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SIPA honors individuals for service to organization

By Leslie Dennis, director of scholastic media organizations
Photo by Cole Lowery
Posted March 28, 2018

SIPA honored several individuals for service to the organizations at the annual convention held March 2-4, 2018 in Columbia.

The Karen H. Flowers Outstanding Service Award (OSA) goes to an individual who has contributed extraordinary amounts of time, talent and energy to scholastic journalism. This year’s recipient has made a significant contribution to SIPA and scholastic journalism as a whole for more than a decade.

Joe Greene's first trip to SIPA was as a reluctant male chaperone for Dutch Fork High School's newspaper and broadcast staffs in 2005. Though designated a chaperone, he quickly dove in helping set up equipment for presenters, fetching extension cords for projectors, setting up screens in various rooms, and doing anything the SIPA board asked him to do.

Since that first convention, he has continued to provide that same level of support, but he has also become a staple at the SIPA’s Got Talent competition (helping Chuck Walker set up and run sound for the show) and has worked to provide entertainment for advisers prior to the annual SIPA auction.

Whenever he is around, Joe always provides a helping hand for any SIPA member in need. Whether that need is an adapter to connect their laptop to a projector, or a set of speakers for their presentation – or even just helping carry boxes of books for the Endowment Book Sale – he never shies away from someone who needs assistance.   

Another pretty neat thing about this guy is this is how he CHOOSES to spend his birthday weekend year in and year out. For most of the years he has come to the convention, his birthday has fallen on that Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. But he has never complained or expressed a desire to be anywhere else. He seems genuinely happy to celebrate with his adopted scholastic journalism family.

SIPA also issued two Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Awards (DSA), honoring advisers who have contributed extraordinary amounts of time, talents and energy to SIPA.

Phillip Caston, Wando High School (Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina), is an adviser recognized for revamping the Legend yearbook and turning it into a multiple award-winning publication.

His commitment to his students and the inspiration he sparks in them spans classrooms and schools.

"I knew he was going to make a difference in the lives of his students," Karen Flowers, former SCSPA and SIPA director, said. "One way he was doing that was getting them involved in scholastic organizations. He brought them to workshops and conventions, and encouraged them to lead classes, run for office, participate in competitions and be role models for their peers."

His deep roots in the communication field come from his time working for the Post and Courier as well as his Masters in Journalism from the University of Maryland.

"I've watched his enthusiasm for student journalism blossom and grow over 20 years," Tammy Watkins, Tribal Tribune newspaper adviser at Wando High School, said, "from serving on his high school's student newspaper to leading his own award-winning yearbook now. I think his enthusiasm for student journalism and his commitment is an inspiration to student journalists not only in yearbook but in newspaper and broadcast as well."

R.J. Morgan, Mississippi Scholastic Press Association director, is an instructor recognized for going above and beyond to get students the education and opportunities they need to grow as journalists and people.

But what really sets him apart is his availability and his dedication to the students. Whether it be answering a text message or an email about a small question or renting buses to ensure students have the opportunity to make it to the SIPA conventions, he is always around for help.

Through his work as director of Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, he has developed people skills, organizational skills, interpersonal skills and organizational skills to help students gain access to opportunities throughout the state of Mississippi.

"He is an encourager of others, loves students and works well with both students and adults," Beth Fitts, former MSPA director, said. "At the same time, he is a self-starter who gets things done – all with great flair and an engaging sense of humor." 

"He frequently goes above and beyond his normal director duties," Diala Chaney, Oxford High School (Mississippi) journalism adviser, said. "He stays in constant communication with the journalism teachers throughout the state. He makes all the arrangements, travel plans and only collects a portion of the cost from the students who are interested in attending [the SIPA convention]."

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