More than 3,600 entries flooded his office from all over the country, but primarily the Northeast, Hughes said,
"Anybody who won any kind of award, you’ve really achieved something," Hughes told high school students attending a seminar and awards ceremony Wednesday. "You’ve done terrific."
Samantha Perez, a Louisiana high school senior who began chronicling her experiences in The Tattoo just as Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore last August, won the Professor Mel Williams Award for an outstanding writer -- the top award in the contest.
In accepting her award, Perez said Katrina changed everything, and not always for the worse.
"The ability to stand here now is just one good thing that has come from the hurricane and I’m very grateful for it," she said.
Zach Brokenrope, a sophomore from Aurora, Neb., won two first-place awards.
Brokenrope took top honors in the columns category for his ongoing "freshman diaries" and "sophomore chronicles" columns that appeared frequently in The Tattoo last year.
He also won a first-place award in the profiles category for a story he wrote about John Paul Jones Jr., a Bristol man who worked at Sessions Clock Co. and helped design a birth control clock.
Brokenrope’s story was part of a collaborative effort of The Tattoo and the American Clock and Watch Museum to document the lives of former Bristol clockmakers.
Minha Lee, a Minnesota teen, won first place in the news category for a story she wrote about her school coping with three deaths in the freshman class in one year.
John Elfed Hughes, a Wales teenager, won first place in the news feature category for a story he wrote about the closing of his 400-year-old school.
For the first time in its 12-year history, The Tattoo also won honors in photography.
Florida teen Josh Gales, who went to Louisiana and Mississippi with his father to help with relief work, won first place in the photo division for his pictures in the aftermath of Katrina.
Eric Simmons, a former Bristol resident who now lives in Florida, won an honorable mention for his photo after Hurricane Wilma.
Hayley Slade of England took an honorable mention in the first-person category for her piece, "That was my double-decker bus" that ran immediately after the bombings in London last summer.
In addition, Tattoo advisers Steve Collins and Jackie Majerus, who arereporters for The Bristol Press, won the Dean Milton Birnbaum Award for their work with teen journalists.
Hughes said he knew of no two people who had done more last year to help young journalists, and praised The Tattoo for its stellar year. He listed it, among others, as a "publication of excellence."
"It’s a huge thing and I think it’s going to get huger," Hughes said.
All of the winning entries are on The Tattoo’s Web site and can be found by using the writer’s index.