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Arizona High School Station Named Best in the Nation

Recognition of KPGN(FM) comes from annual John Drury High School Radio Awards

KPNG, East Valley Institute of Technology
East Valley Institute of Technology student Annaliese Stickle sitting at the board; behind, left to right, student and Drury finalist Finn Taylor, senior Jonas Pearson, Pulse Operations Manager Brian Mobley, student and Drury finalist Amber Solomon, Faculty Advisor Dave Juday and student Moriah Paynes.

A high school radio station has been honored with four national awards — including Best High School Radio Station — for their efforts in news reporting, promotion and coverage of key social issues.

KPNG(FM) Pulse Radio is a 5,000-watt public radio station on FM 88.7 that showcases the talents of students enrolled at the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), a career and college prep school in Mesa, Ariz. The awards are part of the annual John Drury High School Radio Awards — named after TV news anchor John Drury — to recognize excellence in high school radio broadcasting in 17 areas including categories like best newscast, best sports talk program and best website.

KPNG, East Valley Institute of Technology
Pulse Sports crew at a high school game. Left to right – East Valley Institute of Technology alum Jimmy Watters, students Finn Taylor, Braden Lilly and Moriah Paynes, alum Derek Montgomery, student Parker Gurash and staff engineer Amanda Krainski.

As part of the 2020–21 awards, Pulse Radio students within the Radio/Audio Production program at EVIT were honored with Best High School Radio Station, Broadcaster of the Year, Best Public Affairs Program and Best Station Promo.

[Read: Drury Awards Celebrate High School Radio]

“Words can’t describe how proud I am of our EVIT Radio students,” said Dave Juday, a radio/audio production instructor at EVIT and faculty advisor at the station. “Regarding the last school year, I’ve said multiple times that not only did our students survive in-person learning during a pandemic, but they also found a way to thrive. These awards are a testament to our students’ hard work and the dedication they have to see our program and radio station succeed.”

One of the newest categories — Broadcaster of the Year — was given to recent graduate Donoven Ong, who was also named Student of the Year by the school’s Radio/Audio Production department. Ong is currently a freshman at Northern Arizona University, where he has already launched his college radio career at KJACK Radio.

KPNG, East Valley Institute of Technology
Radio students Annaliese Stickle (left) and Finn Taylor in one of the production rooms.

Recent graduate Essie Bianco was honored for Best Public Affairs Program for her Public Pulse show about mental health. The program focused on mental health of students and staff as they dealt with off-campus virtual learning and a return to in-person instruction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best Station Promo was awarded to senior Justin Brooks for his Halloween promo production.

This is the third year that EVIT students have competed in the John Drury High School Radio Awards and overall received 21 nominations — the most of any high school — in 11 categories. The honors continue a streak for the station: In 2019–2020, EVIT students were recognized for Best Public Affairs Show, Best PSA and Best Radio Drama. The previous year, EVIT earned awards for Best Promo and Best Station Advisor.