First Prize

2021 News (Small Newsroom) Winners

Jackie Mader, Kavitha Cardoza & Kate Rix, The Hechinger Report

The Trauma Epidemic

About the Winners

Hechinger staff writer Jackie Mader explored how toxic stress — repeated, ongoing trauma — could lead “to changes in the brain’s structure” for young children and “result in difficulties with executive functioning and decision-making, academic challenges, and behavioral issues, and even manifest in higher rates of health problems such as heart disease and depression during adulthood.”

In another story, Hechinger contributor Kavitha Cardoza examined a district where mental health has long been a subject of concern: Aurora, Colorado, a town with a history of mass shootings.

Comments from the Judges:

“Students’ mental health has suffered tremendously during the pandemic, and the Hechinger Report stories in this series give the issue the attention it deserves. The reporters approached the topic from many angles, and found compelling anecdotes that brought the issues to life. Overall, a strong, well-reported series on a significant and timely topic.” 

“From the 12-year-old riddled with guilt after a close friend’s suicide to the plight of overstressed parents and social workers, these stories put us right into the homes, the schools, and the lives of people wrestling with stress and crises. The stories were not just a litany of woes, but they offered solutions to the problem.”