Gilford High Senior Wins Fourth Annual Brodsky Prize

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Howard Brodsky and Serena Pugh. Promotional Photo

MANCHESTER, NH — Gilford High School senior Serena Pugh is the first place winner of the 2021 Brodsky Prize, recognizing journalistic excellence and “out of the box” thinking by high school journalists.

“I vividly remember more than 30 years ago, when my son Jeffrey was co-editor of his school newspaper, and the innovative mind-set and action he showed as top editor of the publication. I look back fondly on the impact the newspaper had on his life at the time. In that spirit, Serena Pugh’s creative thinking, coupled with her fledgling journalistic instincts, make her an ideal winner. Her essay was brave and challenged the status quo,” said Howard Brodsky, a member of the judging committee.

Jeffrey Brodsky established The Brodsky Prize in 2018 to honor, encourage and reward high school journalists around the state, and this year’s cohort is the most geographically diverse and largest in the Prize’s history. With today’s scholarship announcement, “We have awarded over $25,000 to truly outstanding high school journalists,” Brodsky said. This year’s group of winners and finalists represent every corner of the state.

First place winner Pugh will use her $7,500 award to attend Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School in New York, with a focus on Journalism and Design. In her submission essay, Pugh wrote, “I realized journalism was my ideal career path when I saw all the craziness that 2020 had to bring and how journalists helped in diverse ways. Whether it was the election, COVID-19, the BLM protests, our environmental issues, or just staying connected with your community, journalism was the way we were all able to remain informed and almost together, while still being socially distant.”

In addition to Pugh, there were an additional four prize recipients. Finalists in Second Place (tie) were awarded $1,000 each: Eve Brown-Ryder of Manchester Memorial and Zachary Rioux, of Bishop Guertin, Nashua. Third Place Finalists (tie), were awarded $350 each: Tyler Hughes of Winnacunnet High School, Hampton, and Daisy Macdonald of Hinsdale High School. The total 2021 awards were $10,200, the highest in the Brodsky Prize’s four-year history.

“We almost cancelled the Brodsky Prize this year because of Covid,” said Jeffrey Brodsky, “but instead, we decided to turn the pandemic into an instructional writing project.”

Judging criteria included a student’s journalistic initiative and enterprise, as well as what Brodsky calls “a contrarian nature and out-of-the-box thinking.” Since many school newspapers have been challenged by the Covid pandemic, this year’s Brodsky Prize focused on student responses to essay questions, using a Solutions Journalism lens.

The Brodsky Prize was created four years ago by Jeffrey Brodsky, who was co-editor of the student high school newspaper, The Little Green, during the early 1990s. He hopes to encourage “boldness and innovation” by a new generation of student journalists. Brodsky, now 47, received his BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis, and his MA in Oral History from Columbia University in New York. He became a historian and documentary producer before illness forced his retirement and return to his hometown of Manchester, NH.

The Brodsky prize is open to all New Hampshire public and parochial high school students. The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications helps oversee the award program and provides one of the judges, Executive Director Laura Simoes. Longtime judges are Howard Brodsky, Jeffrey’s father, and Chairman and CEO of CCA Global Partners; Misbah Tahir, the former Little Green co-editor, now a biotechnology finance executive; and former NH Union Leader and Sunday News president and publisher Joseph McQuaid. New judges for 2021’s focus on Solutions Journalism as a writing style are Roger Carroll, managing editor of The Laconia Sun, and Leah Todd, New England regional manager of the Solutions Journalism Network. Both the NH Union Leader/Sunday News and The Laconia Sun are part of NH Solutions Journalism Lab projects at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

More information on The Brodsky Prize, including past winners, is available at brodskyprize.com. More information about the Loeb School and the NH Solutions Journalism Lab can be found at loebschool.org.