WTOP’s Junior Reporter Contest winners continue to impress, 6 months later

WTOP’s first annual Junior Reporter contest ended with three awesome winners, and six months later they continue to impress us.

Brendan Friedrich of Leesburg is graduating from Heritage High School, and heading to Northern Virginia Community College. (Courtesy Friedrich family)
Eighth grader Benjamin Sylvestre of Bowie has been accepted into Gonzaga College High School, and earned a scholarship. (Courtesy Sylvestre family)
Lana Basri standing next to her Free Little Library in West Java, Indonesia. (Courtesy Basri family)
Lana Basri standing next to her Free Little Library in West Java, Indonesia. (Courtesy Basri family)
A photo of Lana’s Free Little Library, outside of her grandmother’s store in Indonesia. (Courtesy Basri family)
Lana Basri standing next to her Free Little Library in West Java, Indonesia. (Courtesy Basri family)

Each won $500 for themselves, and another $1,000 for their school.

Brendan Friedrich of Leesburg, Virginia, a senior at Heritage High School, put some of his prize money toward things he hopes will land him a career in broadcasting.

“I’ve taken voice lessons…I’ve paid…to be on an online dashboard where I can audition for various jobs, commercials, narrations, stuff along those lines,” he said.

He graduates high school with recognition of his achievements as a member of the National Honor Society, and will head next to Northern Virginia Community College.

“I’m going to start there part time at this time, and hopefully work toward a degree in communications later down the road,” Friedrich told WTOP.

Benjamin Sylvestre of Bowie, Maryland, who’s in eighth grade at St. Pius X Regional School, is busy planning for high school.

“After a long process of me writing essays and taking exams, I’ve gotten in to two of the three schools that I…wanted to be accepted into. I was lucky enough to be accepted into my top choice, Gonzaga College High School,” he said.

Sylvestre has been chosen to be a Presidential Scholar in Gonzaga’s Class of 2023, earning him $3,000 toward tuition every year for four years.

How is he spending his contest winnings?

“I’ve spent half of the money for a component for the computer that I built, and the other half of the money is going to go towards a laptop that I have to get for school,” Sylvestre said.

Although he’s not sure what he wants to do as a career, he said he might look into computer engineering.

Lana Basri of Silver Spring, Maryland, a second grader at Glenallan Elementary School, followed through on what she told WTOP she planned to do with her winnings.

She has relatives in Indonesia, which was rocked by several earthquakes last year. Basri decided to build a Free Little Library in that country.

“The Little Free Library is important because sharing books with other kids is nice, and they can read a book anytime,” Basri said.

The library was designed by her grandfather, and placed outside of her grandmother’s store in West Java.

“The library was made out of steel so it could last long…for years and months or something,” said Basri, who also donated toys to kids living in earthquake-affected areas of Indonesia.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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