A Jamboree Today staffer, Eagle Scout Al Drago, has won a prestigious national journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Drago was recognized for his work with The Pendulum, the student newspaper at Elon University, where he is a junior and also photo chief for the Elon Local News. His front page illustration for The Pendulum's "Breaking the Bank" story in the February 6, 2013, edition won the Photo Illustration Mark of Excellence award in the small school division, which includes schools with 9,999 or fewer students.
At the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, Drago was Jamboree Today's photo editor. He continued on the jamboree photo staff in 2013.
"Working for Jamboree Today in 2010 was a terrific experience and a whole lot of fun," Drago says. "I learned a lot in two weeks from more seasoned journalists that taught me to slow down and really get the whole story."
In addition to the national award, he also received recognition as a national finalist in the feature photography and sports photography categories.
"Both The Pendulum and Drago [also] won first-place Mark of Excellence regional honors at the SPJ Region 2 conference March 29 in Washington, D.C.," according to a release from Elon University.
Drago says that his path to The Pendulum and Elon University's journalism program started with his first assignments at Jamboree Today. That's where he met photo director Randy Piland.
"He was a photojournalism professor at Elon University in North Carolina and that just so happened to be the number one school I wanted to go to next year," says Drago. "We worked really well together and I came out to Elon and sat in on some classes my senior year. I was hooked."
Piland advises Elon's chapter of the National Press Photographers Association, of which Drago is president.
"Randy helped me transition into Elon and really smoothly and since then my photos and confidence have taken flight," says Drago. "I've got a long way to go but Randy and scouting have always had my back. And for that, I will always be grateful."
Since 1937, Jamboree Today has published the daily news of National Scout Jamborees. The service's staff includes a mix of professional journalists who mentor aspiring youth reporters, photographers, and editors from across the country.
"I learned a lot in two weeks from more seasoned journalists [at Jamboree Today who] taught me to slow down and really get the whole story," Drago says.
Reflecting on his time at Jamboree Today, Drago also appreciated building his professional network for his future career.
"I'm really happy I've stayed in touch with shooters like M.P. King from the Wisconsin State Journal, and Jim Brown, Dean Emeritus at Indiana University," he says.
Drago is not the first Scout to become an accomplished journalist after working for Jamboree Today.
Eagle Scout Mike DeSocio, a first year student at Boston University, was recently selected for a coveted internship program sponsored by the New Jersey Press Foundation. This summer he will join the photo staff of Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J. DeSocio will bring with him his experience as associate photo editor at the university's student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, as well as his work as a reporter and photographer at Jamboree Today in 2013.
Drago and the other national SPJ winners will be recognized in a Sept. 5 ceremony at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism conference in Nashville, Tenn. He was also just awarded the James F. Hurley Legacy Scholarship for "demonstrated excellence in the field."
"I am so proud of our staff for their hard work and dedication," said Rebecca Iannuci, The Pendulum's former editor, in the same university statement.
Looking ahead, "This summer I'll be headed to the Baltimore Sun as a photo intern before spending 6 monthes studying journalism in Morocco," says Drago. "After that, who knows!"