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Presque Isle High School student lands journalism scholarship, trip to D.C.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Acacia Johnston, a junior at Presque Isle High School, is the only Maine high school student attending the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference this summer in Washington D.C.

Johnston, who has served as co-editor of the high school’s new student newspaper The Anchor, also earned a $1,000 college scholarship as part of the Al Neuharth program, named after the founder of USA Today, the Newseum and the Freedom Forum.

Johnston credits Presque Isle High School English teacher Marcie Young with helping revive a student newspaper at the high school and encouraging students to apply for the all expenses-paid conference and $1,000 scholarship.

“She said it was a really good opportunity for budding journalists. I thought, ‘Hey why not?’ I may as well go ahead and submit something.”

Johnston said that The Anchor is the only high school newspaper in Aroostook County and among a few in the state.

Working on the student newspaper has paired well with her academic and career interests.

“I’ve always had a big interest in writing,” she said, adding that she started writing fiction in elementary school.

“In middle school, I started reading National Geographic magazines,” she said. “I’d love to do something like that.”

The Al Neuharth conference and scholarship accepts only one high school student from each state, and Johnston said she’s looking forward to attending the conference, meeting other student and professional journalists and having an inside look at the nation’s capital city.

“I’ve been once before, and I really love it, especially in summer,” she said. “It’s going to be something where we go to an actual conference, and sit down and talk to other writers.”

Johnston, who works part time at Northeast Trophy in Presque Isle and also takes some college courses, graduates high school in 2019. She said she has “a general idea” of her college and career plans, which may include studying journalism, psychology or history, or a combination of them.

“I definitely want to go to college and I definitely want to challenge myself. I’m not quite sure what I want to do.”

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