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Sacramento Press Club celebrates four veteran journalists as 2020 scholarship honorees


The Sacramento Press Club has selected four journalists to honor for their outstanding career achievement and strong commitment to journalism in the Sacramento region.

The Press Club has named four 2020 scholarships after Sacramento journalists Hector Amezcua, Dale Kasler, Beth Ruyak and Lonnie Wong. The scholarships will range from at least $4,000 to $8,000 and will be awarded to college journalism students connected to the Sacramento region. This year the Press Club will award seven scholarships totaling at least $35,000. 

The Sacramento Press Club is a non-profit organization that supports our next generation of journalists through college scholarships. To that end, the Press Club regularly schedules luncheons and other events that feature newsmakers and experts on topics of concern throughout California. Proceeds from the events help fund the scholarships. 

Here are the four journalists selected for named scholarships:

Hector Amezcua is a bilingual photojournalist who worked for almost 30 years for McClatchy, including two decades for The Sacramento Bee. His keen eyes capture the humanity of his subjects. Always looking to improve his considerable skills, Hector mastered video early and earned an FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems license in 2017. He now is a multimedia specialist for UC Davis and a Sacramento-based visual journalist freelancer. 

Dale Kasler, one of California’s top water and environment reporters, has worked for The Sacramento Bee for more than two decades. He briefly became part of the story in 2019 when police detained Kasler and other journalists covering a protest over the shooting death of Stephon Clark. Kasler, a model for any aspiring journalist, is versatile, hard-working and has the ability to make the complex understandable, and do it on deadline. He has reported on a variety of topics, including business, and earlier in his career was a reporter for the Des Moines Register for 10 years. 

Beth Ruyak is the host for Capital Public Radio’s Insight program, whose mission is to cover “breaking news and ideas, music, arts & culture with responsible journalism, civil discussion, and diverse voices,” according to  Ruyak is a thoughtful, deeply informed and gracious interviewer. Her wide and varied journalism career spans almost 40 years, including hosting daytime television, newsmagazine shows, special events and reporting from five Olympic Games, Super Bowl XXV and -- in a first for a female television journalist -- covering the Tour de France.

Lonnie Wong is a fixture of the Sacramento media through his longtime tenure at FOX40: He’s worked at the station since before the FOX TV Network was born. He joined the station in 1980 and recently celebrated 40 years as an anchor and reporter for the station. Wong has been on the scene of local news stories big and small, from crime to government, including covering the first Sacramento Kings game in this city in 1985. He is known for his work mentoring students and helping nonprofits, and helped found the Sacramento chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, which honored him in 2015 for his journalism and his 30 years as a board member. 

The Sacramento Press Club also awards three scholarships each year that are permanently named for their honorees:

Nereida Skelton was a teacher at McClatchy and Kennedy high schools in Sacramento for 33 years. Her core job was teaching English, but her true calling was journalism, public speaking, and debate. Skelton took particular pride in the student newspapers she advised, including the McClatchy Prospector. She passed away in 2012 and her family supports the Sacramento Press Scholarship in her honor.

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times in Eureka, while still attending high school. He was editor of the Hanford Sentinel before joining the Sacramento Union’s Capitol bureau in 1975 and began writing a column that he continued at the Sacramento Bee from 1984 to 2017. He now is a columnist for CalMatters.

Jerry Gillam was a longtime state government reporter who worked for the Los Angeles Times from 1961 until his retirement in 1995. He spent much of his career covering the California Assembly and saw the Legislature become a full-time body with passage of a ballot measure in 1966. Gillam passed away in 2009 and his family supports the Sacramento Press Club Scholarship in his honor.

Applications for these and other scholarships are due April 30.

Additional details about the scholarships and the eligibility criteria, as well as a link to our online application, can be found on the Scholarship Process page on the Press Club website.

About the scholarships:

The Sacramento PressClub scholarship program began in 1974 with a single $1,000 scholarship in honor of Earl "Squire" Behrens who had recently retired as political editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Since 2013, the Press Club has awarded seven scholarships each year, singling out college students who show both journalistic talent and financial need to finish their college degrees. The scholarships offer a significant amount of assistance that help many young students on their way to successful journalism careers.

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