ALHS student earns prize

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2002

Leah Lohse has always loved writing, starting from when she was very young.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Leah Lohse has always loved writing, starting from when she was very young. And that love has translated into a rich tapestry of writing experiences. Along the way she’s won many awards, especially for her feature writing, but this year her work as a journalist earned her special recognition – Lohse is the Minnesota High School Journalist of the year for 2002.

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With the award, she ranks among the top 30 student journalists in the country.

The award is a recognition of her all around abilities as a journalist, and the 35-page portfolio she submitted as part of the judging included samples of her writing, editing, layout and news photography. She also had to provide six letters of recommendation from teachers and professionals in the field.

Lohse is a senior at Albert Lea High School and is a co-editor – with Megan Levisen – of the Ahlahasa, the student newspaper at the high school. Liz Keeling serves as the faculty advisor for the paper.

While she has always set aside time and energy for writing, Lohse didn’t pursue much public writing until high school. She remembers being selected for the Young Writers Conference one year, but got to school late and missed the bus.

She’s been involved with Ahlahasa and feature writing since she took a journalism class in 10th grade. It’s a place and a kind of work where she really feels as if her curiosity about people and events finds an outlet, Lohse said.

&uot;I fell in love with the concept of telling someone’s story. It’s an incredible gift that someone can give you,&uot; she said.

She found herself really taking to feature writing in particular, partly as a result of an assignment from that first journalism class. She wrote a story about a man who had overcome a drug addiction.

&uot;After that, I just had such a passion for finding out what makes people tick and why they do what they do,&uot; she said.

She remembers hearing a speaker at a workshop she attended talk about how feature writers need to be naturally curious about people in order to be successful.

Although feature writing is her priority and passion, she has contributed to all sections of the paper, with the exception of sports. Difficult or controversial topics do not dissuade her, either. Among the subjects she has covered since starting at the Ahlahasa are untimely death, bulimia, school violence, and diversity. Her most recent editorial posed a question to school administrators, asking why artwork at the new high school is primarily being produced by professionals, with only minor contributions from students.

Lohse has made an impact on those she works with, too.

&uot;I’m fortunate to be able to work with her,&uot; said Liz Keeling, the Ahlahasa advisor. &uot;And I can’t claim to have had much to do with her success.&uot;

Keeling attributes this year’s success of Ahlahasa this year, at least in part, to her leadership. Lohse and Levisen complement each other well and provide a good framework for the whole team to work together, Keeling said.

Mike Webber, a fellow award-winning Ahlahasa writer, also praises Lohse’s leadership. She leads more by example than by directive, he said.

&uot;I think she’s a role model for others on the staff,&uot; Webber said.

According to Lohse, journalism is a good way to make a difference for the better.

&uot;I think journalism is really something that can change your life – not in a sappy way, I mean – I’ve learned so much about myself and others,&uot; Lohse said.

For her, journalism has provided a means and a reason to take on leadership positions. She doesn’t think that would have happened otherwise.

&uot;You have to try it. It broadens your horizons and makes you a better person,&uot; she said.

&uot;And your writing gets better, too,&uot; she added.