud of myself and I have to be proud of my work and hope for the best,” Casler said.

Casler is the Legend yearbook editor in chief, National Honor Society president, Mu Alpha Theta parliamentarian, Math Club member, and was the Mock Trial captain last year.  As the co-editor in chief of the 2015 Legend, “That boONE moment,” he helped lead the staff to a National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker nomination (winners announced April 16),  a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crown nomination (winners announced March 18) and a Best of Show at the NSPA national convention in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 14.

Casler is the second Boone Publication student to win this award.  Lindsey Alexander, the Hilights editor in chief, won in 2013.

“I cannot express my pride in Matt.  The journalist of the year award is a hard process for a yearbook kid because generally they do not have the span of experiences of a newspaper kid, like news writing, multimedia and web work.  However, Matt has such a true interest in all things technology related that he has a wide-variety of work samples and he has been instrumental in our path to live coverage,” Renee BurkeLegend adviser, said.  No matter what happens in LA, I’m impressed with his work and know that he has produced a stellar portfolio that represents him, Boone High School and Florida journalism well.”

By Natalie Disla

I am the Editor-In-Chief of Hilights. I love traveling to different countries and states, but my favorite place to visit is New York. Beyoncé is my inner diva.

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