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Two Rivers Student Wins NY Times Photojournalism Award


Congratulations to Ericka Mickelson, a senior at Two Rivers High School, for winning The New York Times 2019 Summer Academy Photojournalism Challenge! 


She was one of two Grand Prize winners selected – from 1,600 students who were accepted into The School of The New York Times Summer Academy.  Participating students attended two-week sessions last summer, in either New York City or Washington D.C.  Approximately 4000 photographs of the two cities were submitted for the annual Instagram challenge and reviewed by New York Times staff.


Ericka Mickelson’s photo (below), taken on the boardwalk at Coney Island, was the New York photo that won!


Photo by Ericka Mickelson, published in the New York Times

Photo by Ericka Mickelson


When they announced the 2019 Photojournalism Challenge Winners, New York Times’s Social Media Photo Editor Beth Flynn wrote this about the photo: 

“Ericka’s image was such a wonderful portrait of lines and shapes — of the bench and the railing; the curve of the tennis balls mimics the curve of the man’s back, and the strap and leaning of his bag mimic the angle of his leg. A still life of a person and his things.”


As a grand prize winner, Ericka’s photo was published in a nationwide print edition of the Sunday New York Times, on October 13, 2019.


Photographer Ericka Mickelson


The Sunday New York Times, October 13, 2019.


Ericka’s interest in photography began about two years ago when she was a sophomore.  Since her grandfather enjoyed photography, she was inspired to try it as well.  At first, she used the camera on her phone.  Last year, she did a project on the history of photography, and has since incorporated photography into other school work.  She had never taken a photography class, until last summer…when she studied creative writing, photography, and theatre while attending  the The New York Times Summer Academy Program.  Her favorite subjects to photograph are people and environments.


Ericka learned about the NYT program through the Internet, applied and was accepted.  To help cover the costs, she shared that as a student in Foster Care, she turned to some of the great organizations that help foster kids with academic assistance and other essential support.  The non-profit Treehouse for Kids, for example, bought her a camera and supplies, and contributed $500 to this opportunity.  The YMCA also donated $500.  And, she was especially thrilled when Pearl Jam Guitarist Mike McCready responded to her Go Fund Me efforts with a donation of $1500 to help with the program and travel costs! 


After graduating from Two Rivers, Ericka plans to go to college to study photography, journalism and social work, and hopes to find a career that combines all three.  When asked what her dream job would be, she said “… to be a photographer for The New York Times or National Geographic, where I could get paid to do what I enjoy and explore the world.”


Best wishes to you, Ericka.  We look forward to seeing more of your talented work in the future.