PORTLAND — Reporting on education and social issues earned The Forecaster two first-place awards at this year’s New England Newspaper & Press Association Better Newspaper Competition.

The NENPA awards were announced Feb. 16, capping the annual association convention at Boston’s Renaissance Waterfront Hotel.

A team of reporters led by Elizabeth Clemente won a first-place award in Education Reporting for the newspaper’s “Under pressure” series last spring, about the problems public schools face in helping students who have mental health issues.

Clemente and reporters Jocelyn Van Saun, Alex Lear, Juliette Laaka, Michael Kelley, Kate Irish Collins, Bob Lowell and Matt Junker wrote stories specific to the school districts they cover in the month-long series.

The stories also appeared in the American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly, and included reporting from an area extending from Scarborough to Brunswick to Bridgton and Standish.

NENPA judges praised the scope and detail of the work as “well-written” and “most informative.”

The other first-place award, in the Social Issues Feature Story category, went to Portland City Hall reporter David Harry for his August 2017 story “Solutions elusive as Portland streets get meaner.”

The story examined the conflict between the unmet needs of the city’s homeless population and the public safety concerns of residents and business owners.

NENPA judges said it was a “potent look into issues and attitudes impacting homeless populations, that could reflect the challenges of hundreds of towns and cities across New England.”

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