McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger


This school year, the McHenry Messenger, its staff and its contributors have earned the following honors from outside organizations…


IJEA All-State Journalism Team

IJEA began the All-State Journalism Team as a way to recognize those students who are “most valuable players” — those students whose leadership, energy, dedication and expertise make their publications possible but whose main contributions often occur behind the scenes. This year, the following MCHS students have made the team:

Madison Harvey


Illinois Women’s Press Associations’s 2024 High School Communications Contest

Started in 1885, the IWPA is an organization of communications professionals whose objective is to maintain and improve the professional standards of members in mass communications in Illinois, to promote their interest, and to provide for the sharing of ideas and information. First place winners of their annual contest go on to compete in the National Federation of Press Women’s High School Communications Contest.

“MCHS cancels in-person learning Friday” by Grace Crockett (first place, News Story)

“Key Club Hosts Annual Gift Wrapping Event” by Reilly Byron (first place, Video News Story)

“A step further” by Lydia Lawrence and Lexi Janik (first place, Radio or Podcast Prepared Report)

“Countdown to Halloween | Urban legends of McHenry County” by Leylah Moreno (first place, News or Feature Photo)

“Teen girls ‘engulfed in growing wave of sadness,’ new national data finds” by Vanessa Moreno  (second place, News Story)

“Still Fine” by Vanessa Moreno (second place, Feature Writing)

“Umm… Merry Christmas | Umm… Podcast Ep. 5” by Madisyn Spencer (second place, Radio or Podcast Prepared Report)

“Grace and Lace Owner Kelly Szarmek brings weddings to Warriors” by Alyssa Thomas (second place, Video Feature Story)

“Gallery | Rocket Relays (High Jump)” by Rose Wenckebach (second place, Sports Photography)

“Opinion | Let’s make this house a Homecoming” by Gabe Santos (third place, Opinion)

“WSM Visits McHenry’s Riverwalk Shoppes” by Maggie Maciaszek (third place, Video Feature Story)

“Lights on” by Lily Adams (honorable mention, Sports Story)

“Opinion: It’s time to confront racism at MCHS” by Lydia Lawrence (honorable mention, Opinion)

“Review | Reflecting on ‘The Last of Us'” by Leylah Moreno (honorable mention, Review)

“Gallery | Rocket Relays (Lady Warriors)” by Rose Wenckebach (honorable mention, Sports Photography)


National Federation of Press Women’s 2024 High School Communications Contest

The NFPW represents professionals and students working across the communications spectrum in the United States. The organization’s High School Communications Contest, one of only a few nationwide communications competitions for high school students, inspires students to do outstanding work in their quest for excellence. First place winners of the IWPA’s annual contest go on to compete in this highly acclaimed competition.

“A step further” by Lydia Lawrence and Lexi Janik (second place, Radio or Podcast Prepared Report)

“Key Club Hosts Annual Gift Wrapping Event” by Reilly Byron (honorable mention, Video News Story)

IJEA Newspaper & Digital News Media Contest

Each year, the IJEA hosts a newspaper and digital news media contest to recognize the best stories and content published by student journalists in the state of Illinois. The competition recognizes individual writers and stories in addition to the best print, digital, and hybrid publications.

Best Overall Publication

3rd: The McHenry Messenger

Best Website:

1st: The McHenry Messenger

Best Advertisement

1st: Beth Brackmann – “Healthy Hub”

Best Alternative Storytelling

1st: Eli Frommes – “Triggered”

2nd: Paulina Borowski, Leylah Moreno, Gabe Santos, Rose Wenckebach – “More than just a victim” (Instagram)

Best Audio Journalism

1st: Lydia Lawrence and Lexi Januk – “A step further”

2nd: Lydia Lawrence – “Found family”

Best Editorial Cartoon:

1st: Beth Brackmann – “One bad grade”

3rd: Claire Crockett – “Under pressure”

Best Headline:

1st: Maggie Demski – “When Thanksgiving rolls around”

Best In-Depth News Story

3rd: Leylah Moreno and Gabe Santos – “More than just a victim” 

Best Multimedia Story Package

HM: Rose Wenckebach and Madison Harvey – “One for the books”

Best News or Feature Photo

3rd: Rose Wenckebach – “More than just a victim” 

Best Personality Profile

3rd: Rose Wenckebach – “Proving the Impossible” 

