A three-person jury of professionals has judged entries in News Decoder’s 8th Storytelling Contest. The winners will be announced next week.

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For Tim Agnew, a juror in News Decoder’s 8th Storytelling Contest, reading the submissions was a learning experience.

Fellow juror Helen Womack was impressed by the amount of research the contestants had done and the authoritative voice of the winning entry.

The third judge, former Communications Manager Savannah Jenkins, had this advice for all entrants: Learn from the others and keep trying.

News Decoder will be announcing the three-person jury’s verdicts next week when we cite the winners of the first of two Storytelling Contests this academic year. The most recent competition, the eighth since News Decoder launched in 2015, was open to all students in our 19 partner schools in 14 countries and supported by a generous donor in honor of the late Arch Roberts Jr.

Independent jury judges all entries.

The twice-yearly contest is an opportunity for students to explore topics of global interest, to examine opposing arguments and — for entries that are published on News Decoder’s site — to share their findings with an international audience.

You can read past winning stories here.

An independent jury composed of three professionals assesses the students’ submissions. Winners share $850 in prizes offered by an anonymous donor in memory of Roberts, who had an illustrious international career and shared News Decoder’s commitment to global citizenship.

The jury for the latest contest included Agnew, an expert in commercial finance and economic development who is on News Decoder’s Advisory Board; Jenkins, who is currently studying in a global media master’s program in Paris; and Womack, a News Decoder correspondent who has reported for Reuters, The Independent, The Times and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Previous jurors include Giuliana Nicolucci-Altman, a former News Decoder Student Ambassador from our partner school School Year Abroad now studying at Sciences Po in Paris; Alexandra Gray, former Communications Manager now with a U.S. insurance marketing group; and Danielle Castonzo, another former Student Ambassador, who attended News Decoder partner Indiana University and is now working with a family of schools helping low-income families in Chicago.

Storytelling Contest is a learning experience.

The mix of generations on the juries exemplifies News Decoder’s premise that the young and old can, and should, learn from one another.

“By reading the stories, I not only learned what students are thinking about, I learned about issues and challenges in the world that I wasn’t aware of,” Agnew said. “That is the mark of great journalism.”

Entries in the latest contest touched on topics as varied as conflict in Africa, healthcare and human rights.

“I was impressed by the fantastic amount of research that all the participants had done,” Womack said.

The News Decoder correspondent said she was looking for “a voice” that touched her when reading the stories. “The winner had authority because they spoke from personal experience and it was a very dignified voice,” Womack said.

The jurors’ advice to those who did not top the list?

“Learn from the other entries,”Jenkins said. “Reading others’ writing can help you improve your own. Then try again and again!”

Agnew said: “Please keep writing and don’t be discouraged, and next time you can be at the top of the list. If you feel pride in the work you submit, it shows through to the readers.”

Advice for future contestants?

“Write as you speak; keep it simple,” Womack said. “Facts, statistics and expert opinions are important but don’t forget to quote ‘ordinary’ people.”

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Tendayi Chirawu is News Decoder’s Communications and School Engagement Manager. A citizen of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, she has a masters degree in Global Communication & Civil Society from the American University of Paris. She joined News Decoder in July and has experience working for non-profit and for-profit organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Chirawu is a published author and has written for international news publications.

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Contests Jury draws lessons from News Decoder’s Storytelling Contest