The Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, D.C. awarded West Side Story staffer, Marta Leira ’21, as Iowa’s winner in the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference for 2020. The program targets rising high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism and who demonstrate qualities of a “free spirit.” Each year, the Institute honors 51 students in the country—one from each state plus Washington, D.C.—with a scholarship and an all-expenses-paid journalism conference held in Washington, D.C. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s conference will not take place in person in D.C. and instead be held remotely.
The Freedom Forum Institute funds the scholarship and conference to honor Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, to promote the vital role of the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy and to inspire and encourage students to pursue journalism.
Leira is currently WSS news editor and will be the WSS editor-in-chief for the print section next year.
Previous WSS Free Spirit winners include Anjali Huynh ’19, Isabelle Robles ’17, Lushia Anson ’14, Ashton Duncan ’12, Eleanor Marshall ’11 and Gordon Bourjaily ’06.