A national organization dedicated to improving news literacy and helping Americans be better informed selected a Gwinnett County senior as its student of the year.
By selecting Ana Sesma of Mill Creek High School as student of the year, the News Literacy Project considers her a change-maker who has “shown dedication to ensuring that more people learn the skills they need to resist misinformation and identify credible news sources in today’s chaotic information environment,” according to a news release.
The organization defines news literacy as “the ability to determine the credibility of news and other information and to recognize the standards of fact-based journalism to know what to trust, share and act on.”
Sesma told the News Literacy Project: “I have some responsibility, especially to those around me, or that are closer to me, to be able to correct bias or the wrong sources that they have, and make sure people are a little more news-literate than they originally were.”
She highlighted social media as spreading toxic and unrealistic expectations for body image — a form of misinformation that she said can harm mental health.
Sesma also noted the media attention on Gwinnett County and metro Atlanta in presidential elections as an additional stressor.
“Being here in Georgia, it’s a lot more intense for politics and elections,” she said, adding that all the attention from a variety of news sources makes it “really easy to get confused.”
News literacy, Sesma said, can help young people be more resilient to pressures from various types of media.
Sesma’s language arts teacher Erin Wilder nominated her for the award. “Ana has a grasp of the world beyond our high school and the ‘bubble’ of her peers,” Wilder said. “The work Ana did in class has helped change how she engages with information and media and given her a fuller perspective and the ability and understanding of the importance of analyzing sources and content.”
The award Sesma received is named for journalist Gwin Ifill, who was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show and part of the first all-female anchor team of a national news broadcast. She worked at prominent news outlets throughout her career and co-anchored “PBS NewsHour” until her death in 2016.
The News Literacy Project also recognized educator Alba Mendiola and WBEZ reporter Natalie Y. Moore, both in Chicago, as change-makers in their respective fields.
They and Sesma will be honored at a ceremony this week in Washington, D.C.
Josh Reyes covers Gwinnett County Public Schools for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native of Virginia, he wrote about local government and public safety at the Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot. He graduated from Christopher Newport University with a B.A. in English.