No matter what politicians or which party comes out on top after Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD), a number of students have already secured their winning status. So who are this year's White House Correspondents' Association's scholarship recipients? The 23 winners, who will be recognized at the WHCD, have some pretty impressive bylines already, with even brighter futures ahead of them.
The organization's website lists all of the WHCA scholarship recipients here, coupled with a statement from Jeff Mason, WHCA president and White House correspondent for Reuters, sharing: "We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding scholarship winners, who represent the future of our profession and illustrate the importance of fighting for First Amendment freedoms."
Definitely impressive in their own right, the scholars are honored with awards from Columbia University, the George Washington University, Howard University, Northwestern University, Ohio University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Maryland, and the University of Missouri. Here's a quick rundown of just some of the WHCA's scholarship winners:
- Columbia's pick, Palestinian Syrian journalist Riham Alkousaa will bring her extensive knowledge to the university, as her work has been featured in multiple widely-read international and U.S. publications.
- Teniola Ayomide Ayoola, a U.S. citizen originally from Nigeria, has held multiple internships with the BBC, thus earning her the award from George Washington.
- Anthony B. Brown, Beryl C. Kessio, and Merdie Nzanga all received scholarships from Howard; Kessio's work has been informed by her Kenyan heritage (having been a staff writer at the Morocco World News in Rabat) and Brown's beat extends vastly, from television and pop culture to the Flint water crisis. Nzanga "is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, gaining experience in research, writing, video editing, reporting and interviewing," according to the WHCA.
- Nia Prater and Maryam Salah of Tampa are both national and international political journalists and winners of Northwestern's scholarship. Prater has reported on "the 2017 inauguration, the Women's March, and President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress," and Salah "has reported on Syrian conflicts, Chicago's Syrian refugee population and community perspectives on the 2016 political campaigns." Alejandro (Alex) Ortiz was also awarded by Northwestern for his work emphasizing on social justice and investigative reporting.
- Ohioans Megan Henry, Catherine (Cat) Hofacker and Marisa Fernandez are all highly-involved student journalists who've earned awards from Ohio University. Henry is a staff member at the independent newspaper, The Post; Hofacker is the editor-in-chief of The New Political; and Fernandez is also a senior writer at The Post, where she "was instrumental in helping create the Scripps Hispanic Network."
- For UC Berkeley, Sawsan Morrar is looking to analyze public policy and its lasting effects, having spent a hefty amount of time steeped within her local community.
- Becca King "is representing the winners of the Frank Cormier scholarship, a $20,000 award that is divided among 4 students at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism." She is "a general production intern for WJLA-TV in Washington as well as production crew chief and director for Capitol News Service's Maryland Newsline."
- According to the WHCA, the University of Missouri also gave awards to 10 students, including "Adam Aton of Alpharetta, Georgia; Jinghong Chen of Tianjin, China; Brittany Crocker of Knoxville, Tennessee; Ye Han (Jasmine) of Suzhou, China; Kasia Kovacs of Mountain Grove, Missouri; Molly Olmstead of Gulf Shores, Alabama; Jill Ornitz of Trumbull, Connecticut; Kouichi Shirayanagi of San Mateo, California; Francisco Vara-Orta of San Antonio, Texas; Xuejiao Wang of Qinhuangdao, China."
Though it might have been forgotten amid all the unruliness and uncertainty of this year's WHCD, the actual aim of the dinner is to raise money for the aforementioned scholars and scholarships. What's more, the "events built around the dinner allow collegiate scholarship winners to ask questions of seasoned members of the White House press corps," Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett said, thus allowing the students to learn "from some of the best about how they might be better reporters, storytellers and writers."
It's easy to focus on the controversy, but, at its core, the WHCD is about the future of the First Amendment — a future that the WHCA scholars will, through their diligence and hard work, keep protected and safe.