The Inkblot and CHS Beast take home GSSPA awards


The Inkblot and CHS Beast win big at the Garden State Scholastic Press Association Awards Ceremony, and inspires more to continue writing.

Kara Gallagher and Kaitlin Brice

In June 2020, editors and supervisors of The Inkblot gathered virtually to prepare for the 2021 Garden State Scholastic Press Association Awards Ceremony. The Inkblot’s executive editors and managing editor skimmed through the newspaper’s issues from the 2019-2020 school year and selected the best student-produced stories and artwork. Each submission required pages of paperwork to be filled out by the editors. Yet after all of their hard work and dedication, The Inkblot was finally rewarded at the GSSPA Awards Ceremony on Feb. 18.

The Inkblot finished second for Overall Print Excellence and third place for Overall Online Excellence.

Eight current and former Inkblot staffers also won at least one individual award in the contest, which received entries from student publications of more than two dozen public and private schools across New Jersey.

“It reflects a lot of hard work and they are serving as a role model to people who are thinking about working for The Inkblot,” said journalism teacher and Inkblot adviser Wayne Woolley.

Awards are distributed in three divisions per category: Division A, Division B and Division C, with Division A dedicated to larger schools and Division C for smaller schools. CHS swept the Division C News Writing category, with seniors Brigid McCarthy and Zoe Conner-Bennett’s “Internet access raises privacy concerns” winning first place, senior Madison Beekman’s “JSA risks losing trips, stability unless officialized” coming in second and Class of 2020 alumna Katherine Lombardi’s “Detention policy causes controversy, decrease in late students” coming in third.

Other awards went to CHS Class of 2020 alumni Evan Kuo and Katherine Lombardi for their third-place story in Division C Editorial Writing and senior Jacynth Apora for her first-place story in Division C Reviews. Junior Dani McLaughlin also came in first place for Division C Artwork/Illustrations, and Class of 2020 alumna Adriana Poznanski came in first place for Division C Layout and Design.

Senior Zoe Conner-Bennett of Ocean, who serves as News Editor for The Inkblot, said she feels that the awards ceremony is a great opportunity to honor and reflect on last year’s articles.

“It’s nice because the awards are given to articles from the previous school year, so you kind of forget about those stories,” Conner-Bennett said. “Then when nominations come out, it’s really unexpected.”

Many CHS students also were awarded honorable mentions, including Kuo and Lombardi in Division C News Writing, Conner-Bennett in Division C Feature Writing, McCarthy in Division C In-Depth Reporting and senior Liam Umbs in Division C Photography.

“It always feels really good to get recognition for the work you’ve done, especially from an organization like the GSSPA,” Conner-Bennett said.

Along with The Inkblot, the CHS Yearbook, The Beast, also received an honorable mention at the GSSPA Awards for their book “Perfect Vision.” Despite the unexpected end-of-year situation in which many events were canceled, the staff was still able to create a great book with limited photos to work with.

“They had a great theme, and that was the book where right at crunch time, our world changed,” said photography teacher and yearbook adviser Amanda FitzPatrick. “While everyone was at home, they still managed to keep people involved in the yearbook, they still held meetings, and they finished up a really strong yearbook.”

In addition to the many awards McCarthy received from the GSSPA, she also won the Bob Stevens Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an outstanding journalism student who has demonstrated dedication to his or her school newspaper or yearbook. The award is sponsored by the GSSPA and the New Jersey Newspaper Foundation.

After working with Woolley to submit a 36-page portfolio, letters of recommendation and an essay, McCarthy was entered.

“It was so much work, it was so crazy, but it was so worth it,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy only recently submitted her portfolio, but after a quick turnaround, Woolley informed her that she won.

“I was totally not expecting it because while I do plan on going into journalism, it’s a statewide scholarship, and I don’t think I’m amazing,” McCarthy said. “I’m just always open to learning and I feel like that’s really guiding me to where I’ve been, and getting the opportunity for extra money towards an education that I’m hopefully going to use to work in communications full time when I’m older.”

It’s clear to say that The Inkblot, the yearbook and their staff did not disappoint at the awards ceremony, which is a trend that will hopefully continue for years to come. The awards ceremony is a great opportunity for new journalists to learn from other writers and hopefully have a story of their own be nominated one day.

“Just keep writing,” Conner-Bennett said. “There’s no better way to learn how to write news-style stories than just to keep signing up for articles and internalizing edits.”