Grace Kelly of Hoffman Estates is the co-captain of the Scholastic Bowl at Saint Viator High School, and she also participates in theater and is a senior editor of the school’s Viator Voice newspaper. They all play a role in her uncanny ability to create eye-catching headlines. Make that state champion headlines.
“I’ve had a lot of practice at it,” Grace says with a smile. “People turn to me in the newsroom if they need help.”
For the second straight year, Grace competed with Viator Voice editors in the IHSA state journalism competition. This year, she competed in both review writing and headline writing. At sectionals, she took first in headline writing and at the state finals on Saturday in Normal, she won again. She was crowned the state champion and was the only student from a private school to finish in the top six of any of the categories at state.
Grace has worked on Viator Voice all four years and this year served as editor of the Arts & Entertainment section. Headline writing is fun, she says, but she goes about her craft deliberately.
“First and foremost, I want people to know what the story is about,” she says, “and I want them to be interested in it.”
For the state competition, students were assigned to craft headlines for six stories running on the front page of a high school newspaper. They were given a snapshot of the layout, showing where each story would appear on the page, and a character count for each headline, that included a limit on the number of letters and spaces.
Students had to read all six stories and come up with standout headlines, all in 90 minutes. Grace still remembers the first one she wrote, for a story examining a ban on TikTok across the country: U.S. “Tok-s” of Media Ban Plan. Another was for the announcement of this year’s prom theme: Committee “Prom-ises” Magical Night.
“I like to think outside the box when it comes to word play,” Grace says. “The hardest part is when you come up with a great headline but you’re over the character limit by one letter.”
Grace says she has a passion for writing and storytelling, and she loves the challenge of playing with words to come up with the right combination. But she also grew up in a home that follows the news. Her father, Greg Kelly, is an assignment editor for CBS 2 Chicago and they have had a daily newspaper delivered as long as she can remember.
“I couldn’t believe it when my name was called,” Grace says of being called onto the stage to receive her medal. “I never dreamt I’d make it that far. But the support I received from my team was great. That made it all worth it.”
Mr. Chris Paolelli, who is the English department chair and newspaper advisor, says Grace plays an important role among the newspaper staff.
“We had a small editorial staff this year with lots of first-time editors, so everyone had to work extra-hard to put out a quality paper, and they certainly have,” Mr. Paolelli says. “One part of the job was comparatively easy this year, though, and that was headlines, because we had Grace Kelly.
“She was like a headline prophet,” he adds. “Other editors would come to her for an idea, she’d close her eyes or look into the distance for a second, and then come back with something stunning.”
This fall, Grace heads to the University of Illinois in Champaign, where she intends to major in biology, with the hopes of one day advancing accessibility in health care. She hasn’t ruled out writing for the Daily Illini, but she wants to see how much time her course load will take first. This much she knows: writing will always be a part of her life.