MacJ brings home fourth Blue and Gold Award in past five years

Bijl-Spiro, McClellan, Niles and Scott capture international first-place awards; staff wins 28 Gold Keys to earn award for overall staff excellence


Dave Winter

MacJournalism’s fortunes in the Quill and Scroll International Writing, Photography and Multimedia Contest were aided greatly by international first-place finishes in each of the four major categories of the contest: design (Alysa Spiro, editorial page design), writing (Madelynn Niles, review writing), multimedia (Alice Scott, documentary video) and photography (Anna McClellan, cartoon).

For the fourth time in five years, MacJournalism has won Quill and Scroll’s International Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest.

In order to win the 2022 Blue and Gold Award, McCallum journalists earned more individual awards than any other school in a contest that elicited more than 2,000 entries from students from throughout the United States and five other countries in the world.

There were 35 categories in the competition divided into three main categories: writing, visual (photo and design) and multimedia.

In addition to winning the Blue and Gold Award for best overall school, MacJ also placed in the top three in each category, winning first place in the visual and multimedia categories and tying for third place in the writing categories.

Every winning entry earns a Quill and Scroll Gold Key. MacJ earned a total of 28 Gold Key Awards (four first-place, five second-place, nine third-place and 10 honorable-mention winners), a total that included nine writing awards, 12 visual awards and seven multimedia awards.

Shield staff members earned one first place award in writing, photography, design and multimedia: senior co-editor-in-chief captured first in review writing, senior design and visuals editor Anna McClellan won first place in the cartoon category, senior co-editor in chief Alysa Bijl-Spiro won first place in editorial page design, and sophomore online co-editor in chief Alice Scott took home first place in the documentary video category.

Scott was a part of nine Gold Key awards, which is certainly a McCallum journalism record if it’s not a national one.

Only 10 percent of the submitted entries earned awards, and one judge commented that the caliber of the entries made her job very difficult.

“Wow, what an incredible body of work,” Megan Fromm wrote. “I don’t think I’ve ever deliberated that much over winners.”

All winners are eligible to apply for Quill and Scroll Scholarships, which have an application deadline of May 15.

MacJ previously won the award in 2018, 2019, and 2021.

FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP: The cast of The SpongeBob Musical converges on Jesse Lucas, who plays SpongeBob, in the show’s opening number, “Bikini Bottom Day.” This photo by sophomore Caroline Owen was one of three MacJ photos to earn Quill and Scroll Gold Keys in the news feature photography category.

Blue and Gold Award (All categories)

McCallum High School

Writing Excellence (Writing categories)

St. John’s School, Houston, first place
Kingwood Park High School, Kingwood Park, Texas, second place
Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kan. and McCallum High School, tie for third place

Visual Excellence (Photo and Design categories)

McCallum High School, first place
Ladue Horton Watkins High School, St. Louis, second place
Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kan., third place

Multimedia Excellence (Multimedia categories)

McCallum High School, first place
Maize Career Academy, Maize, Kan., second place
Wichita High School Southeast, Wichita, Kan., Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas, tie for third place

The individual MacJ Gold Key winners are listed below with links to their winning entries.

Writing Categories

The text in this piece, which illustrated Anna McClellan’s Gold-Key winning feature story, “For close Bush adviser, 9/11 emotions remain strong,” are snippets from calls made by victims and first responders on Sept. 11, 2001. The number 2,996 represents the total number of fatalities caused by the attacks.  (Anna McClellan)

Feature Writing

Anna McClellan, “For close Bush adviser, 9/11 emotions remain strong,” honorable mention

In-Depth Reporting: Individual

Evie Barnard, “Q: Why is Fine Arts Academy coordinator job being cut? A: You better sit down for the answer. It’s complicated.”  third place

News Writing

Alice Scott, “King, queen and in between,” third place

Opinion Column

Alice Scott, “Beautiful blue eyes,” honorable mention

Pandemic Coverage: Single Stories

Alice Scott, “Universities, school districts respond differently to threat of omicron,” honorable mention

Political Writing

Alysa Bijl-Spiro and Amaya Collier, “‘Critical race theory’ bill spurs discussion, criticism,” third place

Profile Writing

Madelynn Niles, “Recess back in session,” honorable mention

Review Writing

Madelynn Niles, “‘Minari’ at once authentically turbulent, wonderful,” first place

Sports Event Coverage

Thomas Melina Raab, “Same place. Same two players. Different outcome.” honorable mention

Photo Categories

Anna McClellan’s first-place cartoon, which illustrated, the board editorial, “Campus safety comes at a cost,” conveyed visually the staff’s concerns that the district’s new surveillance software compromised student privacy rights’ in the pursuit of campus safety (Anna McClellan).