Best Photo Gallery/Slideshow

1st: Allie Everhart – “Gallery: Honor Flight Welcome Home Celebration”

3rd: Grace Bellavia – “Gallery: Homecoming parade”

Best Review:

1st: Leylah Moreno – “Review | Reflecting on ‘The Last of Us’”

Best Serious Commentary

3rd: Lola Cassidy – “Opinion | Early release Wednesdays prevent students from getting work done”

Best Sports Commentary

1st: Ethan Rasmussen – “Opinion | Sports inequity is deeper than a state send off”

Best Sports Photo

3rd: Madison Harvey – “Varsity dance”

Best Use of Social Media

1st: Paulina Borowski – Instagram @mchenrymessengr

Best Video Story:

1st: Coco Levesque, Jeffrey Norris, Emmanuel Sanchez, and Jack Kernes – “MCHS Choir Visits Carthage”

HM: Reilly Byron, Alyssa Thomas, and Maddie Spencer – “Key Club Hosts Annual Gift Wrapping Event”


Best of School Newspapers Online

School Newspapers Online (also known as SNO) is the platform that the McHenry Messenger uses to publish its online newspaper. They acknowledge the best stories being published on the SNO Sites network by labelling it as “Best of SNO” and republishing it on their website. The following articles have earned such designation this year:

“Have you seen the signs?” by Gabe Santos

“Crossing the bridge” by Lily Adams

“Creating a history” by Mackenzie Sroka

“More than just a victim” by Leylah Moreno and Gabe Santos

“People are people” by Mackenzie Sroka

“Proving the impossible” by Rose Wenckebach


Illinois High School Association State Journalism Tournament

Members of the McHenry Messenger’s staff competed alongside their fellow journalists from Warrior Student Media (including The Warrior Weekly and The Warrior) at the IHSA’s State Journalism Tournament. The following students placed in the top six at the tournament’s Sectional competition on April 6, 2024.

Rachel Kaminski – 1st in Advertising, 1st in Editorial Cartooning

Lydia Lawrence – 1st in Editorial Writing

Michalina Sotka – 2nd in Review Writing

Aika Villa – 3rd in Newspaper Layout

Grace Bellavia – 3rd in Photo Storytelling

Grace Crockett – 4th in News Writing

Emmanuel Sanchez – 4th in Radio News

Hunter Blake – 4th in Sports Writing

Leylah Moreno – 4th in Video News

Madison Harvey – 4th in Video News

Madisyn Spencer – 4th in Video News

Coco Levesque – 4th in Yearbook Layout

Kiera Miller – 5th in Yearbook Caption Writing

Eli Frommes – 5th in Yearbook Copy Writing

Lily Adams – 6th in Feature Writing


NSPA Leadership Award in Student Journalism

To earn the National Scholastic Press Association‘s Leadership Award in Student Journalism, a high school student must serve with distinction for at least two years on the staff of an NSPA-member broadcast, literary arts magazine, newspaper/newsmagazine, specialty magazine, website or yearbook. Students must also be in good academic standing and demonstrate journalistic excellence and staff leadership while maintaining the high ethical standards outlined in the NSPA Model Code of Ethics. Inductees are eligible to wear the NSPA Leadership in Student Journalism teal honor cord at graduation. The following students received this honor from the NSPA this year:

Hunter Blake

Paulina Borowski

Eli Frommes

Lydia Lawrence

Leylah Moreno

Gabe Santos

Mackenzie Sroka


Past Recognition


Highlights Include…

  • All-State Journalism Team (IJEA)
  • Third Best Overall Publication (IJEA)
  • Fourth Place Team at IHSA State
  • First Place in Copy Editing at IHSA State
  • First Place Feature Story (IWPA)
  • Frank Keegan Award for News (YJI)


Highlights Include…

  • Online Pacemaker Nomination (NSPA)
  • Third Best Overall Publication (IJEA)
  • First Place Feature Story (IWPA)
  • First Place in Photo Storytelling at IHSA State


Highlights Include…

  • Newspaper/Newsmagazine Pacemaker Nomination (NSPA)
  • Second Best Overall Publication (IJEA)
  • Third in News Writing at IHSA State
  • All-State Journalism Team (IJEA)


Highlights Include…

  • Best Wesbite (IJEA)
  • Third Best Hybrid Publication (IJEA)
  • All-State Journalism Team (IJEA)