Association picks Utica High senior as state’s top student journalist

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published April 1, 2024

 The Journalism Education Association named Natalie Garwood, of Utica High School, the 2024 Michigan Journalist of the Year.

The Journalism Education Association named Natalie Garwood, of Utica High School, the 2024 Michigan Journalist of the Year.

Photo provided by Jennifer Kane


UTICA/SHELBY TOWNSHIP/STERLING HEIGHTS — Utica High School student Natalie Garwood has been named the 2024 Michigan Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Education Association.

There will be a celebration of her achievement at the National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City this week.

Garwood, who concentrates on photojournalism, said being recognized as Michigan’s Journalist of the Year is “just incredible.” She said she dedicated her life to her schools’ publications for five years, going back to Shelby Junior High School’s Pawprint yearbook, and to be recognized at a high level is “unbelievable.”

“I was confident that I would make the Student Journalist Staff, but I thought being named top in the state was pretty much out of the question because none of the previous winners I had seen were focused on photojournalism. I’ve gotten dozens of compliments on my photos and stories by parents, teachers and students, but to be recognized by Michigan’s interscholastic press association is just on an entirely new level,” she said.

She said she spent months putting her portfolio together to include pieces that best represented her as a journalist.

“I remember sitting there working on it all of holiday and midwinter break and thinking, ‘I really hope I win something because doing all of this for nothing would suck.’ To have the chance to compete at the national level is mind-blowing. I’m so excited to be able to compete against fellow student journalists who have put just as much time and effort into their publications as myself. Eighth grade me who joined publications so she wouldn’t have to be in the yearbook would be in complete shock at how far I have come since then,” she said.

Stacy Smale, adviser to the Warrior yearbook and Arrow newspaper, let Garwood know she won while Garwood was covering a basketball game. Smale said she was impressed by Garwood’s initiative and passion for photography and journalism.

“Natalie is one of the most talented student journalists I’ve ever worked with. Of course, photography is her passion, but it’s unusual to have a journalist that can do it all, from writing to design,” Smale said.

She said Garwood is dedicated to everything she does and has shown the diversity in the school community by covering athletics or reporting about new clubs.

“She worked on her online portfolio for over a year, and it’s obvious that she deserves this honor. I’m incredibly proud of everything she’s accomplished and can’t wait to follow her career, which will undoubtedly be filled with more accolades and honors,” she said.

For more information about Garwood’s work, visit