Cronkite student Savannah Rose Dagupion

First-year Cronkite student wins Hawaii Student Journalist of the Year award

Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021


One first-year Cronkite student has been recognized as a top journalist in her state before ever stepping foot in a downtown classroom.

Savannah Rose Dagupion was honored as Hawaii’s 2021 Student Journalist of the Year after coaxing some of her fellow classmates to help her revive the journalism program at Kamehameha Schools, Maui. The annual award, given by the Journalism Education Association, recognizes student journalists across the United States on the state and national levels. 

Dagupion collaborated with five of her peers to reinstate the student newspaper and revive Nā Koa magazine, which spotlights segments of Hawaiian culture — such as the environment, music and art —  with the Maui community as the target audience. The magazine hadn’t been published in three years — until Dagupion came along. 

Dagupion, who discovered her love for journalism in eighth grade, said her experience reviving the newspaper and magazine allowed her to tell stories important to her community and grow as a leader.

“Each story was an opportunity for me to learn, and I improved, one assignment after another. Without editors, I learned how to guide and motivate myself,” wrote Dagupion in her personal narrative submitted for the contest. “The journaling, writing, and art that I experimented with in middle school blossomed into a passion for serving the Maui community, giving the underrepresented a platform, advocating for journalism, and using my mindset to lead the journalism and yearbook staffs — even before I was an editor.” 

One of her favorite stories from the magazine was about an ukulele teacher at her middle school who was influential in her community. “It was really touching,” she said. “He’s really quiet, even though he’s an ukulele teacher, so in the story I brought more of his personality out and people were thrilled to see another side of him.”

Dagupion wanted to attend college in the western United States in order to stay close to her home. She was excited to see that the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and the University of Southern California had highly ranked journalism schools. She ultimately decided on ASU because she liked the school’s “personable culture,” which came through in its correspondence to her. 

“I was really drawn to ASU because of the community,” she said. “Ever since I applied and up through now I’ve been in good communication with advisers and people who are really helpful, so I just love that.”

At Cronkite, the Hawaii native looks forward to learning how to better serve communities through journalism, specifically in print mediums, and to strengthen public trust in journalism. She hopes to learn more about covering community issues so she can give voice to Hawaiians when she returns home after graduation.

By Kasey Brammell