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A lifelong love for writing and storytelling, stoked by English classes at Milton, propelled Neha Wadekar ’07 into a career in freelance journalism, she told students at the recent 44th Annual Laurence S. Persky Memorial Awards.   

“I joined Milton in seventh grade, and I remember coming back for my revisit day and Ms. Simon was teaching Pride and Prejudice,” Ms. Wadekar recalled at the ceremony, which honors the best in student-published writing and artwork. “I was blown away by the level of back and forth discussion that the students were having about the meaning of the novel and the specific intentions of certain passages and the construction of particular sentences.”

Today, Ms. Wadekar is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya, where she reports on issues of climate, gender, crisis and conflict, and human rights. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, PBS NewsHour, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, CNN, and others. 

As a Milton student, Ms. Wadekar joined the staff of The Milton Paper, where she first got bitten by the journalism bug. Following her undergraduate studies at Tufts University, she worked for a corporate consulting firm, where she felt unsatisfied. “I took stock of my life and asked myself questions,” she said. “What brought me joy? How did I want to spend my time? What I was good at? And the answer kept coming back to writing.” She enrolled in the Annenberg School for Journalism at the University of Southern California for her master’s degree and never looked back.

Reporting and shining a light on critical issues remains as urgent a need as ever, Ms. Wadekar said. Even as tools like artificial intelligence remove some of the labor of writing, journalists’ judgment and dedication to uncovering the truth will always be needed.

“Journalism has gone through a number of threatening events, from the invention of the internet to the explosion of social media,” she told students. “With each new invention, journalists have feared that we might no longer be needed, that we could easily be replaced, but time and time again that’s proved to be fundamentally untrue. Journalism has adapted, and even improved, because of new technology, and I’m confident that it will again with the widespread proliferation of AI technology. The next Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist or Nobel Prize-winning writer will not be a computer. It will be one of you.”

The Persky Awards were established to honor the memory of Laurence Persky ’79, a talented student writer who died just before his Class I year. Judged by Milton graduate and author Emily Franklin ’90, the awards recognize the best in student publications. Winners received copies of Franklin’s latest novel, The Lioness of Boston, a fictionalized story about the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Franklin presented an award to acknowledge the work put into the spring issue of the F-Word to editors in chief Caitlin Blanksteen ’23 and Genevieve O’Marah ’23. 

Head of School Todd Bland presented the following Persky Awards:

Creative Writing 

Honorable Mentions
Bea Becker ’25
Star Bryan ’23
Henry Dallman ’23
Gabrielle Mott ’25
Naomi Yu’ 24

The Persky Award in poetry: Elena Ferrari ’24

The Persky Award in fiction: Nik Kathiresan ’23


In Digital Drawing
Felicity Wong ’25, “Shades of Silence—Triptych,” the F-Word
Ify Umerah ’25, “Star Face,” Magus Mabus
Dianne Cao ’24 “Cranes Shine on You,” Magus Mabus, and “Scientific Illustrations,” Helix

In Photography
Blake Ankner ’23, “For This Love,” Magus Mabus
Matthew Li ’26, “Relief After the Pilgrimage,” Loose Leaf and Magus Mabus
Michaela Ocko ’23, “Oculus,” Magus Mabus
Jack Weil ’23, “Portrait of Brother,” Loose Leaf

In Drawing/Painting
Keira Zhuo ’24, “School,” Magus Mabus
Alex Wilson ’23, “wrath,” Magus Mabus

In 3D/Mixed Media
Jason Louie ’25, “Anoemia: a miniature goldfish scooping store,” Magus Mabus and Loose Leaf
Genevieve O’Marah ’23, “penetrating trauma,” F Word


Best Science Article
Emma Wang ’23, “Neuroscience and AI Drive Each Other Forward,” Helix.

Best News Writer
Isa Torres ’25, The Milton Measure

Best Non-Milton Feature
Coby Mulliken ’23, “‘Slumerville’ in Transit: Development and Displacement in a Boston Suburb,” The Milton Measure

Best Milton Feature
Julia Torrey ’23, “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: An Investigation into the Sex and Hookup Culture of Milton Academy,” The Milton Measure

Best Editorial—Co-winners
“Milton’s Endowment Could Serve More,” the Editorial Board of The Milton Measure
“The Newfound Anemia for Milton’s Extracurricular Scene,” the Editorial Board of The Milton Paper

Best Commentary/Opinion writing
Jubi Oladipo ’24, The Milton Paper 

Best Milton Sports Article
Liam Kralik ’24, “Somehow They Manage: Team Managers at Milton,” The Milton Measure

Best Non-Milton Sports Article
Sam Berk ’24, “Shoot and Miss: Milton Must Discuss World Cup Controversy,” The Milton Paper

Best Arts Criticism
Louis Chiasson ’23, The Milton Paper

Best Arts Feature
Jason Louie ’25, “Wasting Space to Create The World’s ‘Best Bank Headquarters,’” The Arch

Best Layout
Chloe Johnson ’24, The Arch

To acknowledge the work dedicated to the production of the Yearbook
Emma Petherick ’23, Hannah Knowlton ’23, and Mari Rounds ’23