Anna McClellan, “Campus safety comes at a cost,” first place

Amaya Collier, “All work and no play makes Mac a dull school,” second place

News Feature Photography

Kennedy Weatherby, “Last nights on stage as a Knight,” third place

Caroline Owen, “The cast converges on Jessie Lucas,”  honorable mention

Sophie Kessler, “Band takes sixth in state,” honorable mention

LAST NIGHTS ON STAGE AS A KNIGHT: Appearing in five dances including his senior solo, senior Matthew Vargas made the most of his final McCallum dance performance. “The most special thing about the show was being able to dance with my friends one last time as a Knight,” he said. Given that mindset, it is little surprise that his favorite two numbers in the show were the ones in which he took the stage with the other pre-professional dance group seniors. This image captures Vargas at the height of his leap alongside his senior company mates Avery Miller, Dorothy Anne Smith and Abby Tobleman during the appropriately named number, “Solidarity.” The dance was choreographed by MAC dance student directors Miller and Isabelle Baird and was therefore performed earlier in the year at the student-directed dance show on the outdoor stage. The seniors performed it three more times in the MAC this past weekend. “This piece was special because we have been working on it for a long time,” Vargas said. “When we do it, it’s just all muscle memory, so we can all have fun.” (Kennedy Weatherby)

Photo Slideshow

Jaella Brush, Amaya Collier, Francesca Dietz, ElizaBess Estrada, Meredith Grotevant, Reese Hudson, Eliza Jensen, Sophie Leung-Lieu, Julian Magee, Ariana Mendez, Will Myren, Hadlee Varela, Grace Vitale, Francie Wilhelm, Annabel Winter and Ben Zacharias, “Hands down, the best photo essay we’ve published,” third place

Photo Illustration

Grace Nugent, “How masked is Mac?” third place

Profile Portrait Photography

Anna McClellan, “The return to campus,” second place

Sports Reaction Photo

Ellen Fox, “Over seven years in the making,” second place

Mia Gomez, “Defensive MVP Tino Rodriguez,” honorable mention

This Feb. 26, 2021, op-ed page design, a first-place Gold Key winner, contained two pandemic-themed personal columns in a page design anchored by Bella Russo’s illustration of a handshake. The page art conveyed the essential message of both columns: the need for human interaction despite (and even because of) the physical isolation caused by COVID-19.

Design Categories

Editorial Page Design

Alysa Bijl-Spiro, Ellen Fox and Bella Russo, “Dispel despair/pandemic of black boxes,” first place

Lanie Sepehri, “It’s time to write off annotation,” third place

The key piece in two Gold Key-winning multimedia entries, this broadcast package, “Coffeehouse makes a comeback,” presents performances from the first Coffeehouse show on campus in a year and a half plus interviews of what the twice-annual event means to the performers and to Mac as a whole. Video produced by Alice Scott with video captured by Caroline Owen and Samantha Powers.

Multimedia Categories

Audio Podcast: Single Episode

Samantha Powers and Theo Roe, “Ella Villalón to star as Susanna in Austin Opera’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ in next chapter of eventful career,”  honorable mention

Documentary Video

Alice Scott, “How families can support transgender and nonbinary teens,” first place

Multimedia Feature Package

Evie Barnard, Alysa Bijl-Spiro, Amaya Collier, Carter Eason, Evelyn Griffin, Cassidy Levin, Madelynn Niles, Caroline Owen, Samantha Powers, Sofia Ramon, Alice Scott, and Grace Vitale, “Coffeehouse enjoys triumphant return to Mac campus,” second place

Video Feature Package

Alice Scott, Caroline Owen and Samantha Powers, “Coffeehouse makes a comeback,” third place

Alice Scott and Lucy Marco, “Thank God it’s Friday,” honorable mention

Video News Package

Alice Scott, “Drop in COVID risk factor brings pep rallies back to Mac,” second place

Video Sports Package

Alice Scott and Makenzie Mason, “Seniors step up as leaders,” third place