Student Journalist of the Year
By G'Ra Asim, NABJ Program Assistant
Until a few years ago, Philip Lucas did not even aspire to attend college. That changed after he enrolled in a journalism class "just for fun” as a sophomore at Franklin High School in Seattle.
This year, because of his exemplary journalistic rigor as a black full-time collegian at historic Howard University in Washington, D.C., Lucas is NABJ’s student journalist of the year.
"NABJ is pleased to recognize Phillip Lucas, one of our best and brightest students,” NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said.
Lucas, 21, began to intern at the South Seattle Star that same sophomore year in high school. He remembers it as an "amazing” experience. "Because the office was so small, I was able to see the ways editorial, advertising and business came together to keep a paper running,” he said. "Being able to speak with the editor, advertising specialists, graphic designer and publisher gave me a comprehensive understanding of journalism at a relatively young age.”
Lucas realized that journalism was his ticket after working his way up to become editor-in-chief of The Franklin Tolo, his high school newspaper. He set off east and enrolled in Howard in 2006. The move was a profound departure from his experience as a graduate of an inner-city high school where relatively few students ventured so far from home.
"Most people I spoke with prior to moving told me how great Washington, D.C., would be,” he said. "When I got there I realized none of them had ever lived there. Most took tours which don’t typically extend beyond the monuments, museums and Georgetown.”
After arriving in the nation’s capital, Lucas became immersed in print journalism, working as a writer for The Hilltop, Howard’s campus newspaper, by day and as a copy editor by night. He developed a leadership presence early on, facilitating weekly editorial board meetings and composing daily editorials as the editorials and perspective editor.
Lucas has served as a CNN-U campus correspondent, interned for the Seattle Times and the Washington Bureau of ABC’s "Nightline” and the Washington Bureau of The Buffalo News, and acted as a contributing writer for the Washington Informant.
"Phillip is one to watch and worthy of NABJ’s support and recognition,” said Howard University Journalism Professor Yanick Rice Lamb, a former president of the New York Association of Black Journalists. "When I think of Phillip, I think of excellence.”
"Phillip is a prime example of the outstanding black journalists produced by our HBCUs,” said NABJ Student Representative Georgia Dawkins. "I look forward to watching his career grow.”
Lucas earned a spot in the New York Times Student Journalism Institute in New Orleans in 2009. While there, he garnered a 2009-2010 10th place Hearst Journalism Award.
"I had to make sure the homeowners were comfortable with talking about their insurance and drywall suppliers in front of the camera,” he said. "The impact the story had on homeowners that found out they would have to rebuild again after Katrina was tremendous. The story was close to me because I have family in the southern Louisiana area.”
Lucas has earned several scholarships including a White House Correspondent Association Scholarship, Grace Halsell Memorial Scholarship, Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship and Seattle Association of Black Journalists Scholarship. He is interning for The Washington Post and participating in the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholars Program. He identifies mental health care, poverty and illiteracy as topics of increasing significance to him.
"I realize that no matter how much I’ve accomplished, there’s always more to be done,” Lucas said. "I want to know that I can make a difference for people, broaden perspectives and work toward the good of the public.”