THE Department of Education (DepEd) is challenging the region's student journalists to be good and excel in their respective fields to win in the nationwide journalism contest slated next month in Mindanao.

Luz S. Almeda, DepEd-Northern Mindanao director, told the more than 100 student journalists from different areas in the region to give quality outputs during the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) to be held on February 22 to 26 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

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The student journalists are currently undergoing a three-day journalism enhancement training at the Regional Educational Learning Center (RELC) in Barangay Lapasan, this city, which started Friday and ends on Sunday.

Organized by DepEd, the training hopes to further equip the region's student journalists with necessary skills before they would compete for the NSPC.

Almeda said the student writers would eventually become real journalists in the future.

The student journalists, who were accompanied by their corresponding coaches and campus paper advisers, will be taking part in one-on-one sessions with select resource speakers in such categories as news writing, editorial writing, sports writing, feature writing, copyreading and headline writing, editorial cartooning, photojournalism, radio broadcasting and scriptwriting, and on-line writing.

During Friday's opening, Almeda told the journalists to write articles with accurate data, correct spelling, good style and nice penmanship and with the right writing mechanics such as indention, capitalization, margin and punctuation.

Almeda, herself a campus paper adviser before she rose to rank, said penmanship is one important component in writing that contest judges would give utmost consideration.

"If the judge during the contest can't read your articles because of your penmanship, he or she might throw it outright," she said, as she suggests that student journalists may use a good black pen that may somehow help them write nicely.

As the national contest is barely two months away, Ms. Almeda told the student journalists to "adequately prepare" for it.

"If you expect to win but did not prepare for it, nothing would happen. You need to have self-confidence and strong faith - pray with a firm resolve that you will be the best among the best," she said.

Ms. Almeda has been supporting the region's journalism initiative through enhancement trainings as she acknowledges the student journalists' possible contribution to society in the future.