Former Baron receives Pulitzer Prize nomination

Avalon Johnston, Staff Writer

The Pulitzer Prize is an award regarded as the highest national honor in both print and web journalism, literary achievements and musical composition. Bonita Vista High class of 2013 alumni Bianca Quilantan earned the honor of being nominated and was a finalist in the Breaking News Reporting section.

“Honestly, I think I have to owe it all to Max Branscomb, he is the advisor of the Southwestern College Sun [student newspaper] and he picked me to take a journalism class and guided me through it all,” Quilantan said.

The article that earned Quilantan’s a pulitzer nomination was titled “‘I want my mom back’: Camp Fire survivor recounts final moments with mother.” It was a story presenting the experience of a woman named Christina Taft, and her struggles escaping from the campfires in Paradise, California that took place in November of 2018. C. Taft was depicted leaving her blind mother, Vicki Taft, who refused to leave with her during the evacuations. Within two hours, the fires had scorched into their home with V. Taft inside.

“My goal was to really tell how [C. Taft ] is feeling. It was a sense of loss, the survivor’s guilt. When I met her, she was beating herself over it,” Quilantan said. “It’s like telling a story of ordinary people who are stuck in extraordinary circumstances, and so I felt the need to make sure that their story is told.”

Quilantan has a total of six years of experience as a journalist. Her journey began her senior year with BVH’s student publication, the Crusader, and continued with her current job at Politico, a political journalism company established in Arlington County, Virginia. While Quilantan’s involvement offered her a head start, a nomination for such a prestigious honor was never her goal.

“I don’t think it has ever been my goal to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s just my goal to tell really good stories that need to be told,” Quilantan said.

Currently, Quilantan holds a position as Web Producer at Politico. Longtime friend of Quilantan, Tatiana Blas, believes that Quilantan’s success can be accredited to her dedication.

“While journalism wasn’t her first choice when it came to picking her major I think that a lot of her involvement at school may have led her on that path,” Blas said.

During her time at BVH, Quilantan was taught by AP English Literature teacher Gabriel Garcia. While Quilantan mentions that as a journalist she still uses sentence structure techniques that she learned in his class, Garcia says that her success is “inherent to her own skills.”

“I remember [Quilantan] was especially quiet. She always exhibited a good writing voice in terms of clarity, she definitely knew how to write for journalism. I’m very proud of her,” Garcia said.

As of now, Quilantan acknowledges that while the Pulitzer Prize is every journalists dream, her purpose of writing remains to be in showcasing stories that are important.

“We can celebrate for a minute, but our job is to continue telling stories that our communities need,” Quilantan said.