MHS journalism students compete in Marfa Lights writing contest 

Marfa High School Junior Austin Milligan rides on a float displaying his PRESS pass and documenting the parade from a unique perspective. Photo by Adele Powers.

MARFA — Student journalists gained valuable field experience this past weekend covering the annual Marfa Lights Festival on behalf of The Big Bend Sentinel.

High school reporters enrolled in Adele Powers’ journalism class competed against one another to report and write about the event. The winning entry, penned by Senior Samantha Martinez, can be found in this week’s edition of the paper. The author will be awarded a $150 prize. 

Martinez’s article was selected by the editorial team for its strong, unique angle — Martinez chose to explore how the different generations of attendees experience Marfa Lights, and bolstered her reporting with supporting quotes and observations. Her piece also demonstrated an attention to narrative structure and flow, beginning with a strong lede and ending with a great summarizing kicker.

“I feel honored — ever since I joined journalism last year, I have gotten really into writing. This is another big step in my decision to pursue journalism or something similar next year in college,” said Martinez. 

“My inspiration for the angle of my story was definitely last year’s Marfa Lights, looking at the older people and the younger kids — who the festival seems made for — and realizing that there’s something that doesn’t fit in as much about teenagers, but we always go every year anyways (if only for the food!!),” she added.

At the start of the school year, Big Bend Sentinel Managing Editor Allegra Hobbs and reporter Mary Cantrell spoke to the journalism students to give an overview of the project and share reporting tips. Event organizer Abby Boyd spoke to classes about Marfa Lights’ legacy and the work that goes into putting on the event. 

An honorable mention goes to the “Press Corps,” juniors Memo Guardiola and Austin Milligan, who tackled the assignment with ferocity, interviewing a wide range of participants, from DJs to park rangers to the chief of police. Milligan even rode on the back of floats in the parade, proudly displaying his “PRESS” badge. 

Marfa High School Senior Samantha Martinez interviews Marfa resident Chick Rabourn at Marfa Lights. Photo by Adele Powers.

Other participants included Giselle Torres, Itzel Urrutia, Flavio Udave, Aubrey Tarr, Madison Cash, Dariela Munoz, Belen Soto and Zoey Salgado who enthusiastically covered the festival’s food vendors, spoke to event attendees, ran in the 5K, photographed behind-the-scenes parade preparations, and succeeded in capturing the overall merriment of the community gathering. 

Powers said she was impressed by the rookie reporters’ willingness to interview people and gather information, especially the freshman, who began journalism class just a few weeks ago. She said overall the entries reflected the often overlooked experience of Marfa’s teenagers.  

“I’m so impressed. They jumped in feet-first to complete the assignment and report out their stories,” said Powers. “I think the perspectives my students have on Marfa Lights is great. We see the world through the eyes of a teenager for a second: always hungry, caught between childhood and adulthood, cruising for cute boys, talking to church ladies — [the stories] have everything!”