Media professionals from Southeast Texas and throughout a nine county region gathered Friday night at the Lamar University Library to award those who have showed excellence in their fields during 2012.

The banquet and competition raises funds for scholarships for communications student at Lamar University.

Record Newspapers, Mark Dunn swept the category of New Page Design/Layout and won first, second and third place. He also took home a first place for overall excellence page design/layout. The Record Newspapers were awarded third place for overall excellence.

Penny Leleux won a second place award for Fine Arts Reviews/Critiques when she wrote “Momma God,” a tale of lost love found.

Her award winning story written in October 2012 read, “Sometimes mental illness manifests in the form of religious fervor. Such is the case in “Momma God” written by Glenda Dickey and Bob Parr. A fictionalized memoir, the names have been changed, but the story is true. It’s a tale of a lifelong love began as teens, torn apart by a zealot mother and reunited more than 50 years later.”

Winning first place under the General Column category, was Debby Schamber.  She wrote the column in December after listening to the news one morning and heard a woman sobbing about the loss of her 6-year-old daughter following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. In her column, Schamber recounts the struggles she too had at the loss of a child and the journey which lies ahead for the parents of the children lost in the shooting.

Schamber also took home third place award for a column she wrote in October 2012, “Domestic Violence: a life changing experience.” She told of the abuse she suffered from an ex-husband and wrote, “ Personally, I am urging abused women to do something for themselves and their children, because more than likely the violence will not just stop. It starts with maybe a push or a shove and then maybe a slap. He will say he is sorry and promise it will not happen again. But, I can assure you it does — over and over again.”

In the Feature Story category, Schamber received a third place win for “Heart of a Champion.” It is the story of a champion quarter horse owned by Shirley Marshall and two friends who despite the hardships won several races and always gave 100 percent effort. The blood line of the quarter horse with a champion heart lives on in a brood mare which was once a foal of Sweet Toro. Village Sweetie still produces strong colts and fillies for generations to come where others may also come to feel the thunder of a race horse.

The Newsmaker of the Year Award has been given annually since 1991 and this year it was given to the Kountze varsity cheerleaders. Several cheerleaders and sponsors were present to accept the honor on behalf of their colleagues even though it was the night of Kountze High School graduation.

The cheerleaders were honored for their defense of faith-based run through banners and other signs they displayed at football games despite protest from some that the banners were inappropriate. Their struggle became news across the state and even parts of the nation throughout the year as the cheerleaders and their supporters stood firm in their belief that they had the right to speak freely of their faith in this venue.

The other finalists were Port Arthur native and rapper Bun B, Richard and Amie James of Beaumont for establishing a 10K run over the M.L.K. Bridge in Port Arthur, Beaumont ISD superintendent Timothy Chargois, and Beaumont ISD trustee Mike Neil.

Photo Details: Debby Schamber, Penny Leleux and Nicole Gibbs, of the Record Newspapers, show off the awards received Friday during the Excellence In Media awards from the Southeast Texas Press Club.