Kent State graduate earns third place in the national Hearst Photojournalism Competition | Kent State University

Kent State graduate earns third place in the national Hearst Photojournalism Competition

Kent State graduate earns third place in the national Hearst Photojournalism Competition

Leah Klafczynski, '15, received third-place honors in the annual Hearst National Journalism Awards Championship.

Klafczynski was selected from more than 1,100 submitted entries and competed against five other finalists in the 55th annual Photojournalism Championship held in San Francisco, California, June 1 - 5, 2015. The judges and the winners were announced that evening at the final awards ceremony on Thursday, June 4. Klafczynski beat out her competitors to earn third-place status, a $3,000 scholarship and a $2 bill.

The first story that Klafczynski ever worked on was the same story she recently completed for her final submission. She began documenting Carli Terepka’s journey into bodybuilding in the fall of 2012. When she heard that Carli would be competing in the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus back in February, Klafczynski reached out to Carli and her media team. 

“I was there shooting the first weekend of March,” Klafczynski said. “It was really cool because I hadn’t seen Carli in so long and to see her progress was really exciting.”

When Hearst semi-finalists were announced, Klafczynski realized that she would have to work on a new story in order to have a stronger submission.

“I hadn’t thought about expanding on my bodybuilding story,” Klafczynski said. “But sitting down with my professors and looking at what I had from my trip to Columbus, versus the story I had previously submitted to Hearst, it became obvious.”

In late April, the School flew Klafczynski to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Carli now resides. She spent a few days shooting her everyday life: working out, doing homework and prepping meals.

“It was a really great opportunity for me to grow as a young photojournalist, especially in the grueling and equally fun editing process once I was back,” she said. “Regardless of the outcome, I was really happy to have gone and worked on something that meant a lot to me, and now to Carli, and to be able to say that I gave it my all.”

JMC Lecturer David LaBelle has mentored Klafczynski throughout her academic career and expressed how proud he is of growth as a young photojournalist.

“From her first photo project, it was evident that Leah Klafczynski possessed the heart and courage to tell compassionate stories with words and pictures,” LaBelle said. “That she moved from twelfth place up into the top five with her final Hearst portfolio, and was invited to San Francisco to the championship shootout, is a testament to her work ethic and ability to capture compelling images with unrehearsed emotion.”

Currently, 108 colleges and universities with accredited undergraduate journalism schools are eligible to participate in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, which awards up to $500,000 in scholarships, grants and stipends annually.

Check out Leah’s semi-final round submission “A World of Her Own.”