A Kansas State University senior has earned a fourth-place finish in a national writing contest for her article about accepting her gay father.
Kelsey Castanon, senior in journalism and mass communications, Stilwell, received the honor in the William Randolph Hearst Journalism Award Program’s feature writing contest for her article, “Father, daughter relationship tested after his confession: ‘I’m gay.’” The article follows Castanon in her struggle to accept the new reality for her family. The award includes a $1,000 scholarship and a matching grant to the university’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Only schools accredited by the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication are eligible to have their students apply for the Hearst Award Program’s writing contests.
Castanon originally wrote the article for a personal experience story assignment in a magazine and feature writing class offered by the Miller School. She later decided to publish the article in the Kansas State Collegian, the university’s student newspaper, with approval from her family.
She said her family and countless others provided overwhelming support.
“I also got a lot of emails from people I didn’t know in following days saying they were glad I shared my story,” Castanon said. “I’m sure it’s something more people struggle with, so I was glad it touched people.”
Kimetris Baltrip, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications, helped Castanon enter the article in the Hearst contest. Baltrip, who has helped many students enter writing contests, said Castanon’s article was unlike any other.
“Many of them are more traditional types of features, but this was something very intimate and written in first-person,” Baltrip said. “It took a lot of courage for Kelsey to be willing to include that information on her family and her life. I appreciated the courage that it took.”
Angela Powers, director of the A.Q. Miller School, says faculty like Baltrip are encouraging students to enter national contests and the results show that it is paying off.
“Our students are producing some of the best work in the nation in terms of journalistic quality in our classes and for our student media, so it’s important they get recognition,” Powers said.
When Castanon was notified she had been honored, she knew who she had to share the news with first.
“When I got the letter in the mail, the first thing I did was call my dad,” she said. “I was just so excited and am so glad he supported me writing it because I wouldn’t have won it if he didn’t.”