ABERDEEN, SD (Dakota News Now) — When Hunter Paysen submitted a story close to his heart for his high school broadcast journalism class, he had no idea it would one day win him a national award.
Paysen is graduating from Aberdeen Central High School in 2021. During a brainstorming session his final year, he came up with the idea to do a story about his older sister, Melissa Galeana, and her journey with the stage 5 renal failure.
“One day, I had a click thinking, ‘Oh my God, we’ve been living this incredible story for almost all of our lives,’ Paysen said.
Paysen’s story caught the eye of her teacher, and they submitted her for a regional Emmy and won.
“When I won the Regional Emmy, it was pretty emotional just because I didn’t expect it at all,” Paysen said.
When the National Student Production Emmy Awards aired on Thursday, Paysen was so convinced he wouldn’t win that he didn’t even watch.
“I got a call congratulating me and all that, and that’s when I realized it was really, really cool,” Paysen said.
Paysen won the award in the News Report-Serious News category.
“Melissa’s Kidney Search” sheds light on the obstacles Galeana faced and the impact it had on her and Paysen’s family. The story, however, has a happy ending. Last year, Galeana’s stepfather managed to donate a kidney to her.
For Galeana, she’s just proud of her brother and his talent for telling his story.
“I wanted to let it be known because it’s hard being a youngster with something like that, so it’s good to share it. I was excited. I was really proud of Hunter, and that was really the only emotion I felt,” Galeana said.
Paysen says the award isn’t for him, it’s for his whole family.
“You know, it’s not just a moment for me. It’s a moment for our whole family. Melissa’s bravery and all that, it’s the whole family that’s very…that this is a moment for all of them,” Paysen said.
Paysen says the only thing he hopes by telling his sister’s story is that more people consider donating blood or becoming an organ donor.
“Any donation helps, whether it’s blood or something as extreme and important as an organ. You don’t affect just one person. You can change a whole family,” Paysen said.
Paysen is currently stationed in New Mexico with the US Air Force, but says he is currently studying college programs and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.
